My first trip to Nashville was with Christina, Wade, and Jonathan, wayyyyy back in 2008. This is in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
Here’s the short version: I am moving to Nashville to be a Lecturer at Belmont University. I will be teaching musicology and ethnomusicology classes in the School of Music to music majors and non-music majors. This semester I am teaching Music History, World Music, and basically Music Appreciation. It is not a tenure-track job, but it is full-time. Classes start on August 22, and I’m planning on making the physical move the weekend before that. I am not selling my condo in Athens – I can’t deal with that right now; it wouldn’t exactly be a good financial move; and most importantly, I plan on being in Athens not infrequently. In the meantime, I’m hoping to AirBnb my place while I’m away (hello, UGA home game weekends, please cover my mortgage). I’m working on living arrangements in Nashville, and would appreciate all your prayers & positive vibes on that front.
Here’s the long version: When I moved to Athens, GA nearly two decades ago (!!), my plan was to be in the best college town ever for just two YEARS. Obviously, plans change, and I believe God put me in this town & community for His glory & my own good. When my “year off” post-Masters turned into many years off (aka not in school), I taught piano lessons, worked at an office called Digital Insight, and continued working at and attending Watkinsville First Baptist Church. I built up my piano studio, was blessed with an amazing community & network of friends and colleagues, and eventually decided that if I was staying in Athens, I might as well go back to school at UGA for a terminal degree.
You can see the Parthenon in Nashville! This was my second trip (I think) to Nashville for my very first International Country Music Conference, which is held annually at Belmont University.
As I remember it happening, I ran into David Schiller in town somewhere or the other. And before I knew it, a few months later, I was in the School of Music office with him finishing up my application to the musicology program. I kept many of my piano students and stayed on at the church (which had become much less of a job as a part of my life), and began work on a PhD in musicology. A project on 14th & 15th century German keyboard tablature turned into research on alt.country in the 1990s, eventually becoming my dissertation, “Underground not Underexposed: Bloodshot Records, Alt.country, and the Chicago Live Music Scene” (see basically most of the earlier posts on this blog for more info about that).
Throughout my doctoral studies, I believed I would get an academic job and move to wherever said job happened to be. Cue maniacal laughter. Being “on the market,” as we say, was (and still is) anywhere from absurd to soul-crushing to often a waste of time & effort. For obvious reasons, I did not copy over all of my job letters to my new Mac, but I know that I applied to at least 150 jobs if I applied to one.1 One of the “best” parts about this, because the academic job process is a slow moving machine, was receiving rejection letters many months after applying to a job… “OH RIGHT, I applied for that job; thanks for reminding me.” Feelings of failure are a part of being “on the market,” as it goes.
I didn’t give up on the idea of an academic job so much as I continued to live my life… my awesome, fulfilling life in Athens, GA, that included amazing friends-as-family, a wonderful church family, awesome piano students, the opportunity to teach college classes at a variety of places, and a crazy schedule with some disposable income. Meanwhile, I prayed that I would use my talents to the best of my ability in whatever situation I was in, and trusted that God had me where I was supposed to be. I had come to realize that my musicological ambition was not greater than enjoying & living my life, and as I have said many times to academic friends, it was all working out for me pretty well in Athens, GA.
One of my more recent trips to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival. This is the stage for Bloodshot’s Backyard Bash at the Groove.
I would still apply for an academic job every now and again if it seemed like a dream job or a job that was specifically describing me – even if I knew I wasn’t an incredibly viable candidate; after all, I was 0 for at least 150, and what could it hurt? Thus, in the past year, I’ve applied for maybe three full-time academic jobs. One of those jobs was a tenure-track job at Belmont University. I did not get that job, nor did I think I would/should; but again, what could it hurt? Later, I was contacted about the lecturer position at Belmont, and eventually applied. Even after the Skype interview, I was pretty sure nothing would happen there, and I made plans to teach at Georgia Gwinnett, University of Georgia, and Athens Tech again, while continuing the piano studio & church job.
Then I heard from my references that they had been contacted by Belmont about me & this position; and two days later I missed a call from the Dean of the School of Music at Belmont. I returned his call and was offered the position on a Friday; I accepted the position on a Monday. It was both a very hard and a very easy decision. How could I leave Athens, my friends, church, piano students, and life? How could I not accept a full-time position in a city like Nashville at a school like Belmont?2
So here I am. I am so sad: to not be near my friends, to not teach my piano students, to not be working with Jason & our amazing worship team, to not be a regular part of Watkinsville anymore, to leave Athens… and yet, I am so excited about the new job. I know I am in denial about how hard this is going to be emotionally; and really, I’m probably in denial about how hard it will be to pack up my whole dang house & move to a completely new place. Thankfully, I’ve got quite a village around me (both near and far) and a lot of support. I’ve felt incredibly loved through this process to date, and I remain overwhelmed by how blessed I am.3 I consider leaving Athens/moving to Nashville as a “good-bye for now” because like I said, I’ll be back, and you’ll be seeing me whether you like it or not.
1. To be fair, in my last year of graduate school in 2014, I applied to any and every job that I was even remotely qualified for. From there, I applied to fewer and fewer jobs each year. Also, I know MANY folks who have applied to so many jobs that it makes 150 look like a small number.
2. It should be noted that Nashville is much closer to Kentucky. This is significant for a few people, including me. Also, from the moment I started my PhD (and probably before that), I have wanted to teach at a small, private, liberal arts school – a place like my alma mater, Transylvania University.
3. See also my acknowledgments from my dissertation where this is spelled out in a bit more detail.