Professors by day, musicians by night
By Mireille Piché
They’re a group of five, and they go by the name The Howards. Two of them are well-known at the Faculty of Education. By day, they are professors at the University of Ottawa, and by night, they transform into musicians in a band.
We’re talking about Nick Gazzola, associate professor, vice-dean and Faculty secretary, and David Paré, full professor of graduate studies in the educational counselling concentration. Nick “Ziggy” Gazzola plays the electric bass and David “Slim” Paré plays the guitar and mandolin.
“It’s not something that’s well known by the students, I mean, we don’t talk about it in class. There’s a certain level of respect, a professional barrier between professors and students. That said, after one of our shows, students won’t hesitate to say in the hallway, ‘Hey, great show yesterday. I was there and I had a blast,’” says Professor Paré.
And that’s precisely what makes the band so special. At the end of the 2015 academic year, they gave a concert at Café Nostalgica at an evening organized by the Education Graduate Students’ Association. The students wanted to find a way to celebrate the end of the school year, and this gave them the chance to showcase two of their professors.
“For me, it was kind of the opposite,” Professor Gazzola explains. “It was before the show that I got the most comments. The students were really curious—they wanted to know what kind of music we play. I think they expected their old profs to play corny or country stuff—which is definitely not the case. Afterwards, I think they were really surprised by the show’s energy.”
The graduate students took care of the publicity, promotion and all the logistics. As for The Howards, they took the opportunity to play their original songs to a young and lively audience—and to a full house.
“There is something about the novelty of encountering your professors in a different context, and seeing a different side of them, which is a bit intriguing,” adds Professor Paré. “It also becomes a good excuse for the cohort to all come together. It’s what connects them to their school experience. Our band bridges the gap and brings balance between career and personal accomplishments. Being in a band and having fun becomes an opportunity to develop another side of oneself.”
For Professor Gazzola, the word “fun” is really what describes his experience in the band.
“We have a wonderful camaraderie that I really like—even more than playing music, what makes me happy is being with such nice and talented people. Plus, playing music clears my head. I often play in the evening after work, on my own.
"We don’t get paid to play — if there’s a cost for the ticket, we give the money to a variety of causes. We play together so we have an excuse to get together and have fun.”
As for the other band members, there’s Richard “Tiny” Pinet on the drums, who also works at the University of Ottawa as director of the Teaching and Learning Support Service. Paul “Lefty” Paré, David Paré’s brother, plays the guitar. Also on the guitar is Dave “Dwayne” Munroe, who has been friends with Professor Paré since high school. Occasionally, Professor Joel “Jackrabbit” Westheimer joins them as a special guest.
The Howards play two or three times a year and their music style is a mix of rock and folk, with elements ranging from pop to blues-country, pulsing with rhythmic poetry and eclectic lyrics. To listen to a few excerpts, watch a YouTube video of the band. Keep an eye out for upcoming show dates and come see your professors on stage in a whole new light!
Nick Gazzola (pictured right), associate professor, vice-dean and Faculty secretary, and David Paré, full professor of graduate studies in the educational counselling concentration, on stage as The Howards. Photo: Alex Tétreault – Al.t Photography