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In Person

Erik Brandt, 34

Saint Paul, Minnesota
English and journalism teacher
Alternative country singer in The Urban
Hillbilly Quartet

What inspired you to become a musician?

Singing folk songs at YMCA Camp Manito-wish as a kid. (I still sing some of them in concert.)

Musical influences?

The Waterboys, The Jayhawks, Paul Kelly.

Last album you bought?

Kris Delmhorst’s Strange Conversation . Absolutely beautiful. It’s all famous poems turned into songs. Perfect for an English teacher.

45s or downloads?

I’m an LP or 33 guy. I still like to hold the case or envelope.

Coolest part of touring?

Getting paid to see our majestic country, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. Also, sharing stages with current and former students and helping get their music careers started.

Does your music ever intersect with your daytime gig?

Yes. I’m in our school’s Academy of Fine Arts, and the band has performed for students there and at the Sadie Hawkins Dance (which was amusing for all involved). I bring artists and guest speakers from the local music scene to school, too.

Do students get enough music/arts time in your neck of the woods?

Yes and no. The Twin Cities are rich with culture and talent, and teachers here are always sharing their gifts with students. But at our Title I school, many students simply can’t afford instruments, lessons, or supplies outside of what school can provide.

What does arts education give students?

Chances to shine and to dream. There are some (like me) who have a hole inside that only art can fill. It completes us like nothing else.

What made you become an NEA member?

My dad pointed out during my first year of teaching that the only organization that has historically stood up for teachers and education is the union. I signed up the next week.

Hardest thing about teaching and touring?

Finding time to sleep.


Carimenia Felecia Hampshire, 46

Green Cove Springs, Florida
Transportation Department administrative assistant
Recently elected to the City Council


What’s the Hampshire campaign slogan?

“A voice for the people and a visionary for tomorrow.”

Favorite political movies?

Head of State and Fahrenheit 9/11.

What education issue is most important to you?

Funding, specifically, the lack of it!

What can NEA members do to make their voices heard in politics or government?

Donate time and money to candidates who are education friendly, regardless of political party. [To donate to the NEA Fund, which helps elect pro-public education candidates, head to] And get out and vote. Take your family and friends, too.

What made you become an NEA member?

Someone asked me. 

Favorite song?

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.


Short Takes

Barbara Ellicott, 66

Stanhope, New Jersey

After Ellicott (NJEA-Retired) was injured in a 1994 pit bull attack, doctors said she wouldn’t run again—a terrible blow to the former speech pathologist and Boston and New York marathon veteran.

But after “sitting like a bump on a log for half a decade,” her children urged her to reignite her active lifestyle. She became a vegan and a motivational speaker, and hit the pavement again, completing a marathon last fall. She’s also writing a book about holistic healing, drawing on her life and near-death experiences.


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