Current projects:

(1) A paraphrase/setting of the UMM Hymn, the Alma Mater of my current gig. This is for a concert in memory/honor of Ralph Williams, the first-ever music faculty member at UMM (and composer of the Alma Mater).

(2) A suite of miniatures for solo violin called pARTita, for David Cole.

(3) A very short opera, beginning what I think is a warm-up for a larger work (and eventually, hopefully, a full cycle of operas based on a science-fiction book that permeated my youth).


Since I’ve been taking on an administrative role this semester, I find my perception of how academia works shifting. Subtly, to be sure, but this is a noticeable shift.

To that end, I’ve decided to spend some time learning about the budget process at UMM. More on that later. I’ve also started reading some books and blogs; if I get the chance, once the semester clears I’ll start talking about that as well.

Thank you for your patience. It’s been a busy semester (a faculty search, the extra admin duties, trying to get some stuff published/out there), but a good one. Spring Break is next week. I am ready.


I had a brief conversation with a friend the other day, and we shared memories of marching band. I got to thinking about it, and when I get to thinking about something it usually ends up on here. So blame her for this.

I have talked before about where I grew up and the challenges facing the unathletic in a place where sports are even more disproportionately important than normal. I was spectacularly awkward physically as a youth (is it because I was born a month early? I wonder); if it were be possible to be picked after last in gym class, I would have been.

Then I started marching band.

I was still awkward, but for some reason, it would go away when I had a horn on my face and had to move from one dot to the next. My body, which I would fight every other waking moment, actually did exactly what I asked it to and when I asked it to. I lost weight, made new friends, and felt like I actually belonged somewhere for the first time in…well, let’s go with “ever.” I did it for four years, earning the marching band equivalent of a letter jacket, and decided to major in music in part because of the experience of marching band. Majoring in music led me to music theory and composition, so you could say my entire career exists because of one choice I made in 1986.

Slightly more than a quarter-century has passed, and I still remember aspects of marching band shows in incredible detail. I have done research on Jesus Christ Superstar because we did a JCS show my junior year. (Went to Finals with it too!) Playing those charts gave me a sense of how to write those charts, which led to all my drum corps arranging/composing.

So yeah, I’d consider my high school marching band years “formative” in just about every sense. There are many things I’d do differently, but I’d still march no matter what.


Well, I’m not down 40 pounds, and likely won’t be by the time Feb. 22, 2013 rolls around.

But, at least before the holidays, I was down 13 pounds. Given all that the past year has held, I’ll take that. That’s a pound a week since I changed my diet. Clothes are fitting more loosely. If I can keep up a pound a week, then in 2 – 3 years I’ll be in really good shape. We are hopefully joining the school’s gym this year as well, so even on those non-walkable days (and hey, it’s -3 out there right now, so this is one of them) we can still get some exercise in.


This article resonated with me, because I understand why the author feels the way she does.

Believe me when I tell you this – and I tell you this not to elicit sympathy (as I recognize that I have had it so, so much easier than so many people) nor to brag or humblebrag: When you grow up academically-inclined in an area that is not particularly understanding of or sympathetic to those who are so inclined, you fight these battles. There are many, many things about my hometown and my upbringing that I love, and I would not be the successful, mostly-stable person that I am today without those aspects (including an informed love of country, a strong moral code and a thorough grounding in basic education).

However, no one would ever mistake Bedford, Indiana for a place that nurtured young scholars. It is a decent enough small town and county seat, and if one knew where to look one could find a support network to indulge academic whims. But one must know where to look, and the community does not go out of its way to help you in that particular search. I am lucky in that I found that network, and there are teachers (some of whom I will now mention by name, because they deserve it; if your name isn’t listed and you feel it should be, I do apologize – Jane Goodwin, Loretta Bailey, Paul Hinman, Bill Tatom, Jo Stuckey, Dennis Whitaker) who encouraged academic rigor and success by their examples. I am also lucky that I had a family who tried to get it, though to be fair, they didn’t always. I don’t begrudge them for those occasional failings, as even people who have been around academia their entire lives often fail to get it. Still, explaining to people who think in terms of grommet bearings and socket sets that the work I do, while not physically taxing, is incredibly challenging and rewarding in its way is usually an exercise in futility. I take as much blame for that as anyone else, for there are times I failed to recognize that grommet bearings and socket sets are vital and important as well.

Some people are content to be where they are, and I envy them that contentment. Others must flee the nest, and I was very much part of that group. When “nerd,” “geek,” “smarty-pants” “too big for your britches” and the like are the words most people use to describe you, and your only crime has been liking books more than basketball*, it does tend to sour one on a location. I fought back with the tools at my arsenal. I developed a quick wit – some would say “biting” – at an early age, and I will cop to a certain smug superior attitude at different times. It took a long time to accept that, while it will always be where I’m from, it is probably best for all involved that I’m not living there.

I’ve made my peace with Bedford, and I keep that peace primarily by minimizing interactions, but it will likely be an uneasy peace for my entire life. I love my home and my family, and as many of you know they are inexorably tied to the community (though Dad did say if he was a few years younger, he would be looking to buy some land up here in Minnesota, as the soil is so rich and black); because I love them, I feel it necessary to stay away most of the time, lest old wounds with the community be reopened and my bitterness spill over into relationships that I value.

Wow. This was harder to write than I thought, and it also turned out longer than I thought.

For further reading: William Pannapacker’s stimulating “A Class Traitor in Academe” and Alfred Lubrano’s Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams.

*In Indiana, this is a capital crime.