Putting people together

August 27, 2008

Yesterday in my duties as a chairman, I attended several meetings where we discussed and invented jobs for graduate students who in turn oversee other students whose duties we also defined. I couldn’t help but feel like a member of “the gods” who set cosmic parameters in motion and watch them play out.

At UCLA, each department has a self-review and an external review every eight years. This is a necessary prod to keep the educational process vital. One of the Chair’s primary responsibility is to continually update the curriculum. With any luck, whoever a group or society picks to set up a curriculum, one hopes that institutional memory, innovation, and adherence to the organization’s principles guides them to better and better ways of educating students.

Beyond imagining how a curriculum can shape a student’s world view, there is the curricular Yenta aspect of the admission process––meaning, when you put people together (in this case students) in a class, in a curriculum, in a particular year, these students all go through the program together, and there is a bond. And from time to time, they meet and fall in love and get married with each other. Two musicians in one household can prove to be too much music for some and a student may fall in love with someone who is completely different from them. And even if they don’t marry, they stay in touch with each other, hire each other, recommend students to each other, and through Facebook, many of them stay in touch in new ways by being members of a “Friends of [YOUR SCHOOL]”. I enjoy keeping track of our graduates through Facebook––to see their careers blossom, to become more themselves, to move to a new city, and sometimes start new careers.

My brother Andy was prescient in singing Facebook’s praises from their beginning. Now I see he was right on. The phenomenon that Facebook has set in motion, will likely be part of our society forever. I can now get in touch with some of my old friends from Green Bay, and Madison, and Boston, and New York, and, well, all over the world. Getting back in touch with old friends feels pretty good.

I found Janet Grice the other day, the woman for whom I wrote my solo bassoon composition for in 1978 (Soliloquy VIII: Meditation) through “Friends of NEC.” She remembered my piece as having microtones––a detail I have since forgotten.

Little celebrations like this make Facebook a worth while hobby.

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