Music Sets the Tempo of English Teacher’s Life


Jenny Won

English teacher Aaron Kwan performs Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life” before his class, bringing his passions for teaching and singing together.

Jenny Won, Business Team

With a gold microphone in hand, literary and language arts teacher Aaron Kwan brings his exceptional singing talent into his everyday life, both on his own and with his students. From singing in the shower to auditioning for “American Idol,” Kwan’s passion for music started at an early age and continues today.

“I’ve always loved singing,” Kwan said. “In college, one of my friends heard me singing in the shower and invited me to join his a capella group. At first I thought it would be lame, but it was actually really cool to be able to have a fraternity of other guys that I could sing with, so I started singing then.”

Kwan has been musically gifted since childhood, mastering instruments such as the piano, saxophone, flute and guitar by high school. As he continued to explore his singing talent, he decided to audition for “American Idol” and “The Voice” in college.

“I got past the first round for both, but what really stood out to me were all these people that I met and how much they cared about music,” Kwan said. “I realized that I don’t like anything as much as these people like music. My life changed from that. I wanted to find something that I was that passionate about and didn’t care how much money I was making. That’s eventually why I became a teacher.”

As Kwan discovered his aspirations to become a teacher, he chose to pursue his passion for teaching over previous jobs with better pay. In the classroom, Kwan now combines his love for music and teaching. Music is a frequent feature in classroom activities, from in-class music festivals to impromptu performances.

Jenny Won

“Even when he’s just listening to music, we can really tell that he’s super into it when he starts humming or whistling,” freshman Garrett Lee said. “Sometimes he even just picks up the microphone and starts singing in front of everyone.”

The artists Kwan listened to in his childhood continue to influence his taste in music today, though he said he enjoys songs from a wide variety of genres.

“I grew up on Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Those three shaped who I am in terms of music more than anything,” Kwan said. “One of my favorite songs of all time is ‘The Coffee Song’ by Frank Sinatra.”

More than the value of individual songs or artists, music as a whole serves as a bridge between people and as a motivator that shapes virtually every aspect of Kwan’s life.

“Music lets me connect with a lot of people. It’s really rare for me to to meet somebody and not be able to connect on some level with regards to music,” Kwan said. “It drives pretty much everything I do, kind of like a beat in my life. To me, music is everything.”