Name: Ralph Smallwood.
Hometown: Bellingham; married to Robin Kagan.
Saxophones and surfing: Smallwood's day job is director of Homeport Learning Center, an 18-year-old Bellingham nonprofit alternative school for at-risk teens. His administrative and teaching duties there grew out of a long career in hands-on woodworking instruction, and he recently became a certified hypnotherapist.
His other passions are surfing and playing the saxophone.
"I'll be playing classic rock and surfing until I drop," he says.
Member of the band: Smallwood grew up with a love of what has become classic rock and has played countless gigs with several bands. His current band, a five-piece outfit called The Dagwoods, named after the comic strip character, has played together for six years.
"We all have the same love of music and passion for rock," he says. "I'm still a teenager at heart."
Special niche: The Dagwoods average more than one gig a month, largely through word of mouth in Whatcom County. Their niche is 50- to 70-year-olds who love the sounds of their youth, along with the occasional cool, newer piece.
"We basically do classic rock from the '60s to the '90s," Smallwood says.
The right sound: "What appeals to me most is getting the sound just right through five people being on the same page," he says. "The creative part is what I like best."
The band plays a lot of Santana, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones and The Doors, and has about 100 tunes on its primary play list.
"When I was about 12, growing up in Venice, in Southern California, I could hear The Doors practicing a block away when they were just starting," Smallwood says.
Two blocks from paradise: "I grew up two blocks from the ocean," Smallwood says, explaining his lifelong love of surfing. "I got my first board when I was 10. Surfing is the hardest thing I've ever done, and the most incredible. When you're surfing, you're think of absolutely nothing else. For me, it's totally an addiction."
Surfing dream: "The place where I'd really like to surf is Tahiti," says Smallwood, who has surfed in Hawaii and would love to try Australia.
Self-esteem through boat building: Building wooden boats is a big way Smallwood reaches his students at Homeport.
"What I especially love seeing is the growth of self-esteem that results from finishing a project," he says. "I love to see a student say, 'Did I really do that?'"
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.