BAD ASS OF THE WEEK: Athena Kautsch
Monday-Friday mornings and afternoons Athena is an inspirational English and Journalism teacher. Weeknights and weekends she is the bassist of VOETSEK, editor and columnist for “Short Fast and Loud Magazine” AND has been supporting the underground music scene via “Six Weeks Records” since 93’.
Many of you know Athena as bassist of VOETSEK or as being co-founder/creator of “Six Weeks Records”. You might have read her articles in “Short Fast and Loud” mag. You probably didn’t know that she is also a devoted teacher. Primarily working with 11th graders, she thinks outside the box and is constantly looking for new ways to educate and inspire her students. Considering her obvious passion for music, I was certainly curious what inspired her to pursue a career as an educator.
How would you describe the “A-ha!” moment that lead you into pursuing a career in education?
“You know, it’s hard to say. I didn’t have any plans to go into teaching when I was younger, but when I was in college, I got “the calling” to go into education. A lot of teachers have that same experience, where you just get a feeling that you should do it. It sounds weird, I know. I didn’t like high school, but I loved English and creative writing. I didn’t necessarily feel connected to school or most of my teachers, so as obnoxious as it sounds, I thought I could do a better job than what I had experienced.”
Righteous! I really admire anyone who chooses careers like education for the love of teaching and having a positive, informative impact on children’s lives. I can’t imagine it’s an easy path to choose or an easy path to stay on dependent on the district you are teaching in. By that I mean funding, supplies and classroom sizes vs. the number of students assigned to each class and educator.
What makes it worth it? What feeling do you walk away with at the end of each day after working with your students?
“Teaching is tiring, but incredibly rewarding. Sure, I have bad days like everyone else, but mostly, I really enjoy what I do. My students make me laugh (in a good way!) every day, and I love teaching and talking about books, ideas, and writing. I’ve been able to push the envelope as far as curriculum goes with some of the texts I use, topics covered, and some of my journalism students even filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request against an administrator for a story she was writing. My principal wasn’t happy about that one, but it was a great teaching moment. There is always one odd week towards the beginning of each school year where students Google me and tell me they saw Voetsek on YouTube or photos of us playing, and that’s always weird. I tell them they need to get a life and stop stalking their English teacher. 🙂 There are a small handful of former students that I see around at shows which is pretty funny. I wrote a column in Short, Fast & Loud about one of them, Jared, who was in Shitty Fucker. I had him as a student pretty early in my career and I remember him being incredibly bright and an excellent writer. We were talking about music one time when he was in my class and I ended up giving him a Capitalist Casualties CD. Three of the four members of Dead Man are former students, too, but I think that band is now defunct. I felt like a proud soccer mom watching them play the first Deadfest–they were some of my favorite students.”
SO MUCH LOVE! It’s wonderful talking to teachers who truly love what they do. I have to say I’d be pretty stoked if one of my teachers was such a bad ass, in and out of the classroom. I was lucky to have an awesome English teacher my junior year and I’ve never forgotten him. Teachers like you make an impression on your students that last a lifetime. Way to make a difference! Cheers to you!
Is there anything you would like to bring attention and awareness to in regards to the education community at large?
“Just that there are good, hardworking people in the field who care about students, education, and critical thinking. By “education,” I don’t mean that everyone should or needs to go to college, but I do think we can all benefit from continued study of whatever we think will make our lives and world better. We need to put more money into education and not into the war machine. It is shameful that a young person in an impoverished area has a much greater chance of going to prison than to a University.”
I couldn’t agree more. Very well said, Athena. If there were more teachers like you as well as previously highlighted educators Monique, Kayte, Chiyo Emily, Rachel and Kelsey, the world would be a much better place. Truly.
When you’re not inspiring your students in the classroom, you’re inspiring others with your music and writing. How do you manage dude? SO MUCH RESPECT!
“I guess I drink a lot of coffee? Calling me a “musician” is pushing it, though. I mean, I’m okay, but no one’s going to sign up for a bass clinic with me.”
Dude, if you started giving bass lessons I’d be the first on the roster. Trust.
“Six Weeks Records” has been an integral part of this scene for years. How did you and your husband bring this to fruition? Or I guess a better question would be, what inspired you guys to start this success and what keeps you going?
“My husband’s band, Capitalist Casualties, and my old band, The Dread, did a six-week U.S. tour back in the early 1990s and we were inspired by bands we played with, people we met (we are still in touch with many today!), etc., and decided to start the label in 1993. When Chris Dodge decided to stop doing Slap A Ham, he asked if we’d be interested in taking over Short, Fast & Loud magazine and we’ve been doing that for many years now and that’s fun, too. I don’t think either of us thought we’d still be doing it all these years later, but here we are. The label turned 20 last year, and it was super fun to celebrate the anniversary with bands from all over the world like our old friends, Slight Slappers, and F.I.D. from Japan, and Rovsvett from Sweden, plus U.S. bands like Magrudergrind, Coke Bust, Despise You, P.L.F., S.M.D., Backslider, Transient, our close friends in Capitalist and Voetsek, plus locals like Your Enemy and Redacted. What keeps us going is the bands and the music family we’ve created through those friendships. There really isn’t another reason to do it: we love the music and the bands and we want other people to love them, too. We always refer to the bands we’ve worked with as being part of the Six Weeks family.”
Wow. You and your husband have done a lot for a lot of people. I consider it a privilege to get a chance to write about someone as awesome as yourself. Having been such a big part of this music scene, any commentary you’d like to share on the past/present community at large?
“The Bay Area has always been incredibly lucky to have so many great musicians and bands in all different genres, and I think that’s our greatest strength and weakness. It’s crazy that three-to-four different shows can be happening in the same area that are all well-attended, and that’s awesome. That being said, I think we all–and I’m guilty of this, too–pigeonhole ourselves into only seeing some bands or only supporting certain promoters or show spaces, and that can cause drama.”
Amen to that! Thank you Athena for continuing to support and nurture our underground music scene and our youth. Woman like you are far and few between, we are lucky to have such a BAD ASS in our community.
Check out “Short Fast & Loud” magazine, and “Six weeks Records” on the web, FB and Twitter. Check out YouTube for a plethora of live VOETSEK sets. Athena currently has a new music project in the works with some old friends and I couldn’t be more excited to hear more about it when it’s released!
VOETSEK WEBSITE: (You can also find their page on FB)