Exit Interview: Mr. Jason Melgaard

It is the end of the school year which means that we will soon have to say goodbye to a few of our favorite teachers. This year, 17 middle school teachers are leaving and over the next 15 school days, The Direct Message will post an ‘Exit Interview’ that we conducted with each of these educators.

Check out all the Exit Interviews by clicking here: Exit Interviews 

 

Mr. Jason Melgaard

5 Years at AES: 2012-2017

Next Stop: Riga, Latvia

Courses Taught: EAL Humanities, Guitar

Editors note – Mr. Melgaard marches to the beat of his own guitar, so this exit interview follows a different format from all the rest. Still, we think it is one of the most interesting interviews of the semester. 

What influenced you to become a guitarist? And what are the important things or advice that you want others to know?

Well, the guitar wasn’t my first instrument, the violin was, which I started playing in 3rd grade.  After the first Star Wars movie came out the theme song got lodged into my soul and I had to play it.  Da da da Daaaa… it was chilling right down to my core.  The violin seemed like the tool for the job.  For three years I sawed on that thing and actually got to the point where I wasn’t half bad.  I had learned by the Suzuki method, which was all ear training and not reading music.  Fast forward to 6th grade when my mom signed me up for orchestra and day number one when everyone got out their sheet music, I couldn’t read a note and hated that moment.  Feeling a world of humiliation I went home that day and gave my mother her violin back, never to play it again.  It was rough.

When I was in high school I was listening to a lot of music, and I was always keen on the guitar.  I have an uncle who is quite good at singing and playing the guitar, and so he loaned me one of his guitars.  I showed enough interest where my parents decided to buy me an electric guitar and amp.  I had some friends who also started playing and it started to become part of my identity.  Though honestly, I didn’t really put as much time or effort into it as I should have.  My guitar hero was Eddie Van Halen, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to play like he did… so I kind of gave up.  Sold the guitar and amp and didn’t really think about it much, but I was still listening to music constantly.  Loud and proud, I’d crank it up and it took me places.

I had a particularly bad freshmen year of college.  My girlfriend whom I had just spent a good portion of the summer with went to study abroad in France, and I was heartbroken.  I was down emotionally and then physically, developing a case of mononucleosis which caused me to miss my first trimester of college and having to stay with my parents who had just bought an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere–central Wisconsin.  Things had gone from bad to worse.  But the one shining star here was when I went home for Christmas break, I was messing around in my father’s office and found a cool black acoustic guitar which my folks had bought for me.  And thank goodness they did, for I needed that guitar.  I need it to channel all that I was feeling.  And I’m still channeling it today.

And hopping on that ride, getting up close and personal with the guitar is something I’ve never regretted.  Quite the opposite.  It has become a part of me, and all the power that music holds, it became mine.  Like some sorcerer wielding a magic wand, I found power in what I played.  I listened to so many artists, so many records and tapes, and then CDs, I couldn’t get enough.  My friends recognized it and girls were drawn to it.  And that recognition was cool, but wasn’t why I was playing.  By the time I moved out of Wisconsin and made my way to Colorado, I had graduated from that black acoustic to a Les Paul Standard, and a Marshall half stack.  It was a winning combination with tone that could cut through the walls and souls.  And as a college student I had lots of free time.  I’d go to class and all I could think about was going home and plugging in and cranking it up.  I certainly wasn’t always the most popular neighbor, especially given the volume I would often play at, but you can’t always make everyone happy.  But people were often complimentary about my playing.  I would be introduced as: “Hey, this is Jason and he plays guitar.”  And people wanted to hear me play, wanted me to teach them, and would want me to play with them.  And more and more of my friends were musicians or well on their way to becoming musicians.  And that kind of recognition feels good on a number of levels.  And moving to Boulder where there was 300 days of sunshine each year, and becoming energized by the sun and the outdoor opportunities, I was dividing my time with school work, getting outdoors and exercising, biking and hiking and snowboarding, and playing music and everything came together.       

What influenced you to become a teacher? And what are the important things or advice that you want to tell us?

Becoming a teacher was never really my plan.  Throughout middle school and high school I was not a good student.  I was more into daydreaming and not doing my homework and I was a bit confrontational with some of my teachers.  Not all, some I got along with splendidly, but honestly they were a minority.  Spent my fair share of time in the principal’s office, for sure.  Which isn’t the way to, but it was the route I took–the hard way.  And things were looking pretty grim for me when I was in high school at trying to get into college.  My options were rather limited, in fact, I had to do a bit of summer school so I would graduate with the rest of my class.  So the idea of me being a teacher never crossed my mind.  And perhaps my becoming a teacher is all karmic payback for being a pain in the ass when I was a student.

But everything changed when I became a college student.  I now liked school and found I could be a pretty good student (when I was interested in what I was studying).  I often really enjoyed my professors and teaching assistants, and the whole college scene was just opening up in front of me.  I often enjoy meeting new people, and if those new people happen to be beautiful young ladies, that’s OK too.  During those college years I really grew into who I am.  I developed a passion for literature and writing, and found that music and guitar was so intricately entwined into all aspects of my life, I had been working hard and learning, but it never really felt like work.  It was unlocking mysteries and exploring, and that is an amazing place to be working from.

When is your specific date that you’re leaving, where you’re going to, and what are your thoughts or feeling about going to new place?

So next year we are heading off to Riga, Latvia, a small city in Northern Europe.  We are heading to the States on June 3rd and after spending some time in Colorado, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, we leave for Riga on July 19th.  After five years in Delhi I am looking forward to a new adventure and a new continent to explore.  I have spent some time in Europe over the years, but not so much time in northern Europe, so I’m excited to check it out.  I’m looking forward to the colors of fall and to being close to the ocean, something I have been missing in India.  I’m also looking forward to new motorcycle excursions and well as having a bicycle in my life once again.  Latvia is also known for their pork cuisine and I’m always game to check out new methods of preparing the fine swine–something I developed an appreciation for when I lived in Korea.

 

What the students had to say.

 

Sunwoo Hwang

What will you remember about this teacher?

“I remember about him that he likes Korean foods and he likes to collect guitar, and play guitar. Because some of after school, he plays guitar and he has guitar class. Also he likes Korean food. Because he has lived in korea and he likes Korean food like kimchi, Korean ramen and Korean BBQ”.

What is a funny or memorable story that you have about this teacher? (class, WOW, coaching, after school activities, etc.)

“My best memorable story about this teacher was in wow camp. When me and Mr.Melgaard talked in wow camp and he wanted to eat Korean BBQ for dinner with kimchi a lot. And he said ‘bring some Korean BBQ!’ And he shaked my shoulders”.

What makes this teacher unique?

“I think his funny gags and loving Korean food makes this teacher unique. Because he loves Korean food a lot, and he makes a lot of Korean food gags, which was so fun”.

JinYoung Jung

What will you remember about this teacher?

“I will remember advisory with Mr. Melgaard. We were Melnanas bananas, I believe. It was really fun and CIA was really cool as well”.

What is a funny or memorable story that you have about this teacher? (class, WOW, coaching, after school activities, etc.)

“He was my advisor and also my friend’s teachers so me and my friends would go to Mr.Melgaard’s class during some breaks and steal his snacks or pluck his hair. (Sorry) But Mr.Melgaard is really cool and fun”.

What makes this teacher unique?

“Mr.Melgaard is a really fun teacher and I haven’t been in his class but everyone like him”.

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