happening peoplearchive

Jon Labrousse

The son of an active-duty marine, Jon Labrousse grew up in several West Coast cities, then went to high school in Hawaii. "Most of the kids were Asians and Pacific Islanders," he says. "It was a huge growth experience." He enrolled at Oregon State to study engineering, but after a required reading class with John Campbell, he began writing poetry and changed his major to English. He spent two years teaching in Japan and South Korea before settling in Eugene in 1996 with his wife Tasha Katsuda. "We met at OSU," he says. She embarked on a career with the school district as a teacher, then an administrator, while he finished a master's in ed, worked as a teacher and a tech consultant, and an at-home dad for children Malia and Kegan. After years of submitting his poems to journals, Labrousse broke out as a performer at local poetry slams and with Team Eugene at the 2005 National Poetry Slam. Since December of 2010, he has taught 7th and 8th grades at Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School, where his own kids have been students. When the school lost its part-time Spanish teacher to budget cuts, he applied for a grant to buy seven ukuleles for his classroom. "Music is a language," he says. "Every morning starts with music. The kids love it." More ukes were added, and a performance group, TRUE (The Ridgeline Ukulele Experience), that has played many local stages. "I used to be known as a poet," says Labrousse. "Now I'm the guy who plays ukulele with the kids."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 14 January 2016

hp archive