Educator and drummer, Chris Ames rocking in new role as Head of the History Department.
When students walk into Chris Ames' AP U.S. History class, they have to name a song from the 1980s.
"Everybody loves '80s music," Ames said with a smile.
It may seem odd, invoking music to start a history course, but not for Ames, who is in his first year at Westover, serving as the Head of the History Department and a teacher. A life-long lover of music and a drummer in a band, called "Soul Street," Ames loves to connect his two passions together -- music and history.
"As you go through the (history) eras, it connects to the different musical time periods as well," he explained. "It's a major component in any U.S. history course."
Ames' own history and journey to Westover starts in the Midwest. He grew up in Ohio playing the drums in school bands, which blossomed into playing in jazz clubs.
"To me, (the drums) defines the genre of music," Ames said. "If it's jazz, it's because it's this rhythm or this beat; if it's Motown it sounds like this. I think to me it's that defining piece that makes the music."
A graduate of the University of Kentucky, it was when he moved to Michigan, where he received his Masters, that he started dabbling in the Detroit Motown scene.
"I started playing with some guys that worked with a lot of the Detroit Motown groups, like 'The Temptations,' 'The Drifters,' Aretha Franklin. And none of those groups had bands," Ames explained. "It's expensive to travel with a band all the time. So basically they would have a band for the Midwest, (one for) out west, and they would go and do their show. So when they booked at the MGM in Detroit or Cleveland or New York, we'd get called and go out and do their show with them. It was cool."
"As you go through the (history) eras, it connects to the different musical time periods as well. It's a major component in any U.S. history course."
What came out of that for Ames was a core band that later turned into a group that fit multiple musical needs. From there, it turned into a company called Razor Entertainment, essentially a booking company of 110 musicians that Ames is a major part of.
"If someone wants a 60s Motown group, bam, we have that," Ames said.
While the company is based in Michigan, Ames' role now is primarily with online booking and managing. He said he'll travel back to perform if it's a bigger concert, but that most of his drumming now takes place in the summer.
Nowadays, his main priority is settling into Westover with his wife Robyn, who is also in her first year working in the School's Rasin Center for Global Justice as its Community Service Coordinator.
"This year primarily is to get a feel for the classes, the kids, the School, the overview of being at Westover," he said.
As the Head of the History Department, Ames said he's looking to incorporate his love of travel and the idea of being on site and seeing how it's not just something in a book.
"Overall, my focus is less on heavy AP scores, and more on experimental stuff, big picture," Ames said. "Because we're in an era now where it's no longer about content. I mean, if you want to look something up, Google a keystroke away. So now it's more about 'How is this still relevant?' What is worthwhile in history that is still connecting to today? And how can you help explain stuff from today using the past?"
Before Westover, Ames taught in both public and private schools across Michigan, Georgia and Florida. He explained that his own family history's connection to the School was an added bonus to coming back East.His ties to the School reach back to the 1930's. His grandmother, Elizabeth Chase Greene Kroll '37,and her sister, Mary Payson Greene Hartdegen '35, both attended Westover, while Ames' mother, Margreta Chase Kroll Ames, and her sister, Karen Dagmar Kroll Ural, graduated from Westover in 1962 and 1960, respectively.
"To be walking the same campus your mother and grandmother were on is pretty cool," Ames said. "Obviously we keep moving along, but the traditions my mother remembers in the '60s, her mother remembers in the '30s. And we're still doing them now. It keeps us connected to the past."