Category Archives: Webster

First day of class

I am back to school today for the first teaching day of Fall 2020, the beginning of my 22nd year of full-time professoriate.

This summer I had sessions with students on Zoom.  Two photos stand out.

Josh with dog, Sarah with dog, me with Nelson asleep at my feet, and Phil along for the ride:

Magnus remains in Norway awaiting an appointment at the consulate. This is the view from his music room as he and I were having a lesson. I muttered a few expletives of wonder.  Notice the waterfall:

Bonus: here’s that same group in a virtual cocktail hour (I was the only one with a drink) and our furry companions:

Random ramblings

I have a new mask for use when I’m at school and in the same room as others, teaching a class or teaching a lesson.

I shan’t be on campus all the time, but this mask will allow me to breathe more easily at least.

My HelloFresh adventure continues. This meal was a huge taste-bomb of happiness and spice and zestiness: panko- and Parmesan-crusted chicken cutlet (with sour cream to add a bit of bite, and hot paprika to add kick; plus roasted carrots tossed in lemon zest, and couscous with garlic and the whites of green onions.

Nelson spent two hours at the office on Saturday, since Queen Jean (my once and always best-ever assistant) and I were measuring rooms and putting down social-distance markers. He had a fun time running the very empty lobby of the Loretto-Hilton Center.

Those markers:

On Saturday, before heading to the office, I watched a live-stream of a concert by the choral group Ensemble Pro Victoria. The concert took place at St. Mary’s Bourne Street in London, the last church I attended in the UK two years ago on my most recent visit there.

The concert was wonderful, with music that I find deeply attractive.

The leader of the group is Toby Ward, who I met on a visit to Gloucester Cathedral in 2012 (I think that’s the right year). I was on a Howells research trip. Toby was singing tenor in the choir on a gap year before starting college. He complimented me on my glasses. And then the choir sang an all-Herbert Howells Evensong.

The squirrels know.  They know that winter is coming.  Damn squirrels!  Rooting in my window boxes….

This belated birthday present came from the Gregg family. I’m sporting it proudly on Mariele the Volvo:

Thanks to a very handy handy-man, I am now wired at home for two ethernet ports, one by my desk in my home office, and one by the piano.  I shall henceforth be hard-wired into meetings at home, rather than relying on wi-fi!

Another school year

Another school year is beginning.

Contracts commenced yesterday for the 2020-21 academic year.

I’ll save for some other time the comments about how strange this year feels already.

When I was in high school, I thought that teaching was the path I would take.  Music came easily to me, so music education seemed the right road.  Working at Windermere Baptist Assembly the summer before my senior year of high school, though, I felt a strong call to do church music.  (This was one of four or five times in my life when I felt an overwhelming, deep, intrinsic presence of something greater than me.)

So church music was the path, and off I went to Southwest Baptist University.  And then, part-way through my first year of college, I realized that God’s call on my life was broader perhaps than solely church music.  I recall clearly: I was in a course entitled Introduction to Religious Education (the topic in which my father took his graduate degree) and was lit up by Maslow’s hierarchy and learning theories.  So I changed my major to religious studies.

I expected to live my life as a musician and pastoral type in Southern Baptist settings.  But life intervened.  The circuitous path that followed was something I now liken to wilderness years. And in December 1987 I was asked to teach voice lessons to a teenager whose voice had recently dropped.

In quick succession: quit my day job, hang out a shingle as voice and piano teacher, start raising rates to whittle away the chaff, take a part-time gig at the local community college, grab a church gig, gain a Master of Arts in Music, start a doctorate.  That was all in a span of nine years.

Teaching found me.  Music found me again, claiming me from my wilderness.

And here I am today, commencing my 22nd year of full-time university education, and my 33rd year of being in love with teaching.

Memories from the years:

A student again

I am this summer taking four graduate credits from Shenandoah University in Virginia.  The topics are related to the CCM Institute offerings in contemporary commercial music:

  • Fundamentals of Functional Training
  • Vocal Athletes Guide to Vocal Wellness and Fitness
  • Bridging Classical to CCM Voice Training
  • Musical Theatre Styles

The original plan was to go to the in-person workshop in Winchester, Va.  But COVID-19 put a stop to that.

So we are in a virtual format, with loads of asynchronous lectures, and for the first time in 21 years, homework!

An assignment in class yesterday: get up and move to the music.  Nelson was on my lap, so he joined me, but as a rather passive dance partner.



This would normally be the week I would be at the International Thespian Society conference, doing the good work of Webster University.

The conference is virtual this year.

Memories from previous years:

Social distance, day 54

On this 54th day of physical distance from others, and now having completed my last interview with students moving on to the third year of school, here’s a little poem about the “last day of school.”

And a screen shot of the setting of the last official 90 minutes of Spring 2020 on the last day of the semester.

Now for a steak dinner!

Summer . . .

I am one week away from the end of this strange, interrupted semester at Webster University.

My last summer trip has just been canceled.

So, with a week to go, I’m thinking of what this summer may be, and realizing that it won’t be like any summer in my last 20 years.

I’m taking a ‘diploma’ course in Jungian archetypes. One-hundred-fifty hours of work! I’ll start this later this week, I think, and pick away at it 10-12 hours a week.

My summer conference about the teaching of contemporary commercial music vocal techniques is canceled, so no trip to Virginia in July. I’ll take the course on-line in its virtual form instead.

My trip to Puerto Rico was already canceled, and it looks like I’ll not be going to New York this summer, either.

So, two courses . . . and books.

I’ve set out some serious reading this summer. Some Albert Camus. Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. Believe it or not, War and Peace, which I’ve never read. Perhaps the Wolf Hall trilogy.

And the piles of books about voice-teaching and teaching psychology and story-telling through song . . . all of which have been on the pile for some time now.

I’ll need to pay attention to the body as well. In this eighth week of physical distance, my weight has only gone up slightly, but it needs to come down for the sake of my joints, my heart, and my liver.

I’m betting this summer will also have a pile of Webster work too, since I’m anticipating prepping for on-line instruction (at least partially) of the musicianship course I teach.