Folk band is source of friendship, creativity for teachers

When the sun goes down on a quiet neighborhood in southwest Lincoln and the streetlights struggle to cut the darkness, a house on the corner sends a warm glow to the entire street.

The twang of a banjo, the pattering of a snare drum and the rising and falling of singing and and laughter float from the illuminated house.

Inside, the five members of the folk-rock band called The Algorhythms are holding their weekly Sunday night practice session. They’re teachers who met when they were all working at Belmont Elementary School, and when they get together now, their positive energy lights up the block.

“The band has taken over this place,” said lead singer Morgan Beach, as she gestured to a room full of amps and wires and guitars. “I think this was supposed to be a dining room, but a music room is more our style.”

Band practice for The Algorhythms is spirited organized chaos. They sip gin cocktails from metal straws during guitar solos and  stomp their bare feet on the hardwood floors, rattling the walls full of framed photography and art. The fun is tangible.

The band was always intended to be a creative outlet and a way to blow off steam, according to founding member Matt Teer, a special education teacher at Irving Middle School, who plays guitar, drums and the occasional digeridoo. He got the group started in 2016 after being dared by a colleague to learn to play the mandolin. Learning to play the instrument rekindled his passion for music and motivated him to bring the band together.

Back then, they only knew eight songs and they practiced at Belmont Elementary after school. The Algorhythms started to grow into an official band when Teer invited Luke Thallas, Belmont Elementary’s music teacher, to contribute his talents.

“This kid is just what we needed,” Teer said of Thallas. “He can write and play whatever we need, which gives us endless possibilities.”

This story is part of a series about the people and issues in Lincoln’s six most diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods. Graphic by Tyler Loebig.

The final piece of the puzzle came with Teer’s brother, Joel Teer, a paraeducator at Mickle Middle School, who cemented the group’s folk vibe with his banjo talents. Beach, an early childhood paraeducator, mostly sings and plays auxiliary percussion. Matt Erb, a music teacher at Kooser Elementary, sings and plays guitar. The rest of the band swaps between drums, bass, guitar and vocals depending on the song. It all works together to create raucous folk standards with a modern twist.

They play folk music for the same reason they do pretty much anything together: because it is a ton of fun, Erb said.

“People can sing along to our songs by design,” he said. “Playing music that the audience wants to join makes our performances more exciting for them and us.”

Performing live is the reason The Algorhythms exist, Erb said. When asked if the band would ever produce an album, they all laughed. They said they did not want to invest their time and money to record something they think no one would buy.

“We invest in livening up beer halls and making people happy in person,” Thallas said. “You have to see us live because the music is only half of what this band is. Our personalities complete it.”

Luckily, The Algorhythms have no trouble securing gigs. Beach said that they owe their success to the inclusive Lincoln music scene and their go-getter attitudes. They book many of their shows by simply mentioning to bartenders that they have a band.

But not all of the band’s shows are at breweries and bars. On this particular Sunday night, they were practicing to play at a post-game party for the parents of the Waverly High School football team.

Halfway through this practice, Joel Teer casually strummed on his banjo to “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt, a song the band was learning to play. A few bars in, Thallas picked up on the rhythm and added a drum beat. Matt Teer and Erb soon caught on to the chord progression and jumped in on their guitars. Beach grabbed a sheet of lyrics, and in an instant the song went from unfamiliar territory to a full-on jam session. After a brief pause to figure out how to end the song, the band struck up again with even more confidence and laughter than before.

“It is more important to be fun and funny than productive during practices,” Beach said. “The music always comes together, but quality time with good friends is so rare.”

The rest of practice carried on in a similar fashion. Someone introduced a melody, ideas flowed and music followed. Thallas bounced between instruments whenever he got an idea, and Matt Teer even broke out his didgeridoo.

The Algorhythms have no grand plan, but they intend to chug along like always. They are saving up for a concert tour of western Nebraska breweries, which they want to launch once Lincoln Public Schools is out for the summer.

“You know, I think we’re doing so well because we don’t have big ambitions,” Thallas said, laughing. “We just take what we can get, and it seems to be working.”

Until the next gig, The Algorhythms will continue celebrating music and being a beacon of friendship on the brightest corner in the neighborhood.

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