REALLY Being the Man

Jonathan Bellman

To clarify, since Phil is understandably disinclined to put it this way:

Getting a tenure-track job at Indiana University is something akin to winning the World Series. For those non-academic musicians among us (to borrow Kenneth Grahame’s formulation: not in the musical Wild Wood, but out in the Wide World), IU is one of the largest schools of music in the US, and is one of the rare ones (Eastman is another) where performance and academics are both respected and properly supported, and they have a huge reputation in both areas. To get the call for such a position, therefore, means a great deal. Yes, professional stress level is likely to go up, since publication and research requirements are pretty high at such places. From your fellow blogger and the rest of blogdom, a standing ovation: GO. THRIVE. BE INFLUENTIAL. MAZEL TOV!

Apropos the Burkholder story about the missed midterm, and apropos my recent existential crisis, I once slept through part of a Renaissance History midterm at UC Santa Barbara, in a class taught by the renowned Renaissance and Reformation scholar Abe Friesen. I got up, ten to fifteen minutes after the thing had started, confused, blinking, and staring. My roommate Steve said “BELLMAN! DON’T YOU HAVE A MIDTERM!?” My response was “&!” with more confusion and no further action. Steve persisted, “BELLMAN, GET THE & OUT THERE!!” I roused, said, “…right…” threw on some clothes (I think pants were involved) and set a land speed record (roll over Craig Breedlove) on my bicycle over to, I think, Ellison Hall. I had my blue book and pen out already, and crept up to the room. Two doors. It’s now halfway through the test period. I tiptoe in the front door, behind Prof. Friesen, who is watching the class take the test. In one motion I slink up, quickly ease one of the midterms out from under his hand, and sit down and start writing, having read the first question on the way to my seat. Didn’t look up, or move, for sheer terror and shame. At the end of the period, I was halfway through. Friesen walks softly up and says quietly in my ear: “Go down to the History Office and tell them you need another half-hour.” Effusive, almost blubbering thanks. I did so. Sweet mercy. What a moron I was.

I think I got a B or B+; I was not really a straight-A student in those days. Of course, that was an upper division course for history majors; it interested me more than the Gen-Eds. Funny; I remember being told that I got one of the essays wrong. The question was “Did the rise of the Italian City-State contribute to the growth of the moneyed economy or vice-versa?” Because my first year of college had been as a history student at Portsmouth Polytechnic (now Portsmouth University, in England) where my father had taught for a year, I had the background to argue either side. I mentally flipped a coin and argued the wrong one, or at least the one with which Prof. Friesen had no sympathy. He didn’t mark me down. I’ve often wondered what effect on my academic career Living Right would have had. (Then my family begins pounding me for such idiotic throughts and I run for cover and stop.)

So Phil is back to the scene of his youthful somnolent crime, in a very different position. Shall the students expect mercy and understanding from him, given that he was once in their shoes? Alternatively, tough love of the sort provided by J. Peter Burkholder? Arbitrariness and cruelty? I could end this with my anti-favorite student conclusion—“The future remains to be seen”—but instead will simply repeat my congratulations. HAIL!

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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