Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 73 (jamming at the margins deadlines edition)

Jammed with work at the closing margins of the semester, that is: student advising, Madrigal Dinners start tonight followed by coffeehouse session, pub session tomorrow, teaching session Saturday, writing recommendations, counseling students who've had progress setbacks, nailing down TA assignments for next semester, still planning/writing curricula and concert programs, transcribing and re-arranging brass parts, writing/recording weekly radio program, planning events (radio, live, electronic and print promotions) for CD release parties, reading & ranking dossiers for candidate search, advising student teachers, reading and ranking conference proposals, organizing TMEA workshops and round-table on world music pedagogy, and...oh yeah, by the way, writing this fucking book.

On the other hand, I had the following conversation with my much-admired boss 2 days ago, just after he returned from the national accreditation organization's executive-committee meetings. He had asked several colleagues to put thoughts in a memo regarding mission, future, cultural-diversity obligations, and teaching to shifting student profiles in advance of that meeting, so as to have a sense of his own faculty's perspective. I responded with typical excessive prolixity. Following up on that meeting weekend, the boss and I conversed thus:

Boss: It occurred to me, as we were talking about our obligation to broaden our teaching, that that needs to happen throughout the curriculum.
Dr Coyote: Yes! It's not enough to diversify our faculty--though of course that's important. If we really want to act upon the lip-service mandates for "diversity," then we have an obligation to realize that diversity in our curriculum. Not only the personnel but the topics of our teaching need to reflect a globally-diverse world.
B: Yep. It also occurred to me that, just as European culture tended to take over minority cultures, maybe we've been guilty of that in the world of music teaching too.
DC: You mean, university music teaching has been guilty of a kind of colonial imperialism?
B: Yeah.
DC (gobsmacked): !
Understand, this is a very bright, very imaginative, yet very practical guy (former trumpet player, middle-school and college band director, already with a successful track record as Dean elsewhere in the Big 12), who is an absolutely masterful and very courageous yet even-keeled administrator (I continue to learn huge amounts about management and patience from him), with almost none of the "fog and pomposity" (thanks, Quantzalcoatl) which upper-administration suits tend toward. I admire both his skills and his intellect a great deal.

But I never thought I would live to see the day when the director of a 500-student university music program in North America would cop to the reality that, yes goddammit, we fucking well have been guilty of the same cultural imperialism that has tainted every aspect of European global communications ever since the Age of Exploration. Until we tear out those attitudes of dismissal, exploitation, and destruction which have shaped our arts and education policies every bit as much as our trade and foreign policies, until we begin to act in a more egalitarian and just fashion as teachers, we are still culpable.

15 years ago this guy tried to get me thrown out of the Indiana University musicology program, and when he was unable to do that, tried to require that I do twice as much musicology coursework as the catalog called for; that's how much he despised (and now, i believe, feared) these same musics: the ones I wanted to study and for which I wanted to claim equivalent value and beauty.

That my current boss "got there"--that I have the privilege of finally, after 30 years, working in an environment in which my boss is expressing the political insights and resulting pedagogical obligations which almost got me thrown out of graduate school 15 years ago--is the reason I'm still here, rather than in any of the half-dozen other jobs in sexier places for which I've been head-hunted.

Dharmonia and I are incredibly fortunate.

Now playing: Zappa - 03 03 03. Honey Dont You Want A Man

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