KISS’ Gene Simmons speaks with Schalmont students via teleconference
SCHENECTADY — Gene Simmons, bassist and vocalist from KISS, joined Schalmont High School students virtually Wednesday by videoconferencing with the school’s History of Rock Music class.
The virtual meeting came together with the help of senior Gabe Unser, who looked up the musician on his website.
“I found a media contact online and said ‘I don’t know if I can ask this but we have a History of Rock Music class and we were wondering if Gene would be able to talk to our class.’ She replied he’d be happy to,” explained Gabe.
The class was supposed to meet with Simmons earlier in the week, but technology issues prevented it from taking place. Simmons, however, insisted on trying again. His publicist explained Simmons felt bad they could not connect and did not want to let the students feel let down. While the class was told Simmons could spend 30 minutes with them he ended up speaking for an hour and 15 minutes as the engaging and jovial musician shared stories, advice and answered questions.
Talking about how KISS formed, Simmons recalled how committed the band was to practicing endlessly in a small New York City apartment. Despite his passion for music, he also worked various jobs including teaching.
“The thing we did right is we did what we envisioned and put together a band we had never seen on stage,” Simmons explained. “Ignore the naysayers and do what you love, but don’t quit your day job.”
Simmons noted he has never drank alcohol or used illegal drugs and encouraged students to do the same. When a student mentioned their teacher, Robert Renzi, was retiring this year, the 71-year-old Simmons teasingly responded, “Why the hell would you do that? What are you going to do?” which drew laughs from the students.
When a student asked if they could possibly get autographs, or at least for their teacher as a retirement gift, Simmons quickly agreed to send each person an autograph. He ended the meeting by telling students they could do anything if they put in the time and encouraged them not to be afraid of failure.
“If Gabe hadn’t reached out to me, we wouldn’t have met. He touched my heart because I used to be a teacher,” said Simmons.