Up n down the mountain

May 1, 2009

After a week of crafting possible cuts to our department’s budget, I drove up to the beautiful Lake Arrowhead area to attend an annual meeting, whose sole purpose is to give seed money to innovative curricular ideas. We arrived on Friday night; had cocktails and a lovely dinner, followed by a short meeting, and then we all retired to our rooms to finish reading the 36 proposals. Saturday morning and early afternoon were spent sitting around a large square table discussing each one.

As we finished early, I called Ronnie Rubin to see whether, by chance, she was in Palm Springs. I was tired of being cold and in the mountains. To my delight she was free and single. We went out for a lovely dinner, strolled down the main drag, I bought a new very cool rubber and stainless steel bracelet, and we drove home. I drove back to LA early on Sunday; Ronnie stayed to watch two more movies and returned at night.

I returned to grading 51 analyses by my students of pop songs of their choices, along with the YouTube link. I found I could only grade around 8 or 9 at a time, as listening, analyzing, and grading each song was exhausting. I have to admit that I loved the opportunity to assign and grade this project. The students learned from it as well.

At the same time, the midterm project for the class was to record and perform an original composition that features a falling bass line. It could be for (and was) for any instrumentation, and in any style. Then, they had to convert the file to an mp3, upload it to the class website, and then comment on each other’s pieces (which they did). Then in class this week, we listened to them all, and I gave brief critiques to each of the students. This was a delicate process as for most, this was the first time they had ever had a performance in front of peers. I consoled them before we began: “I know that for some of you, today might be like those dreams where you are naked in front of the class (or workmates) and can’t do anything about it. But hang in there.” The comments that the students made on the website were always helpful, collegial, encouraging and friendly.

I found out from several Chairs from other departments that I am teaching a heavy load for a Chair. One said she taught one course a year, another two courses: I teach 3 big classes along with 5 – 6 private composition students per term. I know that may sound light to some, but trying to do that and go to all the meetings one has to as Chair, can be overwhelming.

I am thrilled that I seem to be catching up. My To Do list is shorter. I think I can take this weekend off. Oh wait: I have a new choral piece to compose for the City of West Hollywood!


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