<"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Welcome to the Ceili
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Week 7
So for those of you keeping score, it's week 7 in the Spring term--end of my first year of my PhD program. If anyone's wandering, the quarter system is indeed BRUTAL. It probably doesn't help that for Spring term I'm carrying my heaviest load since starting the program here (2 seminars and a survey plus a pretty heavy teaching load).

Anyway, good things and not so good things happening out here.

The Good:

I'm learning a lot (although sometimes barely keeping my head above water).

I love my classes (except when I feel completely unprepared...I got back ahead of the curve this week): Women in Music in Medieval Germany, Medieval Survey, and Historiography of Black Music.

I love the final projects I'm working on: The Hirsau Reform in 12th c German-Speaking Women's Monastic communities, Medieval Sephardic Music, and Negotiation of the "Folk" in Black Music: A Case Study of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It feels like good work, y'know?

I love my students (I hit the jackpot this term).

I have people willing to help me build a traditional music community here. Slow session has at least 4 regular attendees.

My blues class has 13 kids so far for this summer....this is the first year that I will be an employed musicologist for the entire year (ie no crappy summer job).

I am working on a folk music project with senior faculty at my university (it's grunt work, but again, it feels like good work, y'know?).

The Bad:

I am barely keeping my head above water. Seriously. This week is better, but I've taken on too much. Must figure out how to make sure this doesn't happen again.

That's most of the bad actually....except for:

I have my first bad seed (here after referred to as BS.....fitting don't you think?) in the slow session. BS is a beginner (very) fiddle player (retired ex-professor). After his second slow session, BS wrote me an email detailing his problems with what I was doing. First off....SLOW SESSION IS FREE...you don't like it, DON'T COME! As my former roomie said, "You're outta the herd!" His main complaint was that is wasn't as "satisfying" as the first time he attended (ie it wasn't catered entirely to his playing/learning level). His first slow session, he was the only melody player, so I taught the Kesh Jig (easy, basic tune). BS had come in, and wanted to play tunes he already knew. I explained what a slow session was, and wanted to teach him a new easy tune because he had a really hard time playing in time (he compresses the beat like crazy). His second slow session I taught a harder less well-known tune because there were other melody players. In his email complaint, he also complained that I wasn't sure about the name of the tune. He said, "a name is really important." What is it with people and their obsession with tune names here? He also told me the way I was leading slow session was impractical.

I waited a week and then replied to BS, basically telling him that this is the way I learned the tradition so that's the way I'm passing it on. In addition, I explained the fluid nature of tune names, and the idea that the pedagogy of the tradition developed this way for a (good) reason.

BS returned to slow session last week and was combative in his attitude. I'm giving him one more week, and then I'm going to flat out tell him that these are free group lessons taught in a very specific way for a very specific reason, and if he doesn't want that, he's free to leave and go learn somewhere else. Any advice?

Also, it feels completely insane to me that _I'm_ the one passing on the tradition. I feel inadequate, because I know how far I need to go to be the player I want to be (especially because I'm talking to people in both the melodic and accompanying parts of the tradition). I don't know how to stay in the shallow end do I?

Ah, the politics of community building....

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

posted by Mac Tíre at 12:59 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger CJS

    Yeah, I do have some advice, some originating from me and some from our mutual buddy Coop.

    Coop's (remember, this is a guy who used to manage an entire building full of doctors and accountants): "I figure I can always 'go postal', but once I've done it, I can't go back--I can't ratchet things down again. So I wait, and usually there are other avenues, sometimes just because the other person feels like they themselves have overstepped. By not going postal, I'm giving the other person the opportunity to grow up."

    My own: I learned this from watching and talking to standup comedians, in nightclubs, about dealing with hecklers. One comic, a brilliant guy, said to me, "If you get heckled, even if you have a devastating comeback, DON'T whip-ass on the heckler right away. Wait until everybody else in the room is so sick of the SOB that when you DO whip-ass on him, everybody else is relieved and gratified."

    This likewise permits OTHER people to stand up and tell SB "hey, we're getting a lot out of this, so shut the fuck up."

    I've used this technique, especially, with Problem Children in large lecture classrooms. And, if necessary, I can stop things cold, and say to the room at large "is anybody else unhappy with how this is proceeding? Would anybody else like SB to shut up so we can get on with learning this great music?" If you've held back long enough, the others will say "yes, we want SB to shut up so we can get on with that."

    Usually that will cause SB and types like him to pack up and leave in a huff, whereupon everybody can breathe a sigh of relief.

    And, finally--if you really want the theatrical approach--wait until SB's bitching has reached a really untenable level, but yet no one else stepped up to tell him to shut up. If you need it, do this:

    Stop the session cold;
    Pull out your cell phone;
    Dial my number, or Grey's, or whomever's;
    Put the cell on speakerphone;
    When I, or Grey, or whoever, picks up, say aloud "SB here doesn't like the teaching method you taught me to employ. Would you care to enlighten him?"

    At which point I will be glad to deliver the microwave ass-kicking. He won't come back.

    But I bet you can do this on your own.

  • At 9:50 PM, Blogger Terminal Degree

    "I can tell you are not going to be happy with the way I teach slow sessions. I am not the right teacher for the way you want to learn, so it would be best for all concerned if you did not return to my class."

    Simple as that.

    (And why are teachers sometimes the worst students?) :)