Carmen Machado does. She's a teacher and a musician, the two things she dreamed of as a little girl. In 1966, when she emigrated to Union City from communist Fidel Castro's Cuba with her family, things didn't seem easy.
The fact that her parents worked hard to support three kids was enough motivation for Machado to stay in school, but there was something that at the time seemed to clash with school - Machado's love for drums.
"I would pound on whatever was available," Machado reminisced, but her parents didn't think it was ladylike to play the drums, and piano lessons were quickly arranged. That didn't last; neither did the guitar lessons later. Lack of support didn't stop Machado. She joined her high school band while sneaking in drum lessons; she would tell her mom she was going to basketball practice.
At age 16 she purchased her first drum set for $150. Her set inspired her to form a band. By now, her parents had given up. Machado was set in her ways, and besides, school always came first.
She was an A student, had part-time jobs to pay for her own things, and was going to college to be a teacher. Her outgoing personality and passion for information made her a perfect candidate. She attended New Jersey City University got her B.A. and eventually her M.A. She worked in Jefferson Elementary school four years before moving to Emerson High School, where she's been for the past 12 years.
The students love her. She's vibrant, charismatic, and yet assertive. One of her old students, Agustin Rodriguez, said that she's known for her effectiveness. Watching her teach is quite an experience. Her eloquence and knowledge can put a college professor to shame. She teaches English and history, but the latter is her forte. She reads a book a week, and Biography magazine is her favorite.
Knowledge is not all she provides. She's also the person to call for team pictures and school parties, since she's an accomplished photographer and popular DJ.
So how does she do all these things and still have time to play in a band?
She'll tell you she's fulfilling a dream, almost like making up for lost time. The band she formed at age 16 didn't make it past four songs, and the other band she joined named The Interns wasn't tapping on her true talent. She was singing not playing drums.
"I didn't think I was a good enough drummer," said Machado of her stint with The Interns. So she took drums lessons until she felt ready.
Years passed, and with a marriage, two kids, a house, and two cars, Machado's music was put on hold.
It wasn't until three years ago that Machado's band Quatro, a name given because it began with four musicians, was created when she joined forces with John Kraus, a Union Hill High School teacher. Now with six musicians, Bob Baron (keyboards), John Dempsey (guitar), Hector Giron (sax, bass, harmonica, drums), Talia Hoyer (vocalist), Rich Ardito (vocalist), and Machado (drums, congas, vocals), John Kraus (bass guitar), two out of which are Emerson H.S. graduates, Quatro is forming a buzz. Their first demo has been recorded, a web site is running, and the owners of The Spot in Union City don't think twice about hiring them for gigs. The owners are, after all, Emerson High School graduates.
But while Quatro forms into an impeccable band (they wear black, the men sport musical themed ties, and they don't drink) Machado remains humble. Sure, she's jammed with Jim DeRogatis now the music critic for the Chicago Sun Times, played in places like The Cage and River Street Bar in Hoboken , and received music advice the late drum genius Tito Puente. But she still takes lessons with long time teacher Ross DiBona.
Perhaps the 17 years she spent forming a family and dreaming of a band while giving first-rate history lectures to Special Education students grounded her too much. She's so busy with her band, the photography, the weekend DJing, her young daughters, her part-time job at a photo shop in Jersey City, and teaching that she has not stopped to breathe for second and see what she has accomplished, finally.
At only 42 years old, Machado is not your average teacher. Walking through the halls in Emerson H.S., you'll find a flyer for the Spot, May 1 with a picture of Quatro right above their tag line "Music for people who hate noise." Machado stops another teacher and tells her, "Hey, the Spot, May first."
You can see Machado and her band Quatro perform May 1 from 9:30 to 1 a.m. at the Spot, 1711 Manhattan Ave., Union City, N.J. For more information, visit their web site at www.quatromusic.com.