The initial sounds of an Education Reform tune tend to glance furtively around the corner, poking at the outskirts of a mind to ensure someone is home, and ready. That trickle of erratic, brooding vocals — husky and menacing, yet somehow childlike; those keyboard rains that evoke consignment to oblivion in interstellar oceans. It’s strange that the sonic arrangement — tumbling fields of emotion and thought — could be fitted with any success into the box of “indie rock.”
Did the ghost of Edward Gorey start a band with David Bowie, and enlist the filigree of a high school orchestra on LSD? Or did a poet’s heart get broken, splashing the colors of his soul on New York City tarmac?
The truth lies in between. Only this poet, Aaron Kruziki, is an ex-educator with a chip on his shoulder, and this gaggle of high school and college buddies aren’t necessarily on LSD, but rather the politics behind modern academia. Suddenly, learning got multi-dimensional.
Based in Queens, Education Reform is composed of Kruziki on keyboards, woodwinds and vocals; Travis Reuter on guitar; Jon Wert on drums; and Zach Lane on bass. The classically trained quartet formed in the fall of 2011, born of an errant idea from Kruziki to jettison his jazz training and the image accompanying it, and combine a love of droning, theatrical rock ‘n’ roll with philosophies that he, until then, had kept buried.
“When in academia, I was very focused on studying jazz and improvised music, saxophone and woodwinds. This led to my own compositions for different melodies, groupings and ensembles,” explains Kruziki, who attended Interlochen School for the Arts in Michigan, studied jazz performance at Western Michigan University, and the same at the revered New England Conservatory in Boston.
It was Bowie who stepped in to shatter images.
“For Halloween 2011, I came up with an extravagant Ziggy Stardust costume, outdoing even the Bowie costume I wore for 2010. I’ve always loved Bowie. I had this mysterious dream around the time of the Ziggy night. Simply, I heard a voice, and it said, ‘Education Reform.’ Somehow I knew immediately that I had to leave formal ideas of the jazz world behind and start a rock band, which was an entirely new concept for me. I realized my expression doesn’t have to be what I studied, but rather who I am,” he says.
Kruziki gathered a motley crew of his old classmates, Wert and Lane, and Lane brought Reuter along for the experiment. What began as a rejection of type evolved into a lyrical cauldron of commonly shared experiences and dislikes about the state of academia, from a foursome who’d spent time in the educational system as music teachers following college.
“Education is a deep-seated issue in this country,” laments Kruziki. “I’ve gone from teaching people from the Ravenswood projects, the poorest people in Queens, to those in Westchester (north of New York City, one of America’s wealthiest areas). I’ve seen educational culture from various level and angles, complete with its foibles. In terms of reform, their needs to be a trinity between students, teachers and parents; an awareness of each others role as pedagogue and pupil.”
He continues, “That is what I want this music to be representative of: awareness. Awareness of self. A call of alarm. A call to arms.”
Education Reform, with its outer-space sonic obstacle courses, poetry and thunderous jams, has allowed its members to find awareness of self outside the rigors of what they were taught, and of what they spent years teaching others. For as Plato observed, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”
Needless to say, keep an eye and ear on this band. They just might challenge you to think outside the box.