Michael Paolucci, Teacher, Father and Drummer for Nardy Boy, Little Silver and Others, Shares His Secrets for Balancing it All

Michael Paolucci

Michael Paolucci, Teacher, Father and Drummer for Nardy Boy, Little Silver and Others, Shares His Secrets for Balancing it All

by Anthony Paolucci

There are superheroes of parenting, those able to leap tall piles of laundry in a single bound, or prepare lunches faster than a speeding bullet, all while embracing teachable moments in a loving and inspiring manner. Then there are parents like Michael Paolucci, who achieves all this as not only a husband and drummer of three bands but also a Connecticut elementary school music teacher who went on to win the 2023 Bridgeport Public Schools Teacher of the Year award. 

From home life to band life, Michael has a full calendar this summer, including the recording of a long-awaited album of original material from one of his bands, Nardy Boy. As both his brother and admirer of his talent and dedication, I spoke to him on behalf of Rockmommy about how he manages to make it all work.

Michael Paolucci is the drummer for multiple bands, including Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps (pictured)

Rockmommy: Tell me about your bands and what’s in store for each.

Michael Paolucci: I like to lean into a bunch of different styles of playing, so I’ll pick up sub gigs for bands like the Hot Club of Black Rock doing swing tunes or find myself playing experimental improv, but these are my main three groups right now:

Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps is a super-fun group that allows us to basically tickle every musical fancy we have. We’ve been playing together now for almost 15 years. At a regular show, we’ll do arrangements of all sorts of covers, from Britney Spears to Ethiopian jazz, in addition to a bunch of originals written by our accordion player. We’ve also done collaborations for an unofficial composer series where we’ll do a set of music by a particular composer, like Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, and the music of The Simpsons.

Nardy Boy is a NOLA-infused soul-funk band, playing mostly originals by our front man and founder of the group, Renard Boissiere. He moved up here when Hurricane Katrina hit and hung out in the Bridgeport area for several years playing with a whole mess of folks, including the group that eventually became Nardy Boy, before moving back down to New Orleans. He comes up a few times a year though and we’ll do a stretch of shows, usually for New Year’s, Mardi Gras, or summer shows. We’ve got a studio recording in the works, but we’re definitely more of a live band.

Little Silver is the most recent group I’ve been playing with. They first approached me and my soul brother Tep, the bass player for Nardy Boy and Dr. Caterwaul’s, to record a few singles they had been working on and then invited us to be permanent members after we all clicked. They’ve done a ton of recording before we entered the picture though and were also reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine, among others.

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Rockmommy: Did you always aspire to be a music teacher and a musician?

Michael Paolucci: Ha! Absolutely not. Most of why I’m a musician and a teacher is by accidental circumstance. I’ve always enjoyed playing drums and listening to different styles of music, but I didn’t purposely set out to make this my whole life. I did band in elementary school, and took a handful of lessons beyond that, but stopped entirely throughout high school. Then I ended up switching schools a week into my freshman year of college, which left me scrambling for classes as all the required classes were full. They asked what else I like to do, and when I mentioned music, they signed me up for a series of four-semester courses. I liked it enough and stuck with it throughout the rest of my time there.

Michael Paolucci is a drummer, dad, and teacher who works and plays in the New Haven, Conn., area.

Rockmommy: How do you juggle a life as busy as yours? Do you have a lot of support?

Michael Paolucci: I definitely have a lot of support from family and friends in order to maintain everything I’ve got going on and my incredibly understanding and patient wife, Lauren, is at the crucial center of it all. She’ll often take on the extra responsibilities and chores so that I can make a gig or rehearsal, encourage me when I feel like giving up, inspire me to push out of my comfort zone and aspire to new heights in my career, celebrate my achievements loud and proud, and give me the time and space I need to keep developing or catch my footing when everything gets too heavy or jumbled. We actually first met when she hired my band to play an event she was throwing, so she’s known from the jump how important it is to me to play and perform.

Beyond that, I’m also blessed with an amazing circle of family and friends who help in a lot of ways — from babysitting to just decompressing — to keep my cup full and my head on straight.

Rockmommy: How did becoming a music teacher and a musician help prepare you to become a father, and how did it impact your parenting style?

Michael Paolucci: Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have learned a lot about how kids’ minds and behavior work developmentally, the importance of balancing play, discipline, and affection, and how to talk about trickier topics like empathy and social justice in language they can understand. One of the first and most impactful pieces of advice I got as a father-to-be was to trust my gut. I think that playing music where I get to improvise a lot, or even entirely, has definitely kept me connected to my gut instincts, along with knowing how to play off a mistake, which I’ve certainly had to do a lot.

I’m also finding a lot of natural overlap between the different intersections involved in being a teacher, a musician, and a dad. In the classroom, I’ve also learned a lot about the power of ‘voice and choice’ so I make sure to create space for that while raising my three-year-old daughter. Having patience and letting kids fail have also been pretty helpful. Also, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of wacky stuff over the years that kids are capable of doing, so my daughter’s going to have to get pretty creative to get me to raise an eyebrow.

Rockmommy: Do you intend to make music an important part of your daughter’s life? If so, how?

Michael Paolucci: I decided early on that I don’t want to force music on my daughter or pressure her into learning an instrument, but we definitely do a lot of singing, dancing, and banging on just about everything around the house. I’d like her to build her own relationship with music and if it ends up being an important part of her life, then cool, but I won’t be upset if she goes in a different direction, as long as she’s happy.

Rockmommy: Any advice for other full-time fathers looking to pursue their own musical projects?

Michael Paolucci: Be flexible, keep it real, and don’t forget what and who is truly important.

Rockmommy: If you could change anything or do anything over, what would it be?

Michael Paolucci: Hard to say. Starting my family earlier on so I’d have more time with everyone, but I think everything’s been playing out at just the right time. I think I would have made a terrible father if that happened too soon.


Rockmommy: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far from being a father?

Michael Paolucci: Triple-check the family calendar before taking any gigs!

Rockmommy: Does your daughter have a favorite band or artist?

Michael Paolucci: Me, of course! But a close second would have to be Laurie Berkner. She’s almost a daily request. She’ll also ask for Bob Marley or some cumbia, depends on her mood.

Upcoming shows:

Dr. Caterwaul’s @ Nod Hill Brewery 7/8/23

Nardy Boy @ Naugatuck Green 7/11/23

Little Silver @ Best Video 9/8/23

Anthony Paolucci is a father, author, and drummer for Passing Strange (NeuroTronix Records).

1 Comment
  • Catherine Minor
    Posted at 21:17h, 15 June Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. Michael Paolucci is one of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

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