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The musical couple of Bob and Patty Tatum, retired teachers with 50 years of combined
education experience, use their instruments to demonstrate to Avery Middle School students the
connection between music and poetry.
Photo by Matthew Hundley

Originally published: 2012-09-20 15:20:15
Last modified: 2012-09-20 15:20:15

Tatum returns to AMS to make musical connection

Matthew Hundley / (

Bob Tatum, who retired from teaching after 35 years at Avery Middle School, returned with wife Patty Tatum, also a retired teacher of 15 years, to provide students with a musical perspective on one of Bob’s favorite subjects, poetry. 

Even before they retired from teaching Bob and Patty began planning a special program for students that focused on the many fundamental connections between music and the written word. Both accomplished musicians, Bob and Patty spend much of their time performing as Sound Traveler at venues in North Carolina and Florida and everywhere in between. Even with their busy harmonious schedule, the Tatums found time to return to Bob’s former stomping-grounds to finally put into practice the program he and Patty had developed over more than eight years. 

For many, retirement means the end of their career, but Bob and Patty both described their motivation for returning to the classroom.

“I loved working with kids, and I love the subject matter,” said Bob. “I have been in love with literature and science, the two areas I taught, since even before I started teaching. What you retire from is the grading of the papers and the meeting and conferences. I have nothing against those things, but they were not my passion.”

“I never stopped loving the kids,” said Patty. “I just didn’t love the paperwork and the other trappings of the job.”

For the Tatums, the return to the classroom is about one of the most fundamental rewards of teaching, sharing a passion for the subject matter. 

“For 35 years, I worked in education, and I really loved it and enjoyed it, but my real passion was music and literature,” said Tatum. 

Patty echoed Bob’s sentiment, but added that she wanted to share with young people the same enthusiasm for poetry and literature that Bob helped her discover. 

“I went through the majority of my life without an appreciation for poetry until very recently, when Bob showed me the connection between poetry and music,” Patty said. “Ever since that time, I have enjoyed poetry. We had the idea that if we can share this idea with kids, then they will not have to go through as much life as I did without enjoying poetry.”

In order to draw the connection between music and poetry for students, Bob and Patty use their considerable musical talent to perform live music for the students, carefully choosing songs that best illustrate the fundamental relationships between the two creative fields. By playing music live, reciting poetry and drawing direct comparisons between the two, the Tatums hope to change the way that students interact with their favorite music, recognizing the poetic qualities of song lyrics and the rhythm and cadence of poetry. After performing for students at AMS for several days, Sound Traveler took its show over to Cranberry Middle School. The Tatums stressed that their program is versatile, and could easily be adapted for elementary students, high-school seniors or even adults. Any educators who would like the Tatums to share their program with their students should email ( Sound Traveler will perform at venues in Western North Carolina and Georgia for a few more weeks this year. To learn more about the Tatums, their music, their schedule and their dedication to education, click to