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How a second job as a singing gondolier gave this Indianapolis teacher a shot at fame

Derek Gould, a teacher at Paramount Brookside, talked about his second job as a singing gondolier at a story slam on teacher pay.
Derek Gould, a teacher at Paramount Brookside, talked about his second job as a singing gondolier at a story slam on teacher pay.
Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat

Derek Gould considers himself a G-list celebrity in Indianapolis: “Some people recognize me some places sometimes.”

By day, he’s a teacher at a local charter school, Paramount Brookside. When he’s not at school and the weather’s nice, he’s a singing gondolier along the downtown canal.

Gould loves teaching, but he rows the gondola to pay rent. It’s an exhausting turnaround: School ends at 4:15 p.m. His customers are waiting on the canal at 4:30 p.m.

On one long day last fall, he was rowing for a party of hundreds of people when an opportunity landed that could have changed his life (and helped pay his bills).

Here’s a lightly edited excerpt from the story he told at last month’s story slam about teacher pay, co-hosted by Chalkbeat Indiana and Teachers Lounge Indy at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art:

This was a school night, I think a Wednesday. And I’m exhausted. My voice is shot. I’ve been teaching. I’ve been singing for hundreds of people. I want to go home. I’m tired.

A gentleman walks up to me, and he’s wearing a bright, extravagant, expensive-looking blue suit. I’ll never forget the way it looks — he honestly reminded me of a character from The Hunger Games.

He sticks his hand out, and he says, “I’ve been listening to you sing all night. I want to give you my card. I’m an agent in New York.”

Pssh — yeah! Earlier a middle-schooler wrote graffiti about me, and now I’m getting an agent’s card?

He assured me he was serious, and he gave me his business card. I stuck it in my pocket, and I went home that night. This was about midnight. I get online, and I look up this talent agency. I’m like, who’s this guy? I expected some rinky-dink small agency.

They represent Flo-Rida.

And for some reason that set off a 10-second fantasy in my head, where I quit teaching, and I became a full-time performer.

Check out the rest of Gould’s story below to hear what he decided to do with that business card.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.

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