I've been through a lot since my last post. I went from being quite certain that I would move across the country to pursue a PhD in Musicology (with a cross-cultural focus) to changing plans and now staying in Ann Arbor while my wife, Samantha, does a MS degree in Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. I won't get into discussing the complex issues of different universities, my general feelings about academia, the issues about the prospects of UofM for me, other alternatives, etc (maybe another time...). Simply put, every opportunity comes in a package with all sorts of issues, pros and cons, open or closed doors, costs, etc. Making decisions about these things is very complex. It is impossible to truly know what unchosen decisions would have brought. Among many other factors, I am sincerely excited for Samantha — and not just for her sake, but because I also find biology and environmental issues fascinating and important.
So now I am continuing to teach private lessons while also considering how else to make the most of the next couple years. I have several projects to pursue. I already have more than a dozen planned blog articles on many subjects. I have an endless reading list. I want to record and compose new music. I ought to get out and perform more, perhaps get together an ensemble with other musicians. I intend to pursue formal publication of some of my academic research. I may take and/or audit various classes. And I just got started working with a programmer friend with the goal of realizing some of my computer-based music theory education ideas. I could even start on finally writing my guitar method (given that I've reviewed over 700 related publications and still haven't found anything quite like what I want), but I think that project may have to wait...
Today I want to share two specific items:
(A) I fully revised my page here: Lessons: Details, Philosophy
The updated page describes much of my attitude as a music teacher and clarifies (I hope) my wacky philosophical title of this site. I had trepidations about trying to explain in a few sentences some philosophical concepts so complex that I'm not sure I fully understand them. But, as Professor Bob Woody replied recently when I commented on his blog, maybe writing controversial or simplistic things might encourage more comments! I have certainly gained more understanding by sharing my thoughts and making them open for criticism than by trying to hold onto my ideas until I think they are flawless (which is never). As that static page doesn't allow comment, please comment here regarding that page.
(B) I thought of a way to be more environmentally responsible in my teaching:
The background: I feel happy and responsible that my wife and I share a single car — and still, it is rarely used. We put much less miles on our shared car than the average single-driver car. This is possible for many reasons, including our decision to run errands by bicycle or foot as much as possible and to avoid other unnecessary driving. But the main reason I drive so little is that I teach out of my home studio most days. The problem is: while this saves me a lot of money, it doesn't actually reduce cost and pollution overall because my students still drive to come to me. Yeah, it's still better than if my students and I both drove to meet at some separate location, but it still isn't an ideal sustainable arrangement considering environmental and energy costs (and I don't believe in the absurd premise that electric cars or similar can somehow be efficient enough to make sprawling, commuting suburb life sustainable). If my career is to be feasible and responsible in the future, this needs to be addressed.
There is the possibility of online teaching with video conferencing and such, and maybe I'll try that sometime. Online can never be quite the same as in-person lessons, but maybe it really could be a fair compromise in some cases. But I thought of a more immediate solution:
I just need to encourage students to take public transit or bike (or even walk) to lessons. I had hesitated to do this in the past because I know it is hard (though not impossible) to bike with a guitar, but I realize now I just need to have enough various instruments of my own so that students can use one of my guitars in their lessons. Yes, it is better for me to see how they play with their own guitar, but it is more important to encourage students to save money and reduce pollution and waste. I want to live in a world where people are healthy and responsible and bike more, and I'm thrilled to have thought of a way to directly encourage that. I added a note to my official policy and will mention it to my students in the future. I hope it works out for at least some folks!
Thanks for reading. Check back here (or subscribe via the form to the right) to keep up with future updates. The vast majority of my planned posts are about general insights in music and related things, in contrast to the largely personal nature of this post. Thanks goes out to the numerous folks who helped me in so many ways throughout my grad school application process — I gained a lot of perspective and understanding even though I will not be going back to school yet.