Meet Alexei Moon Casselle — Happy(our): Evolution Panelist

By Youa | October 2018

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Life changes can lead to new paths that you never would have dreamed. When he was going through a lot of life upheavals, Alexei Moon Casselle found that the best way to adapt was to redefine his career path. After creating music throughout his 20s, with his then wife in Roma di Luna and crafting his rapping in Kill the Vultures with producer Anatomy (Stephen Lewis), Alexei took on a new job teaching young kids.

While change was scary, it took a lot of stretching and realigning his world to realize this was an evolution into something new and exciting. Change doesn't always mean you abandon what you used to love; it can mean you channel it into your new life. This was something Alexei had to learn through living.

These days, his main focus is finishing his grad program at the University of Minnesota, but music is still his right-hand man.

On Thursday, October 25, he, along with panelists Marianne Combs, Mike Schwandt, and Daniel Corrigan will share their knowledge on evolution in careers at our Happy(our) Evolution.

Find out more and purchase tickets to Happy(our) Evolution here. 

ArcStone: What does a typical day look like for you?

Alexei Moon Casselle: Right now I am in a grad program at the U so I am able to teach high school English/language arts. This semester is when we’re getting into classrooms to teach. For the most part, I am in a classroom as a student. I am still doing things through COMPAS. I’ll be doing a teacher development day next month for Columbia Heights doing workshops. They’re looking for new and creative ways to engage students. Every now and then I’ll freelance one-off things.

So, I’m a grad student at the moment, and I have my daughter every other week. Music has always occupied a significant space in my life, but because of school, I don’t have quite as much time at the moment.

ArcStone: Before you decided you wanted to teach, you had a pretty good foothold in music. What led you to teaching?

Alexei Moon Casselle: In 2011, I got a job at the school downtown as a special ed para. Just to back up and give a little context, basically to be very real, I was going through a divorce and very much at a point in my life were I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing right now.”

That point in my life, there was a lot of upheaval. I think I was in a spot where, like it or not, there was a lot of things happening. One of my friends, Tom Rademacher, was the one that said, "Hey, this position opened up. I think you’d be great for it. I think you should apply.” I applied for the job, did the interview, and they hired me on the spot. Even though I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing or what the job entailed. I was like, “Okay, this is cool.” I’ve had some experience working with youth. I’ve worked at rec centers doing summer programs here and there. I had gone into schools before and creative workshop type things. I knew I liked doing that, and I had some natural disposition for it. I basically took this job and they very quickly offered me a position teaching a spoken word poetry class. Even though I had no formal training on teaching or design or running a class, I was thrown into the fire, so to speak. I found as challenging as it was, it was super rewarding and it seemed like a lot was going right. For the first time in my life there was something outside of the world of music that I really enjoyed doing and could see myself doing seriously for some kind of career. That’s what led me on that path of seeking a license.

ArcStone: Did you have any other plans on what you wanted to do in life besides music?

Alexei Moon Casselle: No, it was always music. In my twenties, I would work whatever little off jobs I needed to do to pay the bills, but my heart was in doing music. That’s what kept me feeling the most alive. Really, up until that point, there was nothing else.

ArcStone: What changed in you?

Alexei Moon Casselle: I think, for me, the scariest thing is the thing I haven’t tried yet. I just hadn’t had that opportunity to be in a classroom setting and having to be, “Okay, you can teach something you really love.” That was the other thing, having that job with the spoken word class allowed me to share what I loved doing anyway — being creative and incorporating creative writing and performance and sharing that and connecting that in a community that I live in. There was something about those two worlds that was like, “Oh, I get to use my creative brain and also channel into this other thing that I suspected was there, but I haven’t really had opportunities to express that. It might have been there and dormant, but this was the first time it was official. I was really excited about that.

ArcStone: Do you think about had you failed spectacularly at teaching. How do you push on in instances where you fail?

Alexei Moon Casselle: I think so much of that relies on just intuition and being able to trust yourself. Even though teaching is challenging, obviously it’s a difficult profession and high burnout and turnover rate, it’s a very difficult, but rewarding, thing. I recognized that even at my earliest experience with it, but it was the little moments that, “Wow, it feels like I’m making a difference in this person’s life.” Those kind of cliche “aha” moment where you see that light come on. That alone was enough.

The other failures that weren't a part of the lesson plan — whatever technical thing — seemed so much more insignificant, and it felt like there was some larger thing being fulfilled. I think on an individual level, failure to some extent is always to be expected, and I try to not to let small failures stop the larger goal.

I’ve always tried to gravitate towards what makes me happy. That’s the larger guide for me.

ArcStone: Do you see parallels in this and being a parent?

Alexei Moon Casselle: Absolutely. My daughter has been one of my greatest teachers, for sure. Just to tie it back to the beginning of my teacher story around that same time, I was going through my divorce, one of the unexpected pleasant surprises of it was that it was the beginning of the relationship with my daughter. In the most real sense, at that point when I started having one-on-one time with her because I was a newly single parent and having to figure out a lot stuff on my own. It also laid the foundation for me and my daughter bonding in our own way.

Very much that teaching is “Wow, I didn’t see that coming, and now I’m in it, and there’s so many unexpected surprises.” I think there’s a parallel.

ArcStone: Now that you’ve turned a corner and have experiences to draw from, how do you approach new projects?

Alexei Moon Casselle: One thing I’ve noticed, even when I first started experimenting in music in high school, I remember, the first time I saw an opportunity just to perform at an open mic at my high school. I was such an introverted, quiet person. The thought of that was terrifying. I knew that I had to do it. Some of that ties into the intuition of, “Okay, this might be scary, or I might not be exactly sure how it fits into the bigger picture, but there’s something about it that feels right.” I think I’ve always tried to remain open to new possibilities. Even when I was offered my own classroom, I could have very easily said, “No, thanks. It’s not for me.” I had all the logical evidence of, “I don’t have training.” But I had to remain open.

ArcStone: Did it take a lot of living to get to where you are right now? What are you most proud of?

Alexei Moon Casselle: I would say the thing I’m most proud of has to follow that intuition and the risk taking, because it’s the origin of me as a musician, and it’s the origin of me as a father. It’s also the origin of me as a teacher. Knowing that, I have this disposition to have quiet in my own time. I’m proud I have the ability to trust my own instincts. It's always, “This appears scary on the surface, but there’s something compelling about it.” And for some reason, I need to take the risk. I’m not sure what that comes from. I think some of it is the people I was raised around — my community, my environment, however I got to where I am, that seed was planted in me. The thing I’m most grateful for is I’ve been able to take risks and also have really incredible opportunities presented to me.

I’m thankful the opportunity was there and that I was open to trying it. I’ve turned down plenty of things, and there’s been so many failure — it’s not been one long yellow brick road. More often than not, the things I’m most proud of is seeing things that were there and accepting the invitation.

Topics: Happy(our), Who is ArcStone?, Digital

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