Win some, lose some…

I have many things to grade, and one final to revise, so this is the perfect time to blog! A few days ago, I stopped by Trader Joe’s, and just as I could not resist the $.89 tiny gourds in October, the tiny, glitter poinsettias called my name. I bought two. Here’s where we are today:

Trust me when I say that I have treated these little plants with equal (moderate-to-low levels of) commitment. But clearly, the results are varied: one is thriving and has even grown new leaves; the other is dying a rather quick death. I’m only a little bummed because these cost a bit more than $.89, but I can’t be too sad, since at least one of them is doing so well.

See also: teaching college students…1 

I gave a final this morning, and as a student turned in her exam, she said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed being in your class this semester. Thanks for caring about music and caring about us.” It was one of those moments that make me so thankful to get the opportunity to teach college kids about music/culture/history.

Likely around the same time that this was happening, I received an email from another student in another class, stating, “hey, what’s this Mozart composer guy. there’s like at least two or something. ???” It was one of those moments that make me question my life choices, while simultaneously inspiring rage and maniacal laughter.

This sort of feedback is just beginning, so let’s all hope that stories like the former are more prominent than the latter. Happy finals week, folks!

1. Please note that I exert at least a moderate-to-high level of commitment to my students. Er, most of the time.

I’ve had a PhD for ten months. Now what?


Smith’s Cove Grand Cayman Island

I haven’t written anything in quite a while – unless you count tweets or incredibly witty & clever captions for photos posted on social media.1   I finished my PhD nearly ten months ago, and have absolutely no interest in writing any words or furthering my research – unless you count listening to Bloodshot bands, which I’m totally still into. I have applied for many academic jobs (and continue to do so), though I find myself lacking the wherewithal to really care about them. In fact, the sole reason that I’m blogging at this moment is to avoid the ten tabs open in Safari representing ten jobs I qualify for and should apply to.

I cannot decipher if my apathy is related to a) the post-dissertation/graduation slump, b) I really don’t care all that much about musicology and the somewhat insular world it represents anymore, or c) the chances of getting an actual musicology job are slim for me. Certainly, it’s a combination of these things, although the latter is a certain reality. I have seen many of my (infinitely more talented & awesome) friends deal with the academic job market for years with little to no success, while also witnessing several awesome folks choosing non-academic jobs. Yeah, I know. I’m still less than one year out, and it’s too early to be giving up on the job market/academic job possibility. But, it would be stupid to not consider the option.

Since I graduated way back in December, I have been teaching music appreciation at a community college, teaching piano lessons, and working my church job. Along with some gigs here and there, I am financially fine – making the least amount of money I’ve made in my adult life, but I can pay my bills and then some; and I’m pretty sure I can continue this trajectory indefinitely (Lord willing, as we say). What I’m wrestling with is what I’m going to be when I grow up.2   I really enjoy teaching college classes, and that’s what I thought I’d be doing – as a full-time instructor/professor. I’m really good at a lot of things, but my CV, experience, and nearly nonexistent publishing record don’t make me an outstanding candidate for many academic jobs. So perhaps the moral of the story is that, for now, I should simply appreciate the fact that I am making a living doing music-y things. And I should probably apply for the jobs sitting in all the surrounding open tabs here.

1. I went to Grand Cayman to visit a friend in July, and as that photo indicates, it was beautiful. I also visited a few distilleries on the Bourbon Trail back in May. I wouldn’t mind going back to these places.


Maker’s Mark Loretta, Kentucky

2. This is supposed to be ironic or maybe funny. By most accounts, I’m an old lady.

Oh, hey there!

I think it’s safe to say things have been slow here at the blog. A long time ago, I started a post-SXSW post, but… didn’t finish it. Good story, right? It seems dumb to recap all of that in detail now since it was so long ago, but some pics/highlights are below.

***Regarding the Talkable Vegetables, you can watch a video here.

Upon returning from South By, things got hectic fast. I know I have been way busier other times in my adult life, but for some reason, the second half of this semester seemed more challenging. Maybe it’s because I’m an old lady, or maybe it’s because I’m still recovering from the dissertation.1  In any event, everything pretty much wrapped up this past weekend, and I’m glad. Also, there’s still a hole in my ceiling, which will hopefully be repaired in the next year month.

In addition to the ceiling, I have one more project to complete that I’ve been putting off for months. Of course, my plan was to knock that out tonight, which is why I’m blogging (er, professional procrastinator, anyone?). ICMC is at the end of the month, and I’ll also head up to Kentucky to see the Very Tall Nephew graduate from high school (!!!). After that, it will be the first summer in many years that I won’t have degree-required academic work to do.

I can’t wait.

1. It is just as likely that Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four was to blame. Sigh. Go Cats.

I’d like to thank the Academy (and you)…

The short version of this post is that I submitted hard copies of the dissertation to the committee ten days ago, and I’m incredibly grateful for the love and support of friends and family who helped make it all possible. The longer version is, of course, below.

The printing took over two hours at Kinko’s and way too much money, but the task was accomplished. Certainly, this was a Great Relief, but I think I was too tired to really appreciate what was happening.

Part of what was printed (and what took a ridiculous amount of time to complete) was the Front Matter. This was very involved and tedious to compile, except for the Acknowledgements section, described as “You may write whatever you would like to on this page.” I like to read the acknowledgements, and I’ve thought about (dreamt about?) writing my own acknowledgements many times. I posted on Facebook that this process made me cry — to think of the many kindnesses and the great amounts of love from friends and loved ones that have helped me get to this point… and I’m sure I will revise it slightly, but I thought I would post it here (with a few notes).

It appears that a defense is scheduled. So while we wait for that, I give you the Annotated (and slightly abridged) Acknowledgements (notes in italic, along with footnotes when needed; typically I avoid using names on the blog just because, and I have adjusted accordingly):

The kindness of numerous friends, acquaintances, and colleagues has made this project (and its completion) possible. Advisor has offered endless amounts of advice and support, and asked difficult questions at every step of this process; her involvement has made this a much better project. The same can be said of the other members of my committee.1  Gender and Music Video (with Advisor) was one of the first classes I took as a doctoral student. I wrote a paper on Bon Jovi for this class, and it opened my eyes to popular music studies. Also, the so-called Proseminar (also with Advisor) was where I wrote my very first paper on country music (Loretta Lynn & Jack White to be exact).

History Professor provided feedback and guidance in the early stages of the research, for which I am grateful.2 I had the pleasure of working with My Academic Role Model and the Writing Intensive Program for many years, which greatly increased my understanding of writing and the writing process.3  Financial support from the University of Georgia Graduate School and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts made fieldwork possible, while a Dissertation Completion Award from the Graduate School allowed me to actually finish this document and (finally) graduate. They gave me money. Seriously, I still can’t believe they gave me money. 

The entire Bloodshot crew has been kind and accommodating, even when I wouldn’t stop asking questions or took over large areas of their office space. Radio Guy has been especially helpful, beginning with his response to my very first email inquiry and phone call. The members of the Chicago musical community were immeasurably helpful, not only in sharing a wealth of information, but also providing good company, directions, rides, and even restaurant recommendations. At this point, I listed all of the Chicago folks I interviewed. As most of these folks are musicians who have recorded with Bloodshot, this part is basically extensive and glorified name-dropping!4 

If College Pastor had not introduced me to Talented Chicago Friends, a dissertation examining Chicago music would not have been possible. I left out friends’ names below, but I felt pretty justified in including the names of these three people here, because seriously, this project could NOT have happened without these providential connections. I am forever indebted to them for their repeated hospitality and grace. I crashed on their sofa more times than they likely wanted, and I am honored to now call them friends. Similarly, I owe a debt of gratitude to numerous Chicago acquaintances and friends for being genuinely nice to me over the past few years. If you’ve read my blog in the past few years, surely you’ve read recaps of my Chicago adventures. It really blows my mind to think about how much fun my research was (challenging at times, yes, but also lots of fun), and how nice and helpful so many people were to me.

In the category of friends and loved ones, I boast an embarrassment of riches. I’m not even exaggerating here. And seriously, maybe this is a #humblebrag, but I have a lot of friends – friends that I know from lots of different places & times in my life, friends that I love and who love me. I knew I couldn’t list names here, if only because I would leave someone out… but you should know who you are. 

The musicology/ethnomusicology students at UGA, past and present, have provided solidarity, stimulating discussion, gossip, and plenty of dorky jokes (particularly on Friday afternoons). This includes but is not limited to classes, seminars, Youtube Fridays in the WIP office, Hildegard Happy Hours, Friday lunches in all their many forms and locations, Friday happy, er, afternoons, date nights, and conference trips… I also wanted to include the many other students from other schools that I’ve met along the way… but wasn’t sure how to include them. Again, hopefully, you know who you are.5 Kentucky friends, Transy friends, Athens friends, UGA friends, and my church family at Watkinsville: your prayers, kind words, calls, texts, meals, drinks, love, and general awesomeness have kept me going on this long, winding, and at times, difficult journey. I am eternally grateful to you all. See? An embarrassment of riches. 

I must also mention Sarah at CAPS, who helped me through the most challenging year of my life. I started seeing a therapist one year ago. I was having a really difficult time… with life. I admit I was skeptical at first, but I’ve found the process to be incredibly helpful.6 Finally, to Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law, Nephews, & family, I love you all more than words can say. Thank you for your enduring support and love. I so wish Dad could have been with us to see the completed project, but I like to think he would be proud. Cue tears.

1. These statements are true. Of course, one’s relationship with his/her Dissertation Advisor is complicated. But… there were many, many times where I’m certain Advisor was convinced I was a complete idiot and/or could not believe that I did or did not do something “obvious,” and I, in turn, wanted to kick her. I’m glad I never did that.

2. She also made it possible for me to visit Puerto Rico that one time, so there’s that. Needless to say, I’m REALLY grateful for that, too.

3. No kidding. I really want to be like her if/when I ever grow up and get a Real Academic Job.

4. Speaking of name dropping, remember how I’ve gone to SXSW these past couple of years?!

5. Especially folks from FSU, and especially for letting me crash with them in the DR for SEMSEC that one time, but also the many friends I’ve made at ICMC, too.

6. Mostly, I was angry (I’m not exactly an angry person, maybe you’ve noticed). I was approaching Hulk-level rage on a regular basis, which was disconcerting, to say the least. Of course, it was grief & stress related. Of course. But it sure has been nice and helpful to hear someone tell me I’m not completely crazy on a regular basis. I’m certain it would help you too. Just sayin’.

Still writing…

Well, it’s been such a long time since my last blog post that WordPress has changed its editor, and things looks a little differently on the inside of this here bloggy place. I have a good excuse for not blogging, though. Really, I do. I’ve been Doing All the Things, including teaching two Music Appreciation classes at the technical college (one of which is a “short session” class, which means we meet for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday, which also means the final for that class is very soon, which necessarily means the class will be over soon), running around at the church/doing church-y work things, and teaching the children how to play piano.

I have also been Writing a Dissertation. Yes, I know I have been doing this activity in one form or another for 800 a few years, and yes, I know that I have lied said here several times that I might be close to finishing. BUT WAIT, this time, I like, sorta, really mean it. Seriously.

The chapters in their nearly completed form. The files are titled following a naming practice developed approximately four years ago, and i decided to be consistent. Don't judge.

The first five chapters in their (mostly) completed form. The files are titled following a naming practice developed approximately four years ago, and I decided to be consistent. Don’t judge.

I’m working on a conclusion/last chapter. I have been working on this conclusion for a couple of weeks now, and have made very little progress in actually finishing it. But I at least have five other chapters that are ready to go. When/if the conclusion is finished, all the many pages and chapters will head off to Advisor, and then off to Committee-land. Apparently, after that, I have to schedule my required snake fight/defense. And then, maybe then, if I survive, I will be Finished.1 

I know lots of people are Busy. I know other people have to deal with much harder things in life than I do. I know many of my friends have much more challenging issues to address on a daily basis. But I also know that my brain has been full these past few weeks; and I know that I feel like I’ve been doing most of the things in my life just barely good enough. Maybe that’s part of being an Old Lady, but I can only hope that getting these danged last pages written will change some of that in the very near future!

1. OK, so there’s a few appendices that I need to work on, the bibliography to compile and format, and then the general grad school formatting stuff, too. But after THAT, really, I think I’ll be finished.

A second blog post in the month of May!

It’s a procrastinating miracle – this is the second post for the month of May! I returned home from the best conference ever (that happens in one of the best towns ever) on Saturday night. I had entertained the thought of not attending the International Country Music Conference in Nashville because, well, because I’m lazy, and I didn’t want to write the paper (which just so happened to be a section from a dissertation chapter that *really* needed to be written). The thought of seeing some of my favorite people was a strong motivator, and I made the good (and good-for-me decision) to suck it up, write the section/put together a presentation, and I headed up to Nashville last Wednesday.


The conference was (as usual) a great experience: I got to see and catch up with some of my academic idols, favorite scholars, and smart friends; I was inspired by some really great research and presentations; I met new, interesting, smart folks; and I got some feedback on my presentation that was helpful and encouraging. I’m very, very, very glad I went.

I have a (terrible? lazy?) habit of not really paying attention to the lyrics of songs when I’m listening for pleasure, which is only made worse, of course, if I’m doing something else AND listening to music. I had a list of bands/albums to check out from recommendations and/or presentations at ICMC, so as I was washing dishes tonight, I had pulled up a few albums on Spotify. I was thoroughly enjoying the new Sturgill Simpson album, and in my (slightly) mindless listening, I caught the phrase “I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say,” and of course, it sounded really familiar.

The song is called “The Promise,” and was originally recorded in 1988 by the British band and one-hit-wonder, When in Rome. Considering that my presentation at ICMC addressed covers, the concept is still swirling about in my head, and I could say lots about this cross-genre cover version by Sturgill Simpson… but I should probably be thinking about my dissertation instead. In any event, I will say that Simpson’s approach to the song is languid and subdued (obviously lacking the insistent dance beat of the original), but it falls into its own little groove once it gets going.

What really sold me on the song, though, are the final two choruses of the song after the guitar solo/instrumental (3:16): Simpson sings the second of these choruses up an octave (3:40). I am a total sucker for this technique pretty much whenever it happens.1  I think it’s especially satisfying on this recording due to the fact that the vocal delivery for the bulk of the song is so understated. The added intensity of the delivery in this chorus, the upper range of Simpson’s voice, and the slight melodic alterations provide a great payoff, in my opinion, and also recall the original version of the song’s chorus. I have had this song on repeat most of the evening.2 

Sturgill Simpson – The Promise

And here’s the original…

1. I’m sure this happens in songs from all genres, but I am most familiar with it in contemporary Christian praise and worship music. It’s very common in these songs, and it happens at least once pretty much every Sunday at my church. And I still think it’s awesome every single time. Not as awesome as guitar slides, but pretty darn close.

2. Also, randomly, there’s a little motive in the strings (do-ti-re-do) in the second half of the second verse (1:59) that is the primary instrumental hook for the Cranberries song, “I Will Always,” off their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? from 1993. I seriously doubt there’s an intentional quotation here, mainly because the motive is relatively simple and likely common; nevertheless, the two songs have the same feel, and are not too far apart in terms of narrative.


Writing things that are not part of my dissertation…

All of my writing efforts (well, except for this post) are geared towards dissertating these days, so my apologies for the lack of blogging here. After the California Closet wardrobe was installed in my bedroom, I got it in my head to finally take care of some other decor/decorating issues… with a trip to IKEA. Yes, it was a poor decision in the context of writing deadlines, sleep, etc., not to mention the requisite Putting Together of the Things purchased at the store. I still haven’t gotten around to assembling one large bookcase, and honestly, I have no idea when I’ll actually get around to that.1  But I have it, and one day, this bookcase will exist in assembled form to hold All the Books in my room. I did, however, assemble shelves to accompany my desk in the dining-room-turned-office.


The Laiva bookcases were $25 each, plus they matched my desk. And they were easy to assemble. Ukulele’s there just hanging out – not its permanent home.

To answer the age-old question, “How’s writing going?” I shall refrain from an overly dramatic response, and say I’m making progress.2  I have chunks of all four of my main (non-intro/conclusion) chapters. Two of them are incomplete and completely incoherent, and two of them are approaching complete and flirting with cogency. I hope to turn in one of the incoherent chapters early this week (hopefully in an improved state), leaving one mess of a chapter to turn in the next week (again, hopefully in an improved state). All the while, I need to revise and re-work the other chapters. The goal has been to have a complete draft by spring break, which is frighteningly soon. I’m certainly not holding my breath at this point, but I haven’t ruled it out just yet either.

1. As a professional procrastinator, I have a decent idea of how much I can actually procrastinate and still (sort of) get stuff done in a timely manner. The assembly of this shelf generally exceeds my procrastination windows of time.

2. E.g., this. Or maybe this.