At the age of eighteen, random chance led Marty Parker to a career as an instructional paraprofessional at Sierra View Elementary School in Chico. “A friend employed in special education encouraged me to apply for an aide position,” says Parker. “At the time, my various burger-flipping jobs had me in a depressed fog, so it was a relief to be presented with a new opportunity.” He accepted the job, despite his lack of experience in the field.
“Marty worked alongside me in my classroom during my last ten years as a teacher of severely handicapped students,” says his former supervisor Jim Howell, who retired last year. He describes Parker as “compassionate, sensitive, and funny – all qualities that are prized in a classroom staff. He loves ALL kids, especially those we helped out in special education. He finds many childhood behaviors and qualities endearing, and relates to kids really well.”
Parker gives to students and the community as an artist, as well. As the lead singer and founder of the Yule Logs, “The Hardest Working Band in Snow Business,” he and his band perform Christmas and Hanukkah rock ‘n’ roll with British Invasion hooks and California Surf harmonies year-round. Performing original holiday songs and “twisted arrangements of secular classics,” the Logs boast three albums and a large fan base of young, old and everyone in-between. “Some people think that we make music for kids, but, honestly, we never have, Parker says. “Our stuff is really what we want to hear. It delights us that kids like it too.”
Many moms (and dads) are fans of the Yule Logs, and particularly of Parker with his Jagger-esque stage presence and self-deprecating humor. “Holiday music appeals to a broad audience, and for us that means better attendance and higher-energy shows,” he says. “I love the sights, smells and mythology of Christmas. It all has such a beautiful aesthetic.” The Yule Logs play at the Chico Tree Lighting and Downtown Christmas Preview events annually.
Howell says, “Marty has always shared his gifts with us at Sierra View Elementary, musically in the form of school-wide assemblies, in our classroom, or at the annual Holiday Hootenanny with the Yule Logs.”
Not only is he musically gifted, but Parker is a visual artist as well. Parker’s murals grace the front of Sierra View, the school’s library and several portable classroom walls. “His art has brought joy to hundreds, if not thousands, of families,” says Howell. “He is always a willing volunteer to help out on any projects.”
“We are so lucky to have Marty at Sierra View,” says Mary Ferris, mother of two. “When the PTA asked him to paint a mural in the library, we knew he’d do a great job. But when we saw the finished project, it was unbelievably beautiful and so perfect for our library.” He recently completed another mural at Neal Dow Elementary. “Every school in Chico should have his artwork,” adds Ferris.
Parker describes the Sierra View and Neal Dow artwork as panoramic spaces, with graphics that move like a wave from left to right. “Books and classic characters wash up on the beaches of your mind!” he says. The Neal Dow mural includes things that he loved as a youngster, such as treasure maps, medieval knights and monkeys.
In 2005, he began volunteering to create scenic art for community theater, and that’s when he realized that he liked painting murals. “Painting scenes in community theater has been my most generous donation of time and effort,” says Parker. “This usually involves insane deadlines, graphically painting hundreds of square feet in conditions that bring to mind WWII submarine movies.”
His day job inspires his art. “It was working at Sierra View that prompted me to paint, draw and design more, because there was always a poster or coloring sheet to be made.” Other influences include the band R.E.M., singers David Byrne and Patti Smith, and former co-workers Howell and Ernest Witt. Parker says of his students, “You tend to form a powerful bond. The most delightful people I’ve ever known are three-and-a-half feet tall.”