School in session; 1st week for Chair Bourland

October 6, 2007

UCLA starts later than most schools; our first day was September 27. Although I’ve been Chair of the Music Department since July 1, that was all just practice. With students and faculty back everything is much busier.

I decided that I wanted to create a better sense of community in our department. To that end, Daniel and I decided to throw a potluck party at our home for the entire music faculty and staff last Saturday. It was a huge success; it was good to hang out outside of our music building. The talent in cooking was evident in the amazing spread and variety in the dishes people brought.

On Wednesday, I called a town hall meeting for students, faculty and staff. The UCLA Marching Band provided pizzas and the Music Department provided the beverages. I played Oprah for the first half, and then fielded questions from students during the 2nd half. We had the meeting out in our courtyard, all standing around — preferable to me at a lectern with them sitting in chairs. I had a wireless microphone and wandered about the courtyard while I spoke, invading people’s space.

First I welcomed the students back to school, and then introduced the faculty and staff members that were there. “Music is a social art, so if you don’t like people, you’re in the wrong business” I reminded them. “Get off the campus from time to time. Go to a concert, a museum, the beach, to a gallery… Recharge your batteries.”

Health is an important issue for us all, especially students who have a grueling class schedule. “Get enough sleep. Don’t kid yourselves into thinking you can get by on 4 or 5 hours of sleep. Undergraduates especially need to get 8 hours. And if you have the flu or a cold, stay home. Don’t come to school and cough all over everyone, getting everyone else sick. If you must come to class and you have a cough, bring a large handkerchief and always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.” Here I knew I was boarding on sounding like a nagging parent, but I didn’t care and pressed on. “Educate yourselves about meningitis. It has many of the symptoms of a severe flu, but it is highly contagious, and can kill you in 24 hours.” I asked “How many of you have had the vaccination for meningitis?” About 20 raised their hands. “Watch for a very stiff neck, a high temperature, a severe headache, and nausea. This is common in young children and college students. Watch out for each other. My partner has had it, and last year one of our undergraduate composition majors had it. Both fortunately survived.”

They looked mildly stunned, but I was glad to have voiced my concerns. I also brought up the issue of carpal tunnel syndrome and physical ailments due to the strains of playing instruments. Several faculty members offered up helpful advice.

After a good session of questions from the students, we finished up the pizzas and were finished by 6:00. The sense of community seems to be growing. I started a listserv for music students for their own use. I hope they use it. It’s not as cool as MySpace or Facebook (where I have more friends than I know what to do with of late).

Yesterday I held my first faculty meeting as chair. People said I did a good job keeping things moving, so a good sign. I had my gavel and Chair’s wand there but didn’t have to use either, except for calling a chatty group of people to order at the beginning.

Today I catch up a bit on my blog and get back to work on HOMER IN CYBERSPACE. Those three events being over, I look forward to getting some kind of rhythm going to balance my chair’s duties and my own creative work — something that all my colleagues urged by to tend to.


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