January’s Featured Expat: Tyler Huffman (by Rachel Crow Deyo)
Recently, Joplin welcomed back one of its own, as Tyler Huffman (Joplin High, ’95) reunited with fellow band members of Big Bad Chubba for a benefit concert over the Holidays (read The Joplin Globe‘s coverage here). He not only lent his guitar skills, but he also rocked the Blackthorn Pub with the same DJ skills he’s used for years, running his very own Chicago-based DJ business. It was an incredible night of entertainment, raising over $3,000 for rebuilding efforts.
Huffman was one of the founding members of Big Bad Chubba, which originated from the merger of two existing ska bands. Many band members also lent their talents to Joplin High’s own Ska Band. Big Bad Chubba, or BBC, played many gigs between 1995 and 1997.
“We used to practice in Kelsey Richardson’s garage,” said Huffman. “For a period of time, our home base was the upstairs of The Grind, an old coffee shop on Joplin Avenue,” he continued, “They were extremely supportive of us and we had some of our best shows there.”
BBC had opportunities to play with lots of great bands like The Urge, O’Phil, The Gadjits, and The Scofflaws, traveling to shows in Wichita, Lawrence, Kansas City and Springfield. “My favorite memory was playing at The Grind during the Local Musicians for Children Benefit in 1997,” said Huffman.
Until their Holiday reunion, BBC had not played together since their last show in 1997. That same year, Tyler left for college in Columbia, Missouri. He received his degree in elementary education in 2001 and worked as a Residence Hall Director until landing his first teaching position in Chicago in 2003.
“I feel that teaching is the best job a person can have,” said Huffman. “I get so much out of every year, that I could never leave it. I get to work with some amazing kids who constantly inspire me and remind me that the simplicities of life can keep us young-at-heart.”
In 2006, Tyler earned his Masters in Educational Leadership. Currently, he teaches a 5th and 6th multi-grade classroom in a Japanese Dual Language program. He feels very lucky to be a part of such a “forward-thinking” learning program. “I teach during the day and run a small business and parent at night,” said Huffman.
While studying in Columbia, Missouri, Tyler was introduced to a photojournalism student, and it was love at first sight. Tyler and Shelley were married in 2007. Tyler started Cage and Aquarium Productions (C&A) that same year, and business has grown steadily in the past five years. C&A offers event entertainment with live musicians, DJ’s and photography. Tyler said owning a business can be stressful, but believes things have fallen into place because he has surrounded himself with the “right” people, whom he believes to be their strongest asset.
In 2009, Shelley joined Tyler to help continue C&A’s growth. “My amazing wife not only offers her photography talents, but she manages a staff of more than 30 talented individuals,” said Huffman, “C&A has blossomed under her talent and leadership.” He said Shelley leads by example and keeps everyone on track; she is as professional as she is talented.
What is Tyler’s favorite part of owning his own business? “C&A satisfies my need to be creative,” he said. “Our staff is the best in Chicago, hands down.”
Cage and Aquarium averages 4-7 private and public events weekly but keeps any one day limited to 4 events in order to uphold their quality of service. This may be key in maintaining order to a dual-career lifestyle and raising a family.
In 2010, Tyler put on yet another hat as he and wife Shelley welcomed their first child, Eleanor. Fatherhood seems to be his favorite role, and he “plays” it well. “It is everything everyone says it is and more,” said Huffman.
Although they stay very busy, family time is very important. Tyler appreciates his summer breaks because he gets to spend the days with Eleanor. “She keeps us grounded and reminds us not to sweat the small stuff,” he said, “Her smile can make you forget all the challenges life brings you professionally.”
Tyler takes his role of fatherhood very seriously. “It is not just about the obvious rewards of unconditional love for someone,” he explained, “I base all my decisions on what is best for my daughter, so I like having that responsibility to answer to. She keeps me motivated.”
Tyler needed little motivation to reach out to his hometown in the wake of the May 22 tornado. Like many people, he was glued to his TV in disbelief. He has many good memories of Joplin and immediately began reconnecting with people, planning ways to help out where he could and joined the Expats. Last August, he helped organize a Joplin Expats back-to-school fundraiser in Chicago to benefit Joplin students.
Tyler was thrilled to share some of his hometown pride with fellow Big Bad Chubba band members in a reunion concert to benefit people in their native community. The December show had been in the works since word spread of the tragic event and was a great way to bring people together who had dispersed to other areas.
“Obviously, we wanted to do as much good as we possibly could in the form of funds,” Huffman said. “We brought in merchandise and sold special tickets to boost our final numbers; it was great to see so many people we know come out to the show”.
Tyler said Joplin is a wonderful place to grow up. “There is something special about Joplin, since so many of us tend to blossom wherever we land,” said Huffman. “People tend to be leaders and become successful when they move to other regions. It sounds crazy, but the phenomenon is on full display in the Joplin Expats.”
Although deeply affected by the destruction in his hometown, Tyler is excited to see the rebuilding now taking place. He hopes that the town becomes even stronger and learns from other towns like Greensburg, Kansas, implementing greener technologies and making better choices for the environment. “I hope Joplin rebuilds faster than the experts are saying,” he said. “Joplin has a way of proving people wrong.”In our exclusive monthly Featured Expat series, the Joplin Expats are documenting some of our shining lights living throughout the world. If you have a recommendation for a featured Expat, we’d love to hear about them! Email us at info (at) joplinexpats.org