History lessons lead to musical career

NANAIMO – Shane Philip was teaching in northern B.C. when he decided to follow a new career path.

Multi-instrumentalist Shane Philip plays the Dinghy Dock Pub tonight (Aug. 5).

Multi-instrumentalist Shane Philip plays the Dinghy Dock Pub tonight (Aug. 5).

When northern British Columbian high school teacher Shane Philip found himself teaching a subject he didn’t know anything about, he turned to music.

“I was teaching subjects, one in particular, social studies. I never even took social studies in high school and I found myself in a position where I had to teach it,” Philip said. “I was basically a couple weeks ahead of the kids learning the material and trying to come up with a way to make Canadian history exciting.”

In order to make the subject more exciting for himself and his students, Philip, who happened to have hidden musical talent, decided to write a bunch of songs on the various topics and sing them in the classroom.

“We turned Canadian history into music. A lot of my lessons involved kids getting the lyrics to my songs that I wrote, overviewing the things like the Upper Canada rebellion and the prime ministers in Canada,” Philip said. “It was kind of interesting for me because there is nothing worse than a dry teacher just spouting out facts about history. I tried to make interesting for both me and the students so they could do well.”

It didn’t take long for Philip and his students to realize that he was in the wrong profession.

“I kind of realized there that I had a bit of a knack for this songwriting business thing,” Philip explained. “A lot of the kids were saying, ‘Why are you teaching? You should be out there playing music,’ and that got me enthused and motivated to make a bit of a career change.”

Philip decided that he was done with teaching and became a full-time musician.

“I just dove into the waters very deep and I never turned back,” Philip said. “That’s exactly how it was … I just decided to put it all together and make it my own band. It was a big leap of faith but honestly, the teaching was stifling my creativity so much or at least the way I was going about it, it was.”

Tonight (Aug. 5) Philip will be performing at the Dinghy Dock Pub.

“I am really stoked about it. I’ve played that place once before,” Philip said. “It was neat taking a boat over with all my stuff. It was quite exciting.”

Philip has become known in music circles for the many instruments that he can play, which includes the didgeridoo.

“I went to a concert and I heard this guy play the didgeridoo and he played it really well,” Philip said about his decision to play the Australian instrument.

The Toronto native has toured throughout Canada. He recalled the reaction he got from the audience when he first played the didgeridoo.

“I remember playing up in Smithers and I got to play the ski hill and did my didgeridoo guitar thing that I was just starting to do and immediately it got favourable reactions,” Philip said.

Since his decision roughly a decade ago, Philip has gone on to have a successful career as a musician.

“Quite honestly, I am doing better as a musician than as a teacher,” he said. “It’s good. It’s a good career. Especially when I started making CDs because I could sell CDs …on the side.”

He credits his students in northern B.C. for encouraging him to become a musician.

“The kids really inspired me to get out of teaching and get into music,” he said.

Philip’s performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 from Lucid, Dog’s Ear, Desire Tattoo and the pub.