New and Different

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Old News

I have a hole, er, square hole, in the ceiling of my dining room/desk area. This square hole was cut some time in November – I don’t exactly remember the date as the end of the year was a little crazy, what with getting a PhD and all. Yes, I finally graduated from college. I passed the defense, made revisions like crazy (including en- vs. em-dashes and re-worked musical examples), and got the paperwork to the grad school on time. After many, many years, I am no longer a graduate student.

More about that later – for now back to the square hole in the ceiling.

The square hole was made by plumbers who fixed a leak. I was told by the plumbers to leave the square hole open for a week or so after they fixed the leak, just to make sure the leak was, indeed, fixed. But this timeline meant I needed to schedule the Ceiling Fixer Guy after my trip to Puerto Rico. The Ceiling Fixer Guy could not come the week after Puerto Rico, and then I was out of town for Thanksgiving. Add the snake fight/defense/final revisions of the dissertation into the mix, graduation, plus traveling for Christmas, and today, I still have a square hole in my ceiling.

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The week after the plumbers cut into the ceiling and fixed the leak, my piano students were all very curious as to why the ceiling now had a square hole in it. In fact, several students asked many, many questions about the ceiling and plumbers repeatedly.

Nearly two months later, I resumed piano lessons this week, and you know what? Not one of my kiddos mentioned the square hole at any point in their lesson. The square hole is officially Old News to them. In fact, instead of being alarmed, I myself have grown rather fond of gazing up into the plumbing and duct work of my drop ceiling.1 

Considering this is the first blog post of 2015 and my first post as a PhD, I feel obligated to make a brief commentary of the Old-News-ness of the square hole and having attained the (quite long-awaited) PhD. As you might know, for many years, I have been focused on completing this danged degree. At some point toward the end, completing the degree meant working diligently to do all that the Advisor and Committee requested (OK, nearly all they requested).

I have heard PhD’s talk about the post-dissertation slump or depression after graduation. Before I finished, I sort of understood, but was pretty sure it would not happen to me (I just wanted to be done with it, after all). Now that I’m a whopping twenty days from graduation, I can see how such a thing might happen. Slowly but surely, being focused on the dissertation and the Committee becomes Old News – the square hole in the ceiling that just is – and when the Committee is no longer the Boss of me, and the Dissertation rests comfortably in unopened files on the hard drive – things are a little strange, uncomfortable even. You know, change is hard and all that.

There are NO WORDS to describe how happy/relieved I am to actually have a PhD (and a completed dissertation).2  Really, none. And while I’m not quite used to having a PhD just yet, I’m pretty sure I like it – ahem, that’s DOCTOR, thankyouverymuch. In any event, here’s to a new year, kicking the Old News to the curb, and um, getting my ceiling fixed.

 


1. I mean you didn’t expect me to get it fixed promptly, now did you?
2. The piece of paper still hasn’t arrived in the mail, so it’s still entirely possible my PhD is all a hoax. A sad, mean, sorry hoax.

Could someone get that?

This weekend and week have involved a bunch of extra stuff on the calendar, making my days seem simultaneously long and super short, if that’s at all possible. Generally, the piano teacher stuff in my life is fairly low key, except around recital time, but there was a special piano event on Saturday of this week AND a student competition all day on Sunday. Plus, I also gave the pre-concert lecture for the Atlanta Symphony performance at our Performing Arts Center on Sunday. We also had our musicology student symposium today; our last special Wednesday night prayer service at the church tonight, and oh, I’m going to Austin, Texas tomorrow. Whew!

So obviously, I’m watching basketball, not revising my conference paper, not packing, and blogging about it. And since I didn’t post an official post-Sunday post, here’s a combo post-Sunday/post-Wednesday post…

On Sunday, Youth Pastor was in our room advertising an upcoming youth event, and was on screen in the Other Room via video. Apparently, (and I admit, I only heard about this over the headset during the this time), a phone rang in the Other Room. While this probably isn’t all that uncommon in a room packed full of people, it’s not all that common when the phone ringing is in a bag on stage. As I was told, it was Sanctuary Worship Leader’s bag, and in the middle of the announcements, he picked up his bag (and ringing phone) and walked it off stage. Better that than to let it keep ringing, I guess? For the record, we do include this image in our announcements…

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For the past few Wednesdays, we’ve been having special Wednesday evening prayer services at the church. These services have been really creative and diverse in terms of planning and programming (thanks to Youth Pastor and College Pastor), and have been a lot of fun (and maybe a little work) to be a part of. I’ve mentioned that we use quite a few Apple products in our services, and generally both Worship Pastor’s and my laptops are in commission during any service. We also both have Messages set up on our laptops, so whenever we receive texts, they show up as a notification on our phones AND laptops. This is quite convenient, and can basically turn text conversations into chat (if you’re ever wondering how in the world I can respond SO quickly to your text, I just might be typing it on my laptop keyboard).

There’s also a nifty sound effect that alerts you when you receive a new message on the laptop. But when your laptop is connected to a sound system, that nifty sound effect for incoming messages alerts everyone in the room that you’ve received a message. Like tonight, when I received a couple of texts during the pre-service music, and Worship Pastor received a text during the service. I suppose we should investigate disabling the feature during church services 🙂

Full house

The past couple of weeks have been lovely and relaxing. Last week in particular, I spent a great deal of time cleaning up and cleaning out, and since the rest of the time was spent lounging about, I also consider it a great accomplishment to have taken a car full of Stuff to the local thrift store. Also, an accomplishment? I played the piano and/or my piano was played for fun more in the past few weeks than in the entire year (not that piano lessons are not fun, but you know). On more than one occasion while entertaining in my home over the holidays, I made them invited friends to take advantage of my one piano, six hands repertoire. And take advantage, they did!

A violinist, a musicologist, and an oboist sit down at a piano...

A violinist, a musicologist, and an oboist sit down at a piano…

Pianists playing the piano!

Pianists playing the piano!*

They even let ME play! My hands are the small-ish ones in this photo.

They even let ME play! My hands are the small-ish ones in this photo, and no, I never really played a lot of Rachmaninoff…

*In the latter two photos, we’re playing through Gurlitt’s Six Pieces for Six Hands edited by Weekley and Arganbright. A few of the pieces are quite lovely, and I’m hoping to have my students play them this semester.

As relaxing as the break was, all my grown-up, responsible stuff started back this week. Today was the first day of class and even though I don’t really “go to class” anymore, I still have to register. We had staff meeting at the church, and my piano lessons started back today. Yesterday at church, we were in one room, and it was packed. We were literally overflowing, and I saw more than a few people sitting on the floor. One perk of being in the booth, I suppose, is that one is most generally guaranteed a seat on days like that. One non-perk of sitting near the booth, is that one will likely hear me talking at times when one generally shouldn’t be talking during church. As there was a bit of chaos (what with all the people everywhere), at one point, I’m fairly certain I was using a louder-than-inside-voice to communicate with some folks trying to find a seat. Not to mention, there were people sitting directly in front of me during the entire service. Sorry ’bout that.

It was a full (literally, figuratively) day, and I was really glad to see everyone. While I was at church last week, a lot of our team were away helping out at Passion, so it was great to have everyone back.

Now it seems that I have to Write a Dissertation. I’ll let you know how that goes. But in the meantime, I have to write a conference paper for a conference at the end of the month, and Advisor seems to think I should have a draft of it for her to read really, really soon. Which, of course, is crazy, since I could totally put that off at least a couple more weeks! 🙂

Doin’ work

Advisor is back in town briefly this weekend, and of course, this means I should be Doing Academic Stuff. Admittedly, I haven’t been Doing Academic Stuff much these past two weeks, but the Nashville conference was productive… and I still have this week, right?

I’ve even managed to squeeze in some academic work today! The relative flexibility of my three-ish jobs has its upside some days–like today. I did some research, sent emails and made phone calls for church stuff, re-scheduled a piano lesson, revised one page of a 30-page paper that needs a complete overhaul (you gotta start somewhere, right?), did a little more research for my upcoming Chicago trip, went to the gym, came home and made lunch… and ate it at the pool and hung out by the pool for an hour or so. And now it’s time for an afternoon of piano lessons to be taught.

All in all, I’m certainly not complaining. Let’s hope Advisor takes that approach when we meet this weekend.

 

How long is 30 minutes?

I am a piano teacher. I considered myself a full-time piano teacher for several years, but after these several years of full-time-piano-teacher-ness, I realized that while I loved teaching piano lessons, it wasn’t what I wanted to do all the time for the rest of my life.

Teaching piano lessons during grad school has been at times stressful and overwhelming, particularly since I always managed to schedule student recitals during finals week (yes, not smart, I know). However, for the vast majority of the time, teaching these lessons has been a breath of fresh air and a fabulous diversion/distraction from the absurdity of academia.

I generally have a very poor sense of time. Without a timekeeping device, I may not be able to tell the difference between 10 minutes or 30 minutes. However, since I’ve mostly taught 30 minute piano lessons for all the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve sort of learned how much piano lesson fits into a 25-30 minute block of time.

Nonetheless, there are some lessons that I teach that are fast and others that I teach that are slow. It’s not always the same students, though I’ve noticed some trends with particular students. I don’t think it’s bad or good, just peculiar and almost always surprising when I look at the clock and it’s not nearly the time I expected.

There are times when I’m teaching a lesson and the next student comes in, and I’m shocked that 30 minutes have passed because the lesson has flown by. And generally, this is the case. However, there have been those few lessons when I’m expecting the next student to arrive and realize there’s still 10 minutes of our lesson remaining… and it’s as though time has stood still. There’s always plenty of things to do in that extra time, but I wish I could identify exactly what it is that makes this happen.

Or if only I could channel that slow time and make it my superpower…

Talkin’ ’bout practice…

As a pianist in a past life, I spent (in order) not very much time practicing, a lot of time practicing, a WHOLE lot of time practicing, and no time practicing the piano. The practicing thing made a HUGE difference in my playing, and now, well, just let’s not talk about my “technique.”

And this practice thing works for things other than musical instruments – really, anything that involves a skill in life; obviously sports (unless, of course, you’re The Answer), cooking, thinking, dancing, just to name a few… and one of the reasons for this blog – writing.

I confess: I’m a binge writer, which is certainly linked to my deep need for procrastinating. So I’m hoping a lower-stakes writing assignment, like this blog, will help me get in the practice of writing, and consequently, move me along in this silly journey of getting a PhD.

You see, I’m at this sort of miserable, awesome, overwhelming, exciting point in my academic career that requires me to write a dissertation. And there’s plenty of research that suggests writing for just an hour a day is much, MUCH more productive than spurts of binge writing.

I’m skeptical, but here’s hoping.