There’s a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll hidden at Dixie State University.
It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and you are heading home from your class while passing the Dunford Auditorium when you hear a band practicing and the lyrics “Hey ho, let’s go!” You might recognize it is from The Ramones, but you have at least heard the song before, so you decide to take a peep. You walk through the door, turn the corner, and expect to see a typical garage band.
Who you’ll likely come across is the faculty band, Black Sabbatical. The members are assistant English professor Jim Haendiges at the drums, biology professor Curt Walker on the guitar, assistant psychology professor John Pugliese holding the mic, and assistant chemistry professor Rico Del Sesto plucking the bass.
“Usually they look at us and think, ‘Are you guys supposed to be in here?’” Haendiges said.
The band formed because of a birthday wish in April. Haendiges invited anybody who could play an instrument to get together for his birthday and play along to the beat of his drums. Word got around about Pugliese singing karaoke, and practices followed that summer.
Outside its growing tradition of playing at each other’s birthdays, the band’s first gig was at the faculty senate luncheon Aug. 17. Dallon Whitney, physician assistant and Black Sabbatical’s additional bass player, provided the beat at the luncheon. Whitney did extra preparation for the gig by stitching up Walker’s medial collateral ligament the weekend before.
The name Black Sabbatical shows what this band is all about for these professors. “Sabbatical” is traditionally defined as a period of time when teachers take a semester off from their career to study and explore. Black Sabbatical is their own sabbatical because they are all in it to just have fun.
The band member’s prior experience ranges from Haendiges’ 20 years in various bands and even an Easter gig at Tuacahn Amphitheater to Pugliese’s five years bass experience in his garage band and singing in the shower. Walker has played guitar on and off throughout his life, and Sesto’s bass inspiration came from a Skid Row concert two years ago.
The band’s genre consists of ’90s alternative and songs such as, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan and “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young.
The band members said they are still waiting for the call from Pearl Jam to invite them on tour or to stop butchering their music; but either way the members said they wouldn’t quit their day job to play full time.
“[Being a] professor is a pretty good job,” Pugliese said. “It is a pretty good gig.”
The band doesn’t have any future gigs, but Haendiges and Walker work music into their lectures. They both try to instill the lesson that to become good or professional in anything in your life, you have to start with the basics and work hard.
“[The students] often don’t see all the work that goes behind it,” Haendiges said.
Black Sabbatical plans on getting together when time permits further into the semester.
“Hopefully nobody thinks that we are seriously thinking we are going to tour with Pearl Jam…because they aren’t really up to our musical standards, you know,” Walker joked.