English teacher pursues passion

Takes leave of absence to tour with band

Isabel Tuisl, Social Media Manager/Website co-editor

Tom Stukel, an English teacher at LT for the past 14 years, is also the drummer of The Jam Alker Band. Jamie “Jam” Alker formed the band after becoming sober after a decade of abusing drugs. He [eventually] found his way back to his guitar and began to spin his experiences into stories told through music, according to his website.

“Music has been used as a way for me to express my feelings, thoughts, anxiety and depression,” Alker said in an interview with the LION. “These things are important to express in recovery, because holding these things in can lead back to using.”

When Alker first created the band, it was just called “Jamie Alker,” and he created a lot of the music himself, Stukel said. Now that Alker has new members alongside him, it is called The Jam Alker Band. Stukel has been playing with Alker for about a year now.

The group is leaving for tour in the summer, so Stukel’s leave of absence from teaching will last the entirety of next school year’s first semester.

“[This upcoming tour] is a big opportunity for me,” Stukel said. “Even though I’ve had my career for so long, I’ve always played in a band. It’s always been part of who I am to uphold that passion for playing. So to be able to apply myself 100% to [music] is a great thing, and I’m really grateful for us to be able to have this opportunity.”

Stukel and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 22 years, with two twin boys. In that time they haven’t spent more than seven days apart, she said.

“It will be a different way of living for a little while for all of us, but I will adapt and so will our boys,” she said. “I have highs and lows about this new adventure, but what makes me overcome the lows is seeing my husband so happy and doing what he is so passionate about. He deserves this path, and he will be in it 110%.”

His work ethic and dedication is what inspires her the most about him, she said.

“All the sacrifices we are making as a family will be worth it,” she said. “I have always told my husband I never want to be a roadblock for his passion, but the person who is always at his side following the different paths, as the status quo is boring.”

Stukel has been playing in bands since he was 14 years old, he said. At certain times he’s been in as many as three bands at once. He was in three bands before quitting two others to dedicate more time to The Jam Alker Band.

Though the band is scheduled for a tour starting this summer, the group has stopped booking shows because they’re in the process of writing their second studio album, which will be released before the tour, he said.

However, there is a show on May 20 in Chicago at the Riviera Theatre, that came up because Garbage, a popular, 1990s rock band, accepted The Jam Alker Band’s offer to play a benefit show for [addicts in] recovery, Stukel said.

“[Playing for Garbage] shows the things that a person can achieve in their recovery,” Alker said.

The show is being held by Face the Music Foundation, an organization that encourages awareness about addiction and recovery through information based outreach, fundraising events and social media, according to website.

Face the Music was created by Recovery Unplugged, which is a recovery organization that Jamie works for, Stukel said. All the money is going towards helping recovery individuals that want to go through rehabilitation but don’t have insurance.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for the organization but for us as a band in general,” Stukel said. “We’ve had a recovery community follow us when we did tours in the past, and it’s really great that it’s for a good cause. We can’t deny that it’s going to help the name of the band and get our name out, but the show will also expose what we’re trying to do to help the recovery community.”