The Best of Both Worlds — Monmouth Edition

To some, he is Dr. Maynard, a Monmouth University Political Science professor. To others, he is Sam, the leading guitarist for the local band School Drugs, with a scheduled European and UK tour later this summer and a growing following of 6,029 on Instagram. And to the rest, he’s Sam Maynard, Ph.D., an intellectual Monmouth alumnus who cares just as much about teaching and recognizing the structural powers of the world as he does about being fully encompassed in the hardcore punk music scene.

Maynard, originally from Monroe, New Jersey, started playing guitar at a very early age along with his twin brother Dylan Maynard who started on drums. “We’ve always been close, we’re twins…We’ve been playing together our whole lives,” said Sam. His father gave him his first guitar at the age of about 8 years old. The brothers formed their first band playing Ska in middle school, opening for bands like Boston’s Westbound Train at local Jersey venues. Dr. Maynard, sitting with a Capri Sun in hand, wearing a long sleeve shirt carefully concealing the tattoo sleeve covering his left arm, said, “I picked up a guitar because I saw other people playing, I was a huge fan of Rancid and still am…I had older cousins and friends who would play me music like Epitaph bands and Green Day. Total punk. It kind of developed from there.”

Throughout high school, Sam remembers music being his main interest. He formed a hardcore band summer after his senior year of high school that played together for a few years and had “some pretty big shows,” according to Maynard, during the next few years. Starting off his journey in higher education, Maynard attended Monmouth University as an undergraduate. “He was a political science major, and so I knew him from that, and he was on the debate team,” said Dr. Joseph Patten, current Political Science Professor and Debate Team Advisor. “The first time I heard him perform was during a ‘Rock-The-Vote’ event that we did here on campus. It’s something I’ll remember always…it blew the campus away,” Patten continues.

Dr. Maynard, a young 30-something, said his interest in political science stems from “…. a place of ideological interest.” He explained, “I was never involved in the day-to-day side of politics, but it was the bigger questions that interested me.” Maynard continued, ”Leaders is kind of what I got interested in, too, like elites in politics and the decisions they make.” Sam also faced a common challenge that quite a few college musicians undergo, trying to find and maintain a band. “It was hard to have a very consistent band…but we had one band in college…Minor Threat to Fugazi was the transition, but that only lasted for a few years,” he explained.

After graduating from Monmouth University in 2014, Maynard took a sabbatical from music and decided to continue his studies at Georgetown University studying Political Science through their rigorous comparative politics masters program. Don’t ‘fret,’ though, he brought one of his six guitars with him to D.C., where he lived for two years. Dr. Kevin Dooley, current Chair of the Political Science and Sociology Department, explained, “It was a quick two-year program from a very highly accredited university… None of the above [law school, heading on tour with his band, grad school, or obtaining a doctorate] would’ve surprised, I don’t think, any of us.”

Similarly, Dr. Patten proposed that what is so fitting and pulls everything together about Mayard pursuing both Political Science and music is that he fights for the underdog. “He’s someone who is very focused on power and people who don’t have it. Whether it’s research, political science, his music or sense of humor, he’s very plugged into power and how it’s used and the impact of power on those who don’t have it.”

His educational journey did not stop there, however. The last stop on Maynard’s pursuit of higher education was Oxford, where he completed his doctorate. Dr. Maynard said, “I knew I wanted to do a doctorate since I was a student here (at Monmouth). It helps when you have a clear vision of what you want to do in ten years…That was an easy one- the professional stuff. It was all pretty incremental, it all kind of built upon the previous phase.” He explained that getting a doctorate definitely has its challenges. “It’s something that you kind of have to prepare yourself for,” said Maynard.

Dr. Dooley, a fellow professor, and musician of sorts,  said, “Oxford is one of the best universities in the world, especially in comparative politics, but it allows openings for positive extracurriculars. There was no way that being a Ph.D. student at Oxford would shut down his ability to be a musician…He’s keeping this dream alive, and that drives everything else.”

Although Maynard was not in a band or playing shows at the time, his love for music was just as passionate as ever. He recalled two venues he lived near during his time at Oxford. He also recounted a memorable show he once attended in 2016, which had the band Idles, recent Grammy nominees, opening for The Dead Kennedys. “I wasn’t in a band while I was there, but I bought a guitar there, actually, a silver sparkle Gretsch,” Sam recalled. After three years of residency in England, he moved back to New Jersey to finish up his dissertation and returned to Monmouth University, but now as faculty.

Dr. Dooley remembers when he found out Maynard joined the Political Science Department about four years ago. “When I came back (from sabbatical), he was here (as a professor), and it was great. When he was hired, I was told he was hired, but I wasn’t told (previously) that he was in the running…The transition was easy because he was easygoing,” his colleague said.

Patten explained, “We all knew him from the time he was like 18, and we watched his evolution, and we knew how impressive he was, and so we would be crazy not to wanna work with him. Maynard brings a lot of credibility in terms of Latin American politics from spending time there, writing about it, and speaking Spanish. As far as being a professor, there are a lot of people who are phonies, and they claim to be into comparative politics but have never really been anywhere…So, I think to study what he studies in political science, he’s the real McCoy.” Maynard, according to Dr. Dooley, is a “bonafide” expert in Latin American politics, if you will.

He first became an adjunct before the Spring of 2020 and became a full-time professor teaching essentially the same classes he took as an undergraduate, such as “Early Political Thought” or “Politics and Policy of Latin America,” to name a few. Maynard said, “I think there’s a logic to teaching. You can teach any subject well if you know how to go through it systematically.”

Maynard is also the new faculty advisor of the Political Science Club on campus. “It’s cool because I was also in that club when I was a student, so it’s something that was already kind of familiar to me,” said Maynard. “You do it to connect with students. The primary aspect of my job here, I would say, and others in the department would probably agree, that it’s just to put students first, in terms of offering education, guiding and mentorship, all that stuff.”

Sam met the lead singer and frontman of his current band, Josh Jurk of School Drugs, back while he was attending Monmouth. “Josh and I started off as good friends, and he worked at the Asbury Lanes. Every Wednesday, they had a punk night, and we would go,” he said. The professor’s twin Dylan, who’s often described as ‘Dr. Maynard but with a mustache,’ was actually one of the first guitarists for the band while Sam was out of state. When Sam moved back to Jersey in 2019, his brother had left for grad school, and “Josh needed another guitar player, so he came to me, and I did it,” Dr. Maynard said. “[Josh is] meticulous with his art, and that’s kind of why I wanted to do it because I know that anything he does is gonna be cool, and I’m gonna like it. We’re into doing the same things, same vision, same taste, and wanted to play shows. It was simple. It was like returning and getting back in with your old friends.”

Although the band is somewhat collaborative, School Drugs is Josh’s brainchild. Their record label from Southern California, Indecision Records, recounts the band’s origin in their artist profile after talking with Jurk. They wrote, “‘I remember thinking, ‘this is f*cked’ and I was pissed’! His fourth-grade teacher had just recommended to Mr. and Mrs. Jurk that he be medicated. School Drugs are still pissed, only now they know how to express it: fast, loud, angry with a cheeky grin, proper f*cking punk.” The band’s first release, “Constant Headache,” came out in 2017, and they have no intention of stopping any time soon. Dylan commented, “So long as we can help nurture and contribute to the punk/hardcore scene, we’ll continue to play.”

Maynard joined School Drugs after their album Modern Medicine, a 10-song LP, was released in September 2019. Sam is playing on the three EPs released after the album and gave a sneak peek of what we can expect from School Drugs very soon. He said, “What we’re releasing now is in the form of four EPs, and then it will all be released on a longer LP. We released half of it already.” His favorite song to play is “Can’t Slow Down,” off of their first EP released with Sam in 2021, Visitation, because of its fast pace.

When reviewing School Drugs’ EP Absolution (2022), Mike Elfers for Punknews.org wrote, “The chaos is lined with a classic School Drugs style eerie bridge. Complete with clever, unnerving dual performances from guitarists Bobco and Sam Maynard.” Dylan has now returned, replacing Bobco, and the brother duo are now the guitarists of the band. After a few switch-arounds in members, Maynard feels that their current 5-piece band is now their “core lineup” and has great chemistry both musically and friendship-wise.

Eric Machnicki, a fourth-year Political Science major and active member in the Jersey punk scene, has not only had classes with Dr. Maynard since his freshman year but has also been to multiple School Drugs shows around Jersey in the past few years after finding their band on Instagram. “Initially,” he said, “it was very jarring to see him outside of a school environment and then to see him absolutely shredding at these shows…But once I got used to it, I was like, ‘Oh, this is just another component of this guy’s life’” Eric believes Maynard being “into the hardcore scene” ties in with his personality and personal philosophical beliefs. Machnicki, with an assortment of pins on his jean jacket, also made a point to mention, “When School Drugs play, they’ll also normally be in support of some kind of good cause.”

Sam Maynard elaborated, “It’s beyond ideals for us. I think that’s important. Punk is our action…how we participate in the world. It’s not really a genre for us. It’s something that happens for certain reasons…it picks you.”

Machnicki, who is also president of Monmouth University’s Political Science Club, passionately said, “You don’t expect somebody to be able to pull meshing these two lives off so well, but he’s just so intelligent to the point where he’s able to do it and do it well.”

Dr. Sam Maynard doesn’t see his involvement in both callings as a ‘dual life.’ He said, “The most gratifying thing is that I don’t have to change aspects of who I am to do either of these jobs…I don’t like to conform to certain expectations, and I think these are two activities that feed off of one another. It’s not like they’re mutually exclusive.” He mixed it all together, and in the end, he really does have the best of both worlds.