Alumni Spotlight: Walker Calhoun

Walker Calhoun now

Former Bird student and camp counselor Walker Calhoun talks about how he still uses the lessons he learned at Bird, from tackling nerves to respecting coworkers.

What are you doing now, and how is music a part of your life? 

I’m an outdoor studies teacher at Town School. I teach kindergarten through 8th grade, so I teach students from the whole school. I genuinely listen to music in every aspect of my day. During summer break I try to travel and take time for myself, and throughout that entire time I’m listening to music whether that be on a plane, on my road trips, sharing with friends or playing it, because I still play it all the time. Music is heavily incorporated into my day-to-day life just as a morale booster. 

A younger Walker performing at one of those memorable Bird garage concerts in 2008. (Photo by Paolo Vescia.)

What are some of your favorite memories from Bird, and how has your time here influenced you?

One of the memories I was just reflecting upon was the end of the session concert. Looking back on it now it was just a concert in a garage for the parents of the kids who were enrolled in that band session, but when I was a student it really felt like we were at a concert venue and we were playing music for a huge live audience. That was one of the coolest parts of Bird was my experience playing that final show. Another really fun experience I had was the friendly  rivalry between our band, “Go Phish,” and another band of people we were friends with and grew up with called “Phone Booth.” Maybe it was all in my head, but they were always better than us, just musically talented, and it was always really fun to not really compete, but put ourselves up against one another. I feel like the rivalry of the bands was completely within my head, kind of like how I thought the performance was a huge venue and I was performing for thousands of people. I really loved how dramatic my perception of it was because I was having so much fun. Even though I was never really into drama and performing, from those shows I learned how to and got comfortable performing in front of people. I used to always be nervous even just speaking publicly, but those experiences really taught me how to perform and give an audience a good show despite nerves.

Which of Lane’s famous life lessons has most resonated with you? 

I worked as a camp counselor at Bird, and when I first got hired I was trying to get in contact with one of our coworkers who worked at the front desk at the time. I sent Lane a message referring to her as “your secretary” and he called me to correct how I was talking about my coworkers. He really drilled into me something that he cares about a lot, which is mutual respect between everyone, and that it was inappropriate for me to use the word secretary. I never forgot that and I think a lot about that phone call and how I treat other people I work with and interact with.  

What is next for you, and how will you bring music into that?

I am continuing to work for Town School throughout this year. Next I may apply to graduate schools, in which case I need to start studying for the GRE and looking for mentors. I’m still figuring out what I want to do. I did marine biology in college and so I would love to do a marine-biology-affiliated job after graduate school. I love bringing music into social situations because when you go to graduate school everyone’s there for a similar purpose but everyone’s from different parts of the world and parts of the country. I listen to a lot of foreign music like Latin music and music based out of Africa and I think that helps break down the uncomfortable barrier that going to school together can sometimes create. So I think I will use music as, for lack of a better word, an icebreaker.

What new music did you discover in the past year that you would recommend? 

Right now I’m enjoying listening to Amadou & Mariam, especially their song “Je Pense à Toi.”

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