It’s been a particularly tough month for teachers following the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, now one of the deadliest school massacres in history. In the massacre’s wake, a national conversation about gun control—one spurred and led by some of the surviving high school students and teachers as well as victims’ family members—has been reignited. Considering the Parkland shooting’s heartwrenching location, these debates have expanded to include a discussion about the role of educators. In particular, there have been calls to arm teachers and other school personnel—calls that have been rebuffed by educators across the country.
As the co-president and senior talent buyer for AEG Live Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, Don Strasburg has built a name for himself as a power player in the music industry. After opening the Fox Theatre and rising to prominence as one of the top promoters West of the Mississippi, Strasburg has become the mastermind and talent buyer behind countless Red Rocks Amphitheatre shows as well as the annual end-of-summer Phish run at Dick’s Sporting Good Park in Colorado.
On Sunday night, in light of the tragedy at MSD High Schools and its aftermath, Strasburg wrote a simple post on Facebook: “Hey any school teachers friends of mine here? i’d like to stoke some of you with some comp tickets. You sure deserve a lot of love.” In the short time since he wrote his post, the prominent promoter has received and fulfilled hundreds of ticket requests from teachers, with the requests continuing to flood in as the post circulates.
As Strasburg explained on the phone:
I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that’s going on with teachers and with schools—obviously thinking the same thing that all of the country has been thinking about. Being in a position where we engage a lot with our community, it’s been nagging me: Is there anything we can do? On Sunday night, I had an epiphany that the least we could do is thank some teachers, for god’s sakes. Teachers are underpaid, incredibly talented people who are taking care of the most important thing in any parent’s lives, their children. On top of it now, they have to have some level of concern for their safety, and our dingbat president is telling them they should carry guns to school and become police. I mean, what type of messed up world do live in?
I have an eight-year-old son who has fabulous teachers, and I know that they are so important to the most important person in my life. To think about everything they’ve been going through in the past few weeks or months or years, the least thing we can do is reach out a hand and say thank you. You know, reach out a hand and say thank you and give them something to make their lives better, to let them know that we care and we appreciate them.
Strasburg’s simple attempt to brighten a few educators’ days seems to be having an impact, both on grateful teachers and others in the music industry who have embraced the idea. For example, Ryan Noel—festival director for Colorado’s Beanstalk Music Festival, tour manager for The Disco Biscuits, and Denver school administrator—was inspired by the message. While he may not have the same extensive resources, yesterday he similarly offered up a number of first-come-first-serve tickets to Beanstalk in June. By phone, Noel illuminated his decision to mirror Strasburg’s actions:
I’ve been working in education since I was a junior in college in 2008. I went to Arizona State University. I worked with at-risk youth, helping them after school with mentor sessions, and then I coached basketball for a while. I graduated, moved here to Denver, and same thing, got right back into it and got a Masters in education. I was working at universities and then I got into this elementary school, and I’ve been there for five years.
When I saw Don’s post, I know what it’s like to be overworked and underpaid. I mean, that goes across the board in a lot of industries, but it’s especially hard when you’re basically taking care of other people’s children, and the expectations are so high, and you’re frequently not appreciated. It’s just really hard to be an educator these days. Though Beanstalk is very limited on resources, even comping ten passes, it’s the least that I can do for people that don’t get a lot of thank yous and good jobs to make them feel a little bit better for what they’re doing for our community.
It’s wonderful to see teachers being appreciated, and hopefully this initial small action will inspire other promoters and artists to show educators the love they deserve. Strasburg offered his thoughts on more people in the music industry taking a page out his book:
I can’t keep this going forever, but I’m going to take care of as many people as I can, and hopefully, it’d be wonderful if some other people did it. That wasn’t my original intent—it was just to do something nice and tell a bunch of people who aren’t appreciated nearly enough that they are. If other people want to follow suit, god bless. All the better.