Local educators find outlet as Storm Surfers
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 24, 2013 1:50 AM
Tom Garrou, an English teacher and wrestling coach at Goldsboro High School and former Wayne Community College employee, plays drums as he and three other staffers from WCC hold a jam session for their band Storm Surfers in the music room of the Dogwood Building on campus one recent afternoon.
Wayne Community College English instructor Jeff Williams plays bass.
Wayne Community College biology instructor Ralph Benedetto plays guitar.
Wayne Community College educational support staff's Randall Shearon plays guitar.
Many successful musicians start out in garage bands.
Or they grow up, take on a real job and put that phase behind them.
For one group of local educators, though, the music hasn't died, it's just moved from the garage it began in a little more than a year ago to a second-floor music room at Wayne Community College.
The Storm Surfers are made up of three WCC employees -- Ralph Benedetto, biology instructor, Randall Shearon, educational support staff, and Jeff Williams, English instructor, as well as Tom Garrou, formerly at WCC and now English teacher and wrestling coach at Goldsboro High School.
"I infected them," joked Benedetto. "We all knew each other, and I wanted to be in a band playing this kind of music."
He said he got his style from "everywhere." He took piano lessons as a child, played guitar and keyboard in a Mexican dance band as well as in church, and was in rock-and-roll bands, including one with former city manager Joe Huffman, before settling on the genre that can best be described as "surf/instro" -- a throwback to surf music once made popular by groups like the Ventures.
Formed in August 2011, Garrou said their affiliation started when Benedetto offered him guitar lessons and suggested they form a band.
"I'm not a guitarist," Garrou admitted. "But I found my instrument, the drums. Ralph was very, very encouraging and he said, 'You need to stick with that.'"
The duo started writing music, practicing in Garrou's garage for about a year, mostly because it was easier than having to transport the drums around, then decided to reserve space at WCC.
Like the Beatles, this group underwent a few changes.
Benedetto said he knew Williams played bass guitar, so invited him to join the group.
"I'd never played in a band, except for marching band, when I played bass clarinet," Williams said.
A short while later, their other guitar player had to leave, and they became a trio for several months. Then Benedetto thought of Shearon.
Shearon took guitar lessons as an elective in college -- "I have been pretty much playing in my bedroom for years," he said -- and now plays lead and rhythm guitar for the Storm Surfers.
The group plays a lot of familiar tunes -- from "Walk Don't Run" to the Beatles' "Eight Days A Week," but also performs many original songs.
Benedetto and Williams create much of the music the instrumental band performs, but everyone in the group has writing credits, Garrou said.
Things really picked up a few months ago when the group was invited to perform at the WCC Christmas luncheon and later at the annual meeting of the Mental Health Association.
They're not, though, an overnight sensation.
"It sounds a lot simpler than it was," said Williams. "We played together for a year and a half."
It took awhile to move out of that garage, he laughed. Garrou joked that the police had been called because of the loud music, but hinted his neighbors had also since said they missed hearing the music.
"I'm in my 40s and finally in a garage band," Williams said with a smile.
Shearon took issue with that, noting that he's still "clinging to my 30s" and isn't ready to be called an old guy in a garage band.
And just as each has an instrument, so does each play a role.
"Ralph is kind of our manager and chaplain because we start each practice, each gig, with a word of prayer. That's kind of neat," said Garrou. "Randall is the sound guy, Jeff is kind of our paperwork guy, and I'm just there.
"Our singular common hobby is to sing and make music."
And to enjoy what they're doing.
"It's fun because in regular music, you have a singer, the guitar player, and they get their show and everyone else is underneath. But not in this. Everyone matters," said Benedetto.
"It's a tremendous privilege to play with these guys," said Williams. "We have those moments when things aren't going well, but when they are, when they lock in, it's the most tremendous feeling."
Benedetto added, "The thing is, we're all friends. We all want the music to be good. But it's not ego-driven. We all want the band to be better,and we all want to have fun."
For more information, visit www.reverbnation. com and type in "Storm Surfers" or e-mail stormsurfers@rocket mail.com.