I have got to learn how to make shorter blog posts. As it turns out, I have a lot to say, which is a blessing and a curse. In my attempt to be more succinct, I’m going to share the story behind one of the only “B”s I ever got in college. I know what you’re thinking…she’s one of those crazies. But you’ll laugh, and I’ll prove I’m not entirely stiff.
In school, I was your run-of-the-mill Straight-A-Suzy. Worked hard, played…some, but hesitantly and always with an eye on the clock. If I ever got anything lower than an A-, I would down a glass or five of wine while wallowing in self-despair and contemplating a future in plumbing or highway trash removal. Totally healthy.
Rewind to December 2006. I’m a junior, and nearing the end of my fifth semester as a music student. Consequently, I’m enrolled in 20th Century Compositional Techniques. The Algebra of music. For those of you who have ever had to take a similar class, I’m sure you’re chuckling, because only you can empathize with the feeling of utter, laughable uselessness of such a course.
The last thing I want this post to be is a slam on new music. Nor do I want to falsely portray myself as completely ignorant of the complexities of music and the depth of knowledge needed to really understand and appreciate such a broad field.
…But if there’s one thing I can say I’ve never once used as a music teacher, it’s everything from that class.
I recently went through a personal library purge and happened upon my notes from that class. Perusing them was like drunkenly reading hieroglyphs. Never done that, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it would be like. It looked like my handwriting…it smelled like my handwriting…but I’m pretty sure my evil twin wrote those things, because I seriously had no recollection of anything I learned in that room. None. Which begs the question – why did I keep those notes? I think it’s because despite its foolish irrelevance, the course content made total sense to me at the time. Figuring out inversions and matrices was kind of like doing a puzzle, and satisfied my OCD tendencies. Weird, I know. I did so well in that class that I maintained an A right up until the final exam….
So. I’m 21, a junior in music school, slightly grade-obssed, and…. Kenny Loggins is in town! WOOOOOO!
If you were born anytime after the pet rock, Kenny Loggins is the guy who sings “Footloose,” “Danger Zone,” and, my personal favorite, “I’m Alright.” Our campus happened to be a stop on his “Celebrate Me Home” Christmas tour. A fellow of mine named Ryan worked for the concert series that sponsored the event, and we shared some music classes. He e-mailed me and a handful of other music students saying that Loggins needed some local backup singers, and asked if we would perform with him. The only problem was the concert was the night before my 8am final exam in 20th Century Comp.
So did I turn it down in the quest for academic greatness? Did I choose the road not taken? Did I adhere to my ethics as a student and refuse, so as not to deter from my studious journeys? Or did I haphazardly shove my principles under the rug because YAY Christmas With Kenny?!!! That one. The latter ended up happening, if you can surmise.
And let me tell you…it was FUN. Maybe the most fun I had allowed myself to have up until that point. We creeped on Kenny’s vocal warmups (turns out, a lot of his exercises are fairly classically-based). We stalked the dressing room a bit when we weren’t onstage (he likes honey and english muffins). We rocked out in the wings during “Footloose.” I stayed up past 11:00 and did not even study one bit for the exam…whaaat?
The next day, I only felt marginally guilty that I didn’t even try to succeed on the test. I remember waking up at ass-o-clock and getting to the building before dawn so I could pop in a practice room and try, futilely, to cram-memorize the listening examples, which, if you’re at all familiar with 20th century lit, sounded like a jumbly, dissonant mess in white heat. Mostly, I recounted how fun it was to not sing classical music and just enjoy being a college student for a hot second.
I did, expectedly, end up nailing half the exam but blew the listening portion, which resulted in a grade that to this day I don’t even know what was. It couldn’t have been higher than a D. Blasphemous. I ended up with a B in the class and I didn’t cry myself to sleep. Years later, I recounted this tale to the exact teacher of the course, and all he could do was laugh and agree that he probably would have done the same thing.
It was so worth it.