Monday, November 4, 2013

Department Politics

woman who bears uncanny resemblance to my former slightly psycho professor

Music is music, and politics are politics, but the two occasionally overlap, I have learned.

Right now I'm taking a break in my dorm room between classes. After my last class of the day, I will go to the music department and practice the piano. It will be my first time practicing piano on campus this quarter. My professor gave me a key to his office so I can use his piano, which is a better piano than the ones in the practice rooms. Also it allows me not to have to sign up for a practice room, thus avoiding alerting the competition in advance, as I don't really need him or his professor listening in on my practice session. If either he or his professor happens to wander in the area in which I'm practice and listen in, that's the way the cookie crumbkles, but I'm not going to make it easy for them to do so. My competitor doesn't have time to officially insert one of the obscure pieces into his program as his program has already been approved and sent off to the printer, although he could use one of the two selections as an encore if he already happened to know the piece. Chances are that he doesn't know my two obscure pieces, as they're both by Billy Joel, and Billy Joel's classical works are very much underplayed. Just the same, I won't play either Billy Joel work that I'm playing in my recital on campus until the competitor's recital has taken place on Friday. I will attend his recital. I'd like to pretend I don't care, but everyone knows I do care, so I would be fooling absolutely no one by staying home but questioning everyone who did attend.

The cut-throat environment is very unpleasant and unfamiliar to me. I like all the other piano majors and wish the best for them. I actually like my rival personally, but the rivalry between the two of us went from a friendly competition to not exactly outright antipathy but very definite conflict. I place the blame more or less entirely on his professor, who was my professor as well until she made it very clear just where she stands by asking me to switch my recital date to early September, then by not taking no for an answer and using my lesson time with her for three consecutive sessions to try to persuade me to give up my November recital date even after I had told her in no uncertain terms that I was unwilling under any circumstances to give up my recital date. My fellow piano major came very close to having to take an "incomplete" grade and to re-register for a recital next quarter, which would have been a blight on his record and, even worse, would have forced him to give up his next quarter in Europe that he had previously planned. Had another student not decided that she would not be ready for her recital and cancelled with just a month to spare, thus opening a later recital date, he would have had to take the incompete, change his plans, and have his recital next quarter.

I didn't refuse to trade dates with my rival just to spite him. The date he chose was too early. He chose such an early date, on the advice of the professor, to be bold, but as the date approached, it was apparent that he wasn't ready. Had I been thoroughly prepared for a recital two months before my scheduled recital date, I probably would have traded with him. I wasn't adequately prepared to go ahead with my recital so early. I very briefly considered it, but my mom was so strongly opposed to my rushing myself when the problem really wasn't my problem that I quickly said no and refused to change my mind. The professor made it very clear who was her favored student by harassing me in effort to get me to swap recital dates. I believe she thought she could force me to trade dates by making my life miserable, but she didn't consider that she's not the only piano professor the university offers, and when a new adjunct professor was hired, I quickly signed up to study under him. There's another professor who's a nice guy but not technically a mster of his subject in my opinion, and there's my mom, neither of whom would have been ideal for me, though I would have studied under my mom had the adjunct professor not been hired. My mother totally agreed with my decision to study with the adjunct professor. My mom is good -- probably more great than good -- but she's my mother. Furthermore, she was my first piano teacher; I've probably already learned most of what I will ever learn about the piano from her.

I'm toying with approaching my competitor and telling him exactly where I stand. I'd like for us to be friendly rivals again, as it's really the professor with whom I have an issue. If I choose to do that, it will not happen until after his recital. He has more than enough on his mind right now without my crowding his thoughts. I do know, however, that anything I say to him will go directly to his professor, although what I have to say to him should come as no surprise to her. Because my words will reach the ears of the professor, and will do so sooner rather than later, I will ask my mom how she feels about my approaching my competitor, as I will be long gone after spring quarter, but my mom will still have to work with the woman long after I've moved on to the greener pastures of [I hope] medical school. Even though I am my own person and not merely an extension of my mother, I do not wish to contribute to a poor working relationship between her and a colleague.

This blog is ended. Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord and to practice, but not to the extent that you give away advantageous secrets.


  1. I remember the politics of the music department at my college. It was like a cesspool… and I bet it wasn't nearly as competitive as your school is. Do you have to even mention the prof when you approach the other guy? Just tell him you have no hard feelings toward him and don't mention the professor at all. He doesn't have to know you're upset with her.

  2. I probably don't asolutely HAVE to mention the old professor, but she's so mired into everything that any very specific statement would allude to her at the very least, though it's not mandatory that I mention her name. It would be very interesting to find out how much of what happened was the rival's idea and how much the professor took things upon herself to play the two of us against each other. My mom didn't start working in the department until last spring, but other professors have told her that the woman has always been a major player of mind games and generally a trouble maker, both with students and among other music department faculty. Even though she has greater seniority than my mom does, there's nothing she can do to negatively impact my mom's job security, as the other professor has never been placed on any committees that evaluate staff performance or make reccomendatinos concrning tenure, probably largely because the people who are in more powerful positions recognize her as the wack job she is. My mother plays and teaches much better than the woman does. I'm not sure exactly how she ever got hired in the first place. my new professor -- the adjunct professor from UCLA, who is technically a doctoral student as his degree won't be granted on paper until December, is also a much better pianist and teacher.