Arts + Culture

Who Let Those Rockers in the Classroom?

The three members of local band Edith Diamond bring special verve to their day jobs as teachers in public schools in Southwest Florida.

BY February 8, 2018


A tattooed hand stretches out. Fingers seasoned by years of guitar strumming playfully twist, searching for the perfect note. But these fingers float not above a guitar fret—the note being sought is not musical. This hand floats above a chalkboard. Instead of a guitar pick, these fingers clutch chalk. Welcome to the musical, magical classroom of Collier County biology teacher Ian Sharp. Ian educates by day and entertains by night.

Edith Diamond, the rock band that Ian, his brother Madison and bandmate Eric Mazurkewitz comprise, is a staple of the local music scene. Known as the “Band of Brothers,” all three musicians teach for Collier and Lee County public schools and bring their unique fusion of artistry and articulation to the classroom.   

“It’s all entertainment; whether I am playing with the band or teaching in a classroom, I am entertaining people,” Ian says. “There were years when I was a bit too open with the kids who know I play in a band, but I have learned boundaries, and the kids don’t really think about it. It’s just important that you maintain a sense of seniority, as well as a relaxed and enjoyable environment where the kids really look forward to your class because they know they will be creating a project or collaborating on some kind of student film. … I do see some of their parents at my shows sometimes!”

Though the stringent protocol of public school teaching and the rebel freedom of rock music might seem discordant, all three teachers fuse their artistry with their teaching methods, creating vibrant, challenging lesson plans.

For Ian, the influence of his parents is not lost on him. “Having a mother who studied biology and worked in the Florida agriculture business and having a father who studied photography and opened his own photography business, Madison and I were often exposed to a wide variety of artistic culture.”

Ian infuses his lesson plans with the same combination of art and science he experienced throughout his childhood. His students explain the elements of a cell by creating music videos; they discover biology by writing poetry or songs about science concepts.

Madison, the drummer in the band, agrees that his parents played a role in his pursuits; both musical and educational. “My mother played guitar,” he says. “I’m sure when she was pregnant with me I had the privilege of listening to either Aretha Franklin or Neil Young, both top favorites of hers. My brother Ian was 2 at this time and was probably rocking back and forth listening with me.

“I teach fifth grade and am responsible for creating a platform for my students to transition into middle school. I often talk about how as a middle school student you are able to choose ‘elective’ classes, such as music, art or PE. But with that comes a requirement. You must do well in fifth grade to be able to choose one or even two of these elective classes. I have many students who are very talented in most arts and sports. One student plays my guitar during the last 10 minutes of class because he surpasses his (reading) goal every week!”

Their parents’ musical influences are evident. Edith Diamond plays both covers and originals, and listeners can detect their inspiration: the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Smiths, The Cure, U2 and others. 

Rounding out the trio is keyboard player Eric Mazurkewitz. A graduate of Binghamton University in New York with a degree in biological science, Eric also blends science with art in his teaching. “Music has acted as a way for me to connect with students outside of the normal classroom environment. I don’t use it as a means to teach my courses, but I’ve found it’s been a great way to relate to my students on a different level. I’ve helped out with a cappella groups, played in the school talent show with another teacher, which the students got a kick out of, and have connected with students by sharing our favorite artists/songs.”

Eric is influenced by bands that saw the appeal of adding a piano to rock music. “Growing up, I had never played in bands despite playing piano most of my life because rarely was there a desire for piano players; everyone wanted drums and guitars. Listening to rock music that featured the piano in a fresh way inspired me to play with other musicians.” His inspiration early on was Billy Joel, the ultimate “Piano Man,” and later included Maroon 5, Coldplay, Muse and Keane. “All these were individuals/bands who I thought used the piano in a creative way and inspired me to get involved with playing more modern music.”

It’s late on a Saturday night. The crowd at the Promenade’s Center Bar is swaying and singing along to Hey Jude. The atmosphere is convivial, and you can spot the regulars who follow Edith Diamond around the Naples area. It’s unknown whether the audience knows these three musicians shape young minds in their daylight hours, but at 10 p.m. on a weekend night, none of that matters.

As Madison pounds away on an African drum, his students, he says, are never far from his mind. “I have shown my students the instruments I play, including the djembe, which I play in Edith Diamond. They are fascinated by the name and find it unique,” he says. “When you can relate to your kids in many ways, it can foster a much more respectful classroom environment. The students like to know that their teacher is a regular person with interests and hobbies.” 

Whether teaching or jamming, the members of Edith Diamond don’t intend to stop rocking. Just like their namesake, great grandmother Edie Diamond, who lived to be 101, the fires burn bright for this trio. Whether educating or entertaining, these three school teachers bring their spirit to both the pub and the public school. It’s obvious they’re influencing students both academically and artistically. “I had a student last year who loved Billy Joel,” Ian says. “I would let him listen to music while he worked on a project, and he broke into song and dance with his headphones on singing, ‘We didn’t start the fire!’ He didn’t even care.” And the members of Edith Diamond continue to stoke the fires of passion in the hearts of both their students and their fans.

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