Music Education: Snowballs, ice sculptures, and ice sculptures of snowballs

This a playful metaphorical reflection on what seem to be fairly periodic fluctuations in my thoughts on what it means to be building a career in academia as I’ve moved from being a graduate student to someone about to apply for tenure.

Maybe sometime you feel similarly about what you do?

Sometimes it’s felt like…

Rolling snowballs down a hill

  • Forming a core ↔ finding a purpose for my work
  • Sticking snow together ↔ puzzling over just how my interests might hang together – how they could all be packed in to a busy life?
  • Gathering momentum ↔ if I keep doing things, eventually a trajectory could emerge… right?
  • Layers rolling on top of each other with increasing mass ↔ lots of ideas and lots of productivity start to add up to a body of work — but, I start to wonder – is this work me?
  • Gaining speed down the hill ↔ happily, productivity can tend to lead to proliferation of opportunities…

Other times it’s felt like…

Ice sculpting

  • Starting with a block ↔ stepping back and taking in the field
  • Whittling an image  – which could be done with a chainsaw or with a fine chisel ↔ strategically choosing what’s important to me and those I might be able to help
  • Refining the features ↔ crafting a plan for being productive along specific aims – but, then I start to wonder… ….is this all I want to be?

But, I’m often finding myself thinking I’d like to be making…

Ice sculptures of snowballs

  • Purposefully crafting a solid object with potential for momentum ↔ Cultivating a multi-dimensional, yet related set of purposes with the potential for sustained and meaningful productivity and impact
  • Planning for layers and mass ↔ learning to live with the tensions of divergent interests and refining a flexible, yet committed, worldview regarding music, education, and scholarship – and at this point, I’m usually wondering… …is this the best me?

I’ve noticed trends where at times moving full-steam down the hill and collecting mass and momentum is the perfect metaphor for where I want to be headed. At other times, I find it necessary to step back and sculpt – to plan, steer, and set a new course. However, what I really enjoy is when speed, mass, and momentum, all seem to come together with a sense of precision steering… even if it’s for a brief moment in time.

So now that summer is around the corner and my application for tenure is on the horizon… …I’m looking forward to spending some time ice sculpting some snowballs that I can roll down the hill of 2013-2014.


Recent reading related to this post: The Trouble with Ed Schools – Labaree; My Stroke of Insight – Taylor 

People to thank: Jeff Nelsen, for convincing me that writing a blog is a good idea; Josh Russell for being a cool guy