Invading the Ivory Tower

Composer Galen Brown has posted a very sympathetic response to my “Downtown Music and Its Misrepresentations” post. His sentence, “So Downtowners should at least seriously consider mounting an invasion of the ivory tower, not for dominance but for real inclusion,” is practically a one-sentence biography of me. At a young age I realized that academia was only vulnerable to shots fired from within the walls. Of course, there are some problems with this formulation, since lots of Downtowners don’t really have college teaching qualifications – but a lot more do than you think, and many have spent decades trying to get teaching positions. Between 1984 and 1997 I applied for more than a hundred academic positions before finally getting one.

UPDATE: David Toub has also added his thoughts. In light of some of the comments made over at Sequenza 21, I have to express regret that I used above, in haste, a word I hate: “qualifications.” I clarify that I did not mean a doctorate. One of the things I’m proudest of about Bard is that we do hire faculty, especially practicing artists, without doctorates. One of the best musicians I’ve ever known, cellist Luis Garcia-Renart, just retired from Bard: he had no college degrees at all, but he studied with Casals and Rostropovich. Cage never got a college degree, nor Feldman. By “qualifications” I meant something simpler and perhaps rarer: knowledge of history, and an ability to deal with music from multiple perspectives. Experience. A gluttony for “qualifications” (in the sense of credentials) is one of academia’s great diseases.