The road not taken: Aaron Bashirian, rock star gone teacher


Courtesy of Aaron Bashirian

History teacher Aaron Bashirian plays a gig at a local fair in his hometown of Elroy, Wis. July 1998. “I would say [my music] is pop-y,” Bashirian said. “It’s a happy-go-lucky sort of pop. There are some rock elements to it but it really is just feel good, fun music.”

When West’s newest social studies teacher, Aaron Bashirian, graduated from college and got his degree in history, it would be almost two decades before he got to use it. Instead, Bashirian pursued his passion for music.

“When I was 16, I went to a Motley Crue concert, and that changed my life,” Bashirian said. “March 13, 1989–I remember it very, very clearly. I saw Tommy Lee play drums and I thought, ‘I wanna do that.’ And so I self taught myself drums and then drum set. Then, I self taught myself guitar. I just started writing songs at that point.”

Bashirian spent five years at college, unsure of what he wanted to study.

“I went to college because it was expected,” Bashirian said. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. At first, I ended up majoring in Psychology — I studied German for a bit, I even tried music in college but hated it. I kept taking history courses because I liked them. [By my] fifth year, I’m like ‘I need to graduate, what do I have?’ I ended up graduating with a major in history and a Norwegian studies minor.”

After college, Bashirian moved to Milwaukee, where he planned to record his first CD using the music he had been working on over the last few years. Despite his passion for music, he still had his doubts about pursuing it as a career.

“I had a moment where I was questioning whether or not I should do this,” Bashirian said. “There was one night where I went to bed and prayed, and I’m not a religious person by the way. ‘God give me a sign.’ It was one of those sorts of things. I actually had a dream. In my dream, I was with Paul McCartney, and by the end of it, he was talking to me, and he sang this melody into my ear. I wake up and immediately write the song. So I thought that’s the sign, I have to do this.”

The next 18 months were spent recording his debut CD in Milwaukee. After his 10 track album was finished, he had 1000 copies printed and he spent the next several years playing in his band and self promoting.

“I started [recording] in 1997,” Bashirian said. “By 2003, I was pretty burnt out because promoting yourself in that way is extremely exhausting. No one ever tells you about the massive amount of work that’s involved. I was basically running everything and, in hindsight, that was a mistake.”

Despite selling almost all of his CDs, Bashirian was not making enough from music to support himself. Working a day job alongside his music, the band soon dissolved, and he moved to St. Louis.

“I still carried on doing music, but I became much more of a studio rat,” Bashirian said. “At that point, I was scrambling to figure out if I could actually make a career in music. I started recording other people; I had a stint where I was working with rappers and making beats.”

Bashirian continued his hustle in the music business until 2007. The feelings of burnout caught up to him once again, and he looked for a career elsewhere.

“I just decided that I needed to do something different,” Bashirian said. “That’s when my wife convinced me to try teaching because she’s a teacher, and I had this history degree. So I dedicated all my energy to becoming a teacher.”

Bashirian’s newfound focus on teaching put his music career on hold for ten years. However, Bashirian has recently picked music up again.

“I’m actually recording and trying to put stuff out there, but now it’s very different,” Bashirian said. “It’s much more of a hobby or a passion than an attempted career. Having said that, if one of my songs actually broke, I would probably pursue it.”

Although Bashirian loves his job teaching, he would regret not coming back to music if the opportunity presented itself.

“My philosophy of life is [what I call] ‘The Rocking Chair Standard,’” Bashirian said. “Every decision I make in my life is based on, when I’m 80 years old, sitting in a rocking chair, looking back at my life, what am I gonna regret? I can tell you to this point, I spent 12 years doing music and have no regrets about doing it. If one of my songs went viral…I would regret not [pursuing] that.”