Teacher rocks, in and out of class

A teacher's heavy metal band will perform Friday during a fund-raiser for the school's robotics team.
WARREN -- The walls in Fred Whitacre's classroom look more like those found in the average teen-ager's bedroom.
The poster-clad walls speak the universal language of music. Students feel right at home among pictures and posters of their favorite singers and bands.
Whitacre, 23, is a first-year English teacher at Harding High School and drummer for the metal band Kitchen Knife Conspiracy.
His room, on the second floor, is covered with famous quotes, artwork, excerpts from Shakespeare's sonnets, poetry and posters of Britney Spears, the Grateful Dead, AC/DC and more.
What students think: Junior Melissa Cain, 17, characterized Whitacre as a great teacher, "someone who tries to find a common ground with us."
She said she's not familiar with his music but likes the way his love of it influences his teaching.
"He finds things to teach about that we like," she said. "He's a great teacher and tries to make his classroom as comfortable an environment as possible."
Kitchen Knife Conspiracy will play during a fund-raiser Friday at Knights of Columbus, 1947 E. Market St. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Admission is $5, and food and nonalcoholic beverages will be sold. Syndrome and Exit 14 will also perform.
Robotics team: The event is being called FIRST-Aid 2001. Money raised will go to Harding's robotics team, called FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
Harding sophomore David Laird, the event's organizer, said the $75 down-payment to secure the hall was paid by engineers of Delphi Packard Electric Systems, which sponsors Harding's robotics team each year and works with students to design and build robots for competition.
Laird's father, Robert Sr., helped pay the security deposit, and principal Bill Mullane is chipping in for two off-duty police officers to provide security.
Other contributors are Harding's parents booster club, Knights of Columbus Council 620 and Reese-Wynn-Winyard-McDermott-Laird Funeral Home. A guitar from Fordeley's Music in Champion will be raffled.
Whitacre described his band's sound as heavier than Metallica.
"We kind of make [shock rocker] Marilyn Manson seem like a walk in the park -- with our sound, not our image."
Listening to the first track on the group's CD, "Sin-pathetic," can be misleading. The instrumental tune called "Sin" starts out softly with Whitacre on piano. A heavy dose of guitar, bass and drums finishes out the song; the 11 other tracks are equally hard-hitting.
Fellow English teacher Melanie Hameed jokes about the band's furious sound, calling it "demon music."
About the band: Other band members are bassist Johnny Kihm, 23, of Girard; singer John Prosenjak, 20, of Youngstown; and guitarist Jeremy Cibella, 21, of Howland.
The group is back in the studio in Mantua working on a follow-up CD, and it has played in Youngstown, Warren, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin. The group plans a three- or four-week tour this summer.
Whitacre, who was raised on the music of Kenny Rogers and Queen, attended Girard High School and Youngstown State University. He said music was his first love and called it "a release."
A junior English class Tuesday presented projects in Whitacre's class that incorporated music. Students were asked to prepare a 3D scene from the book "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, or to make a tape or CD of songs that relate to scenes in the book, about the Vietnam war.
In other classes, students translated quotes from "Romeo and Juliet" and "Julius Caesar" into modern language, through the mouths of musicians, movie stars and other TV figures.
For instance, one student chose Tupac Shakur to speak for Julius Caesar. Other students chose Marge Simpson to speak as Lady Montague and Bill Clinton as Mercutio, both from "Romeo and Juliet."
He'll be there: Junior Akeem Spencer called Whitacre's teaching "young and exciting," saying, "He tries to get the class involved; he relates to us well."
Laird said that he's not familiar with Kitchen Knife Conspiracy but that he looks forward to the show and Whitacre's performance.
"It's definitely not something you'd expect from a teacher at Harding," he said. "I think it will draw a lot of students."

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