NEWARK, NJ -- Carl Brister, like other R&B singers, spends hours in the studio, performs in shows around the world, and appear on television networks like BET and NBC.
Unlike most R&B singers, he wakes up the next morning and returns back to his role as a mathematics coach at a Newark charter school.
But his passion for music never takes a back seat.
Prior to his new role, Brister was a fourth-grade mathematics teacher at Elliott Street School.
He blended his passion for music and teaching, using songs to teach students mathematics concepts like rounding and improper fractions.
It was Brister’s creative techniques to help students achieve mathematics mastery through music that earned him the evaluation of a highly effective educator in his second year of teaching. He received it during his fifth year as well.
“Combining the two lets students get to know me as a person,” said Brister. “Being able to connect with them on a personal level opened a lot of opportunities for teaching.”
During his years in the classroom teaching students, his students always showed growth on the state assessment from the year before, said Brister. The only time he wasn’t able to help students achieve more significant gains was when he had a class of students that were two grade levels behind.
Oftentimes, students would Google his name and be shocked at what they find. Sometimes he would walk down the hall and hear students playing his music.
Brister embraced their interest and created a songwriting and production club at Elliott Street. Students learned how to write a strong hook for a song, analyzed music videos, and performances.
Teaching and music both take time and dedication. The flexibility of having summers off gives Brister more time to focus on music.
When school is in session, He gives music and teaching his full self, delicately balancing his passion and commitment to his students and his craft.
“The kids deserve the very best at all times,” said Brister.
Not only does he uses music to help students learn math, but he hopes to use music to help people learn acceptance.
In 2016, after the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and five police officers in Dallas, Brister created the Love and Unity Fest to help bring people together.
As a black man and father to two boys, he was concerned about the possibility of such a thing hitting closer to home. The common thread he noticed was the lack of love for another human being.
The festival is happening on Sept. 28 at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center in West Orange. There will be different music genres and performances.
Entering its fourth year, the fest is meant to bring people together in order to start conversations about solutions and the vision for a way forward, said Brister.
It’s meant to serve as a message that there are people in the United States who want to be more united regardless of culture.
“Not everybody is singing the same tune coming out of Washington D.C.,” said Brister.