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Simi Custodian Strings Together a Second Career

November 23, 1998|TONY LYSTRA

SIMI VALLEY — By day, David Brisley teaches music in Simi Valley elementary schools.

By night, he cleans one of them.

With a guitar slung around his neck and an amiable patter that includes tidbits of Russian, German and Spanish, Brisley beams with excitement as he delivers the fundamentals to 1,600 students at Garden Grove, Madera and Abraham Lincoln elementary schools.

That's been his part-time day job since 1991, but his full-time gig is as a night custodian at Lincoln.

Brisley, 32, wants students to learn to use music the way he has: as a way of salving aggression, sharpening the mind and invigorating the spirit.

"I have a profound belief in God and a profound appreciation for everything in life, especially learning," he said. "It's sort of like God has moved me into this position of doing what I'm doing."

Brisley endured a rocky childhood. When he was 14, he had a stroke resulting from stress and drug use.

That background resonates with students; many who have moved on to middle school still stop by to see him. A former student at Cal State Northridge, Brisley began teaching in 1991. He couldn't afford to finish his degree, but Simi Valley educators loved his down-to-earth style and accessible lesson plans. Now he teaches five hours a day.

"He puts on a fantastic music program," said Lincoln Principal Philip Ross. "Even more important, he's really like a friend to all the kids. . . . Music is excellent, but beyond that, they have one more adult that they can feel close to and talk with."

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