Kids music

The Secret Life of the Beloved Children’s Music Store Teacher Who Stormed the Capitol


Myrna Sislen, owner of the popular Middle C music store in Tenleytown in Washington, DC, learned that one of her teachers, a talented musician named Stephen Baker, was part of the riot on Capitol Hill when a salesperson alerted her for her to watch her livestream. , under the name of Stephen Ignoramus, from inside the Rotunda. She watched him for two hours as he rehearsed over and over how much fun he was recording the chaos around him.

The next day, Sislen confronted Baker, telling him he had put her in a terrible situation, thinking badly about her business. “You broke into the Capitol,” she told him.

“I haven’t broken anything. I walked in, ”she said, he replied.

Baker, who did not respond to emailed questions for this story, did not apologize or feel remorse, Sislen says. Her staff demanded that she fire him, otherwise they would have accused her of harboring a person who, in fact, had published homophobic rants and racist and anti-Semitic “jokes” for a year under her character as Stephen Ignoramus, whose Sislen didn’t know. until January 6.

“Even if you were a descendant Martian, you can see that there is anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-straight shit, it doesn’t matter who you are,” Ignoramus said in a YouTube post long before the riot. “I’m just a straight white Christian man, a straight, white, nationalist Christian American man, all of these things are under attack. [Facebook] allows these attacks to occur.

A sales associate at Middle C, Dave Nuttycombe, saw these comments at the time because he was monitoring Ignoramus’ podcasts and videos, but Sislen says he only brought them to his attention after the riot because the teacher had so little. followers, less than a hundred.

“This is all true,” Nuttycombe said in a subsequent email:

I started monitoring Steve’s channel because I was worried that a parent of a Middle C student would find out and it would be bad news for Myrna and the store. When he started he looked more like a troll, laughing at liberals, encouraging right-wing fools, generally laughing at how ‘dumb’ liberals are. All the stuff protected from the First Amendment. And he had relatively few followers. He seemed harmless on the whole, although still disturbing in terms of what a parent might think.

And part of my fascination was that it seemed so out of character with the person I knew, who was outgoing, fun, seemingly open to others. And a very good music teacher. I still don’t understand it.

Several years ago, Steve took about a month to get to a friend’s farm in Shenandoah. It was apparently some sort of survival retreat. When he returned he had a different look in his eyes. Something had changed in him. Soon after, he started broadcasting on Youtube. (He came to me asking for advice on cameras. And he was suspicious of his channel, not telling us how to find it. Eventually he told us his alias, Stephen Ignoramus. That’s when that I logged in and was surprised at what he was saying.

“So maybe I should have said something earlier,” Nuttycombe concluded, “but again, heinous as it was, a free speech case could be made. He is still in office, more recently hosting a flat earth. (Steve thinks the world is “flat and stationary.”) “

The revelations about the esteemed teacher she has known or thought she knew for nearly 10 years are “a punch in the guts,” says Sislen. Until the pandemic hit in March, Baker taught guitar, piano and drums six days a week at the store. His pupils, mostly children, adore him. “The guy is so good, he’s a brilliant teacher,” says Sislen.

Sislen’s disbelief that Baker had this other life as Ignoramus tempered his response, Sislen says. She couldn’t technically fire him since he was an independent contractor, so on Friday afternoon, two days after the riot, she started calling the parents of her 40 students, about 35 families, to tell them that he would no longer teach until College C but that they could continue with him independently.

Only one family chose this option, but in the meantime one of their four store workers quit their job, criticizing Sislen in an email for not immediately firing Baker for being a “racist extremist,” misogynist and anti-gay ”. In that same email, the employee who left told Sislen that if she ever had “this terrorist teaching children again in your school, please know that I will do my best to make sure that as many people as possible possible know that, and I know a lot of people. ”And the ex-employee told Sislen that he had reported Baker to the FBI, and given the FBI his cell number.

One of his former students wrote a song that begins, “Why did you storm the Capitol? You are not the teacher I knew.

Over the weekend, Sislen had been contacted by two separate FBI agents. “I told the FBI that there had never been any indication of anything political in any situation of course. All I saw was sparkle. Parents said the same, ”she says.

There were clues, she later learned. He told a student he had five months of food stored in his apartment. He said being a survivalist was his hobby. His religious fervor in the pre-pandemic live performances around his love for Jesus seemed excessive to some parents, but did not sound the alarm, although in hindsight it follows Trump’s extraordinary hold on evangelicals and religious conservatives.

“I’m a little old lady, literally,” says Sislen, 75, a classical guitarist who played all over the world before buying Middle C almost 19 years ago. “I have a community music store. I sell guitar reeds and strings and printed music. It’s crazy, “she exclaims. Recounting her conversation with the FBI, she said,” Am I allowed to ask, are you going to arrest her? One of the parents she spoke to said she should “tell that guy at the lawyer, they’ll come for him.”

“To be honest,” the FBI agent replied, “I don’t know yet.”

Local musician and actor Navid Azeez posted on Facebook that he saw his former bandmate in the Picnibus psychedelic punk-hop outfit streamed from the “cosplay chud-casting” in the Capitol as over 30,000 people watched, noting that “A LOT of musicians in the DC area… would like to know this information. “

Now Stephen Ignoramus is famous, and perhaps that is part of Baker’s interest, whatever price he ends up paying in lost work, lost friends, and possible jail time for his role. in the insurrection. One of her alumni, whose mother says Baker taught her daughter everything she knows about writing guitar songs, wrote one that begins: “Why did you storm Capitol ? You are not the teacher I knew.

Another mother said her son had taken lessons from Steve for seven years and burst into tears when told Steve would no longer teach him. “And he never cries,” his mother said.

“These kids have been stuck at home for almost a year, and that was the highlight of their week,” says Sislen. “It’s bad.”

Every family wanted to know what they could say to their child, says Sislen. “Around the twentieth call, I decided he had bad judgment, and when you have bad judgment, there are consequences. His judgment was pitiful. He must have seen that there was violence around him. Instead, he said it was fun.


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