shameless plugs

June 27, 2013

Allow me to encourage you to support some worthy jazz musicians:

(1) Brent Gallaher, saxophonist extraordinaire and the son of my first college music theory teacher (who was also my last undergraduate composition teacher), is running a Kickstarter to support his newest recording project, a collection of ballads and Bossas. I’ve kicked in, and so should you.

(2) Sara Jones, a fine jazz singer and a dear friend from those heady days of the late ’90s/early ’00s back in Cincinnati, released a CD a few years back entitled Daydream a Little. I finally got the chance to listen to it and purchase it, and it is exquisite – jazz singing as it should be. Buy the CD here or here.

(3) Just this morning, I purchased and downloaded Brooklyn Babylon, the well-crafted and fascinating second album from Darcy James Argue. He is a writer of the first order, and the band has amazing players. Plus, any album that begins with a euphonium solo is OK in my book. Go now and purchase.

WF


in heaps like cordwood

June 23, 2013

While at Antietam yesterday, I took the time on the driving tour to get out and walk at a couple of places. One such place was the Burnside Bridge, on the south side of the battlefield. Confederate forces held this bridge for three hours, until the Union soldiers – at unbelievable personal cost – finally broke through. I stopped at each end of the bridge, reflecting on what it must have been like to line up for the slaughter like that.

For whatever reason (primarily due to McClellan’s incompetence), Antietam was not the knockout blow Lincoln wanted. (Those three hours, for example, allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive and force the Federals back to Antietam Creek.) It was enough, however, to give Lincoln the moral authority to release a preliminary form of the Emancipation Proclamation, changing the tenor of the war and the course of human history. One could argue that it was those very points on that very bridge where “thenceforward, and forever free” became truth. As I stood there reflecting on this, I realized that this is why I fight.

The Framers of our Constitution created a charter and a social contract that revolutionized self-governance, but it was incomplete. Over the past eleven score and seventeen years, this nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, has had to recommit itself to finish the project started in 1776. The secret is, of course, that the project is *never* finished. I remain skeptical of those who wish return to “Constitutional government,” because the Constitution itself is only a starting point. 150 years ago, you could be denied basic humanity because of your race or color or heritage. 100 years ago, you could be denied basic humanity because of your gender. Even today, there are parts of this nation where you can be denied basic humanity because of your orientation. In *every* case, it took people willing to stand up and say “The Constitution is not frozen in amber” to change things. This, to me, is the lesson of Antietam.


of fish and ponds

June 13, 2013

I had the good fortune to read this essay by someone who is currently teaching at my Alma Mater. It resonates with me, because it points to a couple of flaws in the current system of training college professors.

First of all, in what is supposed to be the great equalizer, we still privilege a very narrow few universities and colleges over all others. A certain amount of that is understandable, as places like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford et al have access to means of getting better labs/buildings/resources, funding for grad students, etc. Still, I would put my MSU education – especially in my major – up against anyone, anywhere, anytime. I might not be able to match them class for class or skill for skill, but it is precisely that experience which has allowed me to succeed. When we say, “Oh, you only teach at a regional state university or a small liberal arts college or a community college,” we are, in effect, saying those are not real institutions of higher education. This is grossly unfair to the students and to the faculty.

Secondly, our PhD programs are guilty of this (arguably more than anyone else). What does a PhD program do, in essence? It gives you the skills to be a researcher at a research university. Most PhD programs do nothing to prepare you to be a faculty member at an institution other than a research university. This does a huge disservice to graduate students, as there are only so many research university positions out there; it further does a huge disservice to all the non-research universities out there. (To be fair, some PhD programs are trying to remedy this.)

Essentially, we do ourselves no favors when we marginalize professors like Dr. Skallerup-Bessette, anyone tenured or tenure-track at a non-research university, or those who are not on the tenure track and/or those who adjunct. When we say that they can be replaced by MOOCs, we are saying, “You don’t count as an academic.” Folks, that’s most of us.

WF


you gotta have art

June 10, 2013

About the only bad thing about the recent trip to Burlington was that I wasn’t able to be in town for the Rural Arts and Culture Summit (sponsored by, among other groups, UMM’s own Center for Small Towns) here on campus. It sounds like a good time was had by all, and Minnesota Public Radio posted not one, not two, but three blog posts about the event.

I agree with all the ideas mentioned here, and firmly believe that the arts are an underused tool in our economic development toolbox. I lived for two years in another rural town that was able to capitalize on the arts as an economic redevelopment idea, and I’m here to tell you – it works. Good to see the word getting out. Minnesota also has the Legacy Amendment specifically for things like this. Take advantage of it.

WF


jargon

June 9, 2013

I was in Burlington, VT at the Institute on General Education and Assessment sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities last week. Believe it or not, there were some fascinating talks and discussions. I am rethinking how to assess my classes and the music program, as well as some changes in my pedagogy. Yes, there was lots of jargon (my only complaint, actually), but it was an eye-opening experience (especially as I will be serving on the campus’s Assessment of Student Learning Committee next year).

Also, I had the chance to break bread with the legendary NTodd Pritsky, so there’s that. He’s a mensch among men.

WF