Talented teachers strum banjos and heartstrings in local band

We all know the staff of Carmel High is exceptionally talented, especially in the realm of music, but what some of you may not have known is the extent to which a few of Carmel High’s own teachers go outside of the classroom, particularly with music.

The CHS Singer-Songwriters’ Guild is home to numerous budding student musicians, but the club also provides an opportunity for teachers to show off their talents, with three teachers in particular.

Math teacher Mike Deckelmann, science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin and social studies teacher Marc Stafford play not only at the Singer-Songwriters’ shows, but also in a band of their own.

Teacher Band

From left: Jason Maas-Baldwin, Mike Deckelmann and Marc Stafford at a CHS Singer-Songwriters’ Guild Show.

Numerous gigs in and several years old, their band remains nameless, though not for lack of efforts. But as of now, nothing has stuck.

It seems to comes down to this: “We need a name,” Stafford says, “and we’re open to suggestions.” For the purposes of this article, however, let’s call the band MJM, for Mike, Jason and Marc.

MJM has toyed with names in the past, such as Stafford’s creation, the Second String String Band, which is quite suiting, considering not one member of the band plays his first instrument, rather something picked up not too long ago. Deckelmann, for example, picked up the mandolin, Stafford the banjo and Maas-Baldwin the guitar to put together this string band.

On that note, the band focuses on folk music to go along with the string instrument sound.

Occasionally, MJM will be joined by student musicians on instruments like the cello or viola to add depth to the music, though Deckelmann reports that MJM’s true genius lies in its singing. “All three of us like to sing, and harmonizing is what we do best.”

Between a plethora of string instruments and harmonies fit for the gods, MJM has crafted the perfect bluegrass band. As of now, they focus on covers, like “Ain’t No Use in Tryin’” by Trampled by Turtles and “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show.

“Right now, we’d like to build a library of cover songs so we can play events,” Stafford explains.

Of course, MJM has no intentions of reaping financial benefits from playing.

“We want to raise money for charities,” Stafford adds. “Go to a farmers market and just put out a jar for the women’s center to help them. We’re not doing it for money. We’re doing it because it’s fun.”

“Priority number one is just to have fun,” Maas-Baldwin agrees.

But what’s truly remarkable about the band MJM is the comradery that has been forged among the three members.

“It’s more than just music,” Maas-Baldwin laughs, “It’s family.”

An unlikely friendship, Stafford, Deckelmann and Maas-Baldwin have created an outlet of fun, family and music.

“Over time I’ve gotten to know Mike and Marc really well,” Maas-Baldwin continues. “One day Mike will just say, ‘I’m making gumbo, and you guys are all going to come over and play music.’ Our kids play together and get to know each other. Our families hang out all the time.”

So the remaining question is this: Where is MJM going from here?

Deckelmann has his sights set high, hoping to write and record original music for the band, though there’s no album release date as of yet. At this point, though, let’s just say to keep your eyes open because an MJM album, hopefully with a real band name, might just show up on the shelves one of these days.

–Anna Gumberg