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Teacher by Day, Rocker by Night

Teacher and Rocker Dan Ouellette | Kzoo Connect

Have you heard of Dan Ouellette? If not, be sure to keep an ear out. He's one of the guitarists in the popular blues band, Out of Favor Boys. The band has four recorded albums, they are featured on Pandora and Spotify, and are highly sought after to play gigs around Kalamazoo. Dan has loved playing the guitar ever since his was small. But his passion doesn't stop there. Believe it or not, he also thrives on teaching English literature at Vicksburg High School.

During college, Dan was the same as many students confused as to what major to pursue. Knowing that he had to pick something, he let his gut instincts and past experiences guide him. Back in high school, Ouellette had a few inspirational English teachers that made literature fun and interesting. One of them even let him teach mini-lessons to the class. Little did Dan realize, he was prepping for his future teaching career.

Ouellette also remembers watching Dead Poets Society.

"That movie really, really struck me. I want to be like that guy!" Dan said.

So when choosing his major, he shared, "I'll choose English education and see what's next." And sure enough, English education worked out perfectly. "I guessed right!"

The members of Out of Favor Boys studied together at Western Michigan University. It was in college when they connected and bonded over their mutual love for blues music. Throughout college, their band played frequently with another band at an old place called Mr. Wonderful's (now El Ranchero).

When Ouellette was in his early 20's playing a gig there, a woman gave him a piece of advice that he never forgot. She shared that it was important to not define yourself by just one thing, just in case it is taken away because it is easy to lose your sense of self.

Ouellette remembers this moment vividly and felt comforted by her words. At the time he was pursuing two dreams: one of being successful as a musician and two, being successful at teaching.

Upon graduation, Dan accepted a teaching job on the East side of the state. Two years later, he decided to move back.

"The band and the music were in Kalamazoo," he shared. "I moved back without even having a job lined up."

Ouellette trusted things would work out, and he knew the band wasn't moving away from Kalamazoo. This is home for them and they are all proud of where they live and love the culture here.

Ouellette shared, "I'll put our blues scene up against Chicago and Detroit, and we're killing it! It's a pride thing. In terms of bands, musicians, and things like that, we feel like we can hang. Kalamazoo has a great musical history. This used to be the "gas gig" stop on the way to Chicago. All the legends have played here. And those connections - they're still here."

Upon moving back, Dan started applying for teaching positions around Kalamazoo. Vicksburg High School offered him a job, and he's been teaching there ever since.

"My thing is, I love literature and helping students see that it matters - helping them see what they’re reading about is life and helping them see that literature is life."

By being a successful performer as well as a teacher, Ouellette exemplifies qualities of inspiration, drive, passion, dedication, and success to his students.

About 10 years ago, Dan had some students that would come regularly to watch their show at 411 Club. Out of Favor Boys was the house band playing every Thursday night.

Ouellette said, "They might have seen me drinking a few beers that night, but they would then see me at school, on time, the next day and ready to work."

This helped his student's witness how balancing different careers and a great work ethic work in tandem. In fact, a couple of them are now successful musicians that he still keeps in touch with.
Ouellette believes that having two dreams has helped him not put too much pressure on just one thing, and that the two passions help him focus on the important aspects of each career.

"I feel so lucky I get to do the two things I love the most, and that I found a way to let them both be what they are. And I just feel lucky I get to do that. I'm pretty good at both and they're part of who I am."

If you're interested in hearing or learning more about Out of Favor Boys, check out their website and checkout a show.

Remember dreams do come true with hard work and from passion that sometimes makes for two great careers!

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