The Arts and Healing (Part 5 of 6)
Guest Blogger: Jeff Klemm
This blog series will examine the many roles the arts have in healing. Today we hear from Jeff Klemm, multi-talented performer and educator.
I decided to 100% commit to getting sober exactly three weeks after my son’s mother broke up with me on my 30th birthday and two weeks before my son’s 1st birthday. I had already committed to being the best father I could be and I’d simply been missing the mark. For him, for my son’s mom, for me. I had been juggling late nights running sound at a music venue and early mornings working construction trying to support us. The booze just had to go. It was in our way. I needed to get well. I needed a job outside of the bars. I needed a new path. I needed to get sober and find my sober self. The real self.
I remember the first few nights. Counting down the hours and minutes hoping I’d get through without caving in. I got my own real-life apartment and through the grace of friends and family, I somehow furnished it with all the things necessary for my son. Of course my new apartment had to be three blocks away from my favorite bars, but I made it through by simply staying home.
Through many years of feeling self-centered and egocentric, I knew my only path to recovery would be to work towards making the world a better place. I wanted to do something selfless. Self-employed artists (especially musicians) know that you have to be your biggest advocate. Sometimes that morphs into one only talking about oneself in order for people to listen. No-one else is going to promote your new single for you when you’re DIY, so you have to shout from the rooftops, always. This brings about a complete self-centeredness out of necessity. The birth of my son really showed me how it’s not all about me anymore and that’s okay.
I wasn’t really sure how to begin making a positive difference, but I researched nonprofits to work for. Through a total fluke, a friend got me an interview at a preschool as a teacher. I got the job and I began training immediately. When my son was born, this natural paternal instinct in me opened up and perhaps I could share this with other children as well? I started teaching preschool with barely any experience and every day I’d come home with my cup overflowing with love and knowledge. To take care of kids, work with them every day and teach them how to “life” was just an absolute joy. It was all about them and all about shaping our future. I was making the world a better place, one jacket zipper, one comforting hug, and one-thousandth-book-readthrough-of-the-same-book-with-the-same-jokes-at-a-time. This was my opportunity to build patience, and take life a little slower. Working with kids requires 100,000,000 tons of patience and that was something I never really had an abundance of, but now am somewhat of a patience Zen master due to extreme diligence.
As an artist, I know my gift is not only to create, but also to teach others how to create as well. When I started teaching, I knew I wanted to make a difference, but it never dawned on me how much of a difference I could actually make. Parents were coming up every day telling me how I’m the most positive male role model in their child’s life and how their kid wants to be like me when they grow up. It was inspiring and kept me going on my journey. I was on the right path. No longer was I just “Whiskey Song Guy,” I was “Mr. Jeff” a person people trusted with their kids and a person the kids wanted to be like. I hold that trust so near and dear to my heart and see a stray from my path as a break in the trust.
Nowadays, I’m out of the general preschool classroom and have started my own business teaching one-on-one music lessons and group preschool music classes. Learning an instrument is a lifelong slow crawl and I can’t get enough of that moment of awe in a child’s eye when they learn that new song, or have that “aha! I get it” moment. My theory is if the student sees music lessons as fun instead of a boring chore, they will keep that sentiment throughout their whole lives. Perhaps the seed of music we plant as a young learner, will blossom into a big passion!
I stay sober for me, but it’s mostly for my son, my family and the children I work with. It’s not a conventional path, but I’m not a conventional person.
My recovery is from the addiction sense and also to the egotistical sense. It’s not all about me and me alone anymore, it’s about everyone around me. Building them up so we can all make a difference together. Most decisions I make nowadays begin with “would “Mr. Jeff” do this?” If the answer is no, I need to reassess because it’s not all about me.
The self-destructive-tortured-artist / punk-rocker in me constantly fights this newfound-optimistic-fun-always upbeat-outlook, however, I have a theory that there is NOTHING more punk rock than making a positive difference when this world rewards so much more for negativity. That’s what keeps me on this path. That’s what drives me to stay sober. That’s simply what drives me.
Ohio born singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Jeff Klemm is best known as frontman for the nationally touring Maid Myriad, the voice behind Diamond Kites and the driving force behind Jeff Klemm & The Letters. Klemm splits his time between his Solo Acoustic project, his Rock Bands, energetic wedding bands and making children’s music as Mr. Jeff.
“Mr. Jeff” is also a certified preschool / Pre-K Teacher and earned his Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.™ Delivering an interactive experience for children of all ages, Mr. Jeff is currently working on an album of original Children’s Music as well as creating more content for his established Facebook and YouTube Channel chock full of interactive LiveStreams. His work with children earned him the accolade of “Best Kids’ Jam Session 2020” by Akron Life Magazine. Jeff Klemm is proud to introduce the next generation to the joy of music by teaching music lessons at his Music Studio in Akron, OH.