CHICAGO — Whitney Young teacher Jay Rehak has an interesting sideline: music promoter.
That the music just happens to be performed by his wife, Susan Salidor, makes it perfect this time of year for video Valentines.
"I'm a big fan of my wife's music," Rehak said. "I mean, I really do like it. My enthusiasm for the project is the result of me liking her music, and I like her a lot, too."
Salidor is fairly well known in the field of children's music, especially in the Chicago area, where the couple live in the Bowmanville neighborhood.
In addition to promoting her music through almost 50 videos he's posted on YouTube, lately Rehak has used it to create about a dozen video Valentines organized thematically around family members like brother, sister, wife, husband, etc. They can be found on YouTube by searching "susan salidor valentines."
"My wife's got all these great songs," Rehak said, and the videos expanded her reach online. The YouTube video for "I've Got Peace in My Fingers" got 10,000 hits last year when it was somehow appropriated for Peace Day in Spain.
That's drawn people to her website and to iTunes, where she earns about 60 cents, Rehak said, for every 99-cent download.
"It's fantastic," he said. "The problem is everybody steals the song and no one pays for it."
That's a familiar refrain in the music business these days. Yet Rehak always has his straight gig to fall back on, teaching English at Whitney Young Magnet High School, where he's been since 1993, but for a brief stint in the Chicago Teachers Union, where he rose to director of communications under Deborah Lynch. Teaching at one of the city's top high schools, Rehak said, is anything but frustrating.
"I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world," he said. "I work with really talented kids and they're nice and it's a good mix of people," both students and staff.
"I don't have to struggle getting everybody to do their homework," Rehak added. "Everybody's pretty driven. Smart kids who are generally pretty motivated. It's pretty cool."
He's also on the CTU executive board and has another volunteer sideline as president of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.
"I'm sitting on top of $10 billion, but I can't do much with it personally," Rehak said. "I get to fire millionaires every once in a while."
Rehak and Salidor will have been married 27 years in April and have put two daughters through the Chicago Public Schools.
But his thoughts for Thursday, he said, are simple: "I just hope everybody has a Happy Valentine's Day."