You don’t have to be a billionaire, or a CEO, or an astronaut to hold people’s attention – you can just be you. And that’s undoubtedly true of William Hanti, a maths teacher at Dunecrest American School, who has not only performed in a rock band with Johnny Depp, he has also played support to The Pretenders.
“I left my parents’ home at the age of 15 and moved into a house full of musicians,” says William. “I remember it like it was yesterday because on that day I went to a movie theatre and saw ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. In hindsight, it seems appropriate for what was to come!”
A Child Prodigy
William’s older brother was a keyboardist in a band, and as a young child, he remembered rehearsals in the family home. “I think I was about seven or eight when I sang ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ with his band and played cowbell on ‘Mississippi Queen’. Thus, his music career began.
It wasn’t until much later, though, when he met Bruce, the band manager’s son, that it became serious. “Bruce played the drums but always wanted to be out front, so he taught himself bass guitar and showed me the basics on drums. I never had any formal training and taught myself by ear. I would come home from school and listen to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix for hours, copying everything I heard.
“After a year of relentless practising, we met our first guitarist (Mitch Perry). He was a true child prodigy and later went on to join Alphonso Johnson, Michael Schenker, Johnny Winter, Lita Ford, and Cher.
The Kids Are Born
“The week we got our first paying club gig was the week Mitch decided to quit! I was furious, but Coz Canler quickly filled the position as the lead guitarist for ‘The Romantics’. We weren’t happy with the name of the band either and racked our brains trying to come up with something that worked. We grew up being known as ‘The Kids’, so when one night we were introduced with the words: “Please welcome The Kids” that was it.”
At the time, the New Wave/Punk era was becoming popular, and so The Kids went with the flow. The guitarist, though, was a hard rock guy and didn’t mesh with the direction the band wanted to pursue. William takes up the story: “There was a young kid, Johnny Depp, who used to come and see us every night begging to join the band. At the age of 17, we had him running our light show so he could watch our sets. Finally, he joined the band. The chemistry was perfect, and the band became the biggest act in South Florida.”
The Kids did their first major concert opening for The Pretenders. The show was a sell-out. “It all grew from there; the rest of it is a blur now, but that show will always be a cherished memory.
“We were, and still are a family. The last time we played together was 2009 when we did a benefit concert for ‘The Dan Marino Foundation for Autism’. I am in contact with all the members of the band, including Johnny Depp. We have a life-long connection, and I believe we will have a reunion very soon.”
America to Russia to Thailand
Besides being a musician, William, who by his mid-thirties had decided being a rockstar wasn’t really on the cards, began studying for a degree in electrical engineering. “At 35, I went back to school and got my degree. I went to work for Lucent Technologies as a network engineer, specialising in fibreoptic systems. I was part of the team that built the optical network for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. To cut a long story short, 9/11 happened, Lucent folded, and I went to work for the DOD (Dept. of Defence). I travelled the world, expanding their optical networks until the contract came to an end. I went up to Germany and decided not to return to America. I ended up in Moscow and asked myself, what shall I do?
“I speak English!
“Thus, I began my teaching career. I taught Business English for four years in Russia, then Thailand. It was in the latter that I became a classroom teacher. I taught Grade 6 for five years, and that’s when it really hit me. The energy in the classroom was so intense that I knew I was meant to be a teacher. In 2008, I returned to school for the second time and received my degree in education.
“I truly believe that I have always been a teacher, but it just took some time for me to understand it.”