By Ed Brennen
In some ways, standing at the front of the classroom and teaching management
courses to Manning School of Business
students is like being onstage for Asst. Teaching Prof. Michael Beers
. The only thing that’s missing is an electric guitar strapped over his shoulder.
He saves that for when he’s on an actual stage with his band, Mount Rumford
, covering songs by artists such as The Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Elvis Costello.
“Playing with the band literally lifts our spirits,” says Beers, who formed Mount Rumford with several neighborhood friends in Newton, Massachusetts, in 2014. They named the band after a landfill next to their rehearsal space on Rumford Avenue.
“We joke that if the music stinks, it might be Mount Rumford,” says Beers, who plays rhythm guitar and shares vocalist duties with drummer Tim Techler and lead guitarist Murat Bastepe. Tom Grandprey is on bass.
Over the years, the “post-punk/power pop” band started playing shows at small clubs outside of Boston, including regular gigs at Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub (now Baramor) in Newton and The Mad Raven (now Tessie’s) in Waltham, Massachusetts.
“We started getting good,” Beers says.
But just like almost everything else, the music stopped in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That was one more social activity that was taken away, not just for us, but for people who like to go see live music,” says Beers, who didn’t pick up his guitar during the pandemic lockdown.
“I lost the calluses on my fingertips,” he says. “I don’t get a ton of enjoyment playing on my own; it’s really about playing in a group.”
But they’re now putting the band back together, as the Blues Brothers would say. Mount Rumford recently resumed rehearsing, learning new songs by Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, and hopes to book a gig this winter — perhaps in Lowell.
“It’s exciting to think we can get back out there,” he says.
Beers began learning to play guitar while growing up outside of Washington, D.C.
“I wanted to be John Lennon when I was in the first grade,” says Beers, who took lessons off and on throughout his life while focusing on his professional pursuits — first in business information systems and then in organizational development and management consulting.
After earning a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Harvard in 2005, Beers became global head of knowledge management and training at State Street Corporation before starting his own consulting firm, Beers & Company, in 2008.
In 2012, he joined the Manning School.
“I found what I do well, and that's teaching. And I found a great place to do it at UMass Lowell,” says Beers, who teaches Organizational Behavior and Managing Diversity in Organizations.
Along the way, Beers has developed a sexual harassment and workplace conduct seminar for undergraduates. He also serves as an equity leader in the ADVANCE Office for Faculty Equity
, developing and delivering bystander training to stop microaggressions.
“I did my dissertation on the gender wage gap, so I've always been interested in issues of social justice,” he says. “It’s not just a professional interest; it’s the opportunity to contribute in a way that’s aligned with my personal values.”
Beers has also endowed two scholarships at UML: The James R. Beers CPA Accounting Scholarship (created with his brother, Stephen, in honor of their father) and the Michael and Donna Beers Endowed Scholarship Fund (created with his wife for business and nursing majors).
“We have students who work full time and have to contribute to their families, and it’s tough for them to juggle all that,” Beers says. “I’ve been lucky in life, so this is a worthy way of giving directly to people.”
While he didn’t quite reach the musical stature of his boyhood idol John Lennon, Beers still savors those moments when he and his Mount Rumford bandmates fall into a perfect groove.
“When you’re all over the place and out of sync, it's like a sonic trainwreck,” he says. “But when you can get really nice and tight, and you know what everyone's doing, it's almost choreographed in a way. That’s when you really enjoy it.”