It started as a joke. Mike Forgette’s dad was a Jethro Tull fan, so his wife bought him a flute.
But 5-year-old Mike picked it up, and started playing. He added guitar in 7th grade. He and some friends formed a couple of high school bands. At the University of New Haven, Mike studied music and sound recording.
After college, he worked 3 jobs. He saw an ad for a 4th: SAT tutor. His former physics professor agreed to write a recommendation, but suggested Mike consider teaching as a career. He’d always enjoyed helping others solve problems, the instructor noted.
The first time Mike stood in front of a classroom, something clicked. He loved being “on stage” — just like with his band.
Today, Mike’s a full-time math teacher. He’s in his 3rd year at Staples High School, his 4th in the district.
But he did not leave music behind.
Mike’s band — named “1974” — has steadily earned notice. Playing mostly around Hartford — but ranging into Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — the progressive rock group is gaining fans and downloads.
Their concept-based albums are particularly big overseas. 1974 was recently reviewed in a Swedish newspaper, which Mike finds intriguing.
Last year, they were named “Best Rock Band” and “Best Overall Band” in Connecticut Music Awards voting. This year, they’re up for New England Music Awards’ “Rock Act of the Year.”
Being a rock star in 1974 — the band, not the year — is not a full-time gig. Mike teaches; other members work as graphic designer, chef, college registrar and inventory controller. They do all their own marketing: press releases, CD designs, booking, whatever.
The keyboardist is new. But everyone else has been friends for years. They enjoy an easy familiarity, and clearly love what they do.
Yet it doesn’t consume them. The name came from a member’s casual remark — “Maybe if we were around in 1974, we’d have made it” — and they don’t really worry that the name renders them “basically unsearchable” on Google. (Type in “1974,” and you get lots of references to Gerald Ford.)
They’re very approachable, which helps fans relate.
Some of those fans are Mike’s students. He doesn’t talk much about his band, but when the class hears that their teacher’s music is on iTunes and Spotify, they’re impressed.
Last year, Michael Martins was working on student radio station WWPT-FM’s 40th anniverary event. When he realized that meant the station began in — drum roll, please — 1974, he asked his teacher if the band could play live. They did.
Hanging on the studio wall is a poster of Jethro Tull. Forgette knew he was in the right place.