Inside the Adjunct’s Studio|history in the making

tj davismyca jones
David Brianheath nelson
I began teaching at my alma mater autumn 2005.

Upon graduation just a year earlier, I swore I would never step foot on the campus again. Growing pains (the school had less than 1000 students when I arrived in 2000 and enrolls over 3000 today) had made my time at the University unpleasant and I was bitter. An unexpected layoff just 8 months into my post-college career left me in a job I couldn’t find fulfillment in and very little face-time with any music. I figured teaching would be a great motivation to hone my chops and keep me thinking about the choices I was making regarding technique and the music I was playing. The market for private instructors in my area is quite weak and I had little hope of sustaining a studio outside of adjuncting at the University from whence I came (which never really had an electric bass specialist during my academic career).

Long story short is I am here and I really enjoy working with my students. This is my 4th semester and I’ve moved from two students for 4 credit hours to seven students at 17 (!) credit hours. At present, I only have one music major; the other students are music minors or hobbyists. I am blessed to have students who are willing to try anything (for the most part). My electric bass technique is similar to that of Todd Johnson or Gary Willis and it is a big shock at first to use the floating thumb technique or maintain consistent finger-per-fret spacing, but most are willing to try it, which is all I ask.

I even have students willing to try double bass and loving it!

SEU Bass Studio Spring 07 002
The thing I do not like is the facilities. As a student, I had (gasp!) my own practice room. “The Bass Room” was reserved for bassists and bass equipment and, when I became the only bass major on campus after a year, the room became my private practice space. During my year away from the University, the practice rooms moved to a former housing area named Spence Hall and, aside from new carpet, they are pretty much as they were when people called them “home” (A good music student will still call it “home”). We even have bathrooms and closets!

SEU Bass Studio Spring 07 004The growing school means a growing faculty and the studios (in another building) reserved for adjuncts were converted into full-time faculty studios, which means adjuncts have to teach in the practice rooms. All I can say is that every time the construction of a Performing Arts Center gets pushed back, a little piece of me dies. As you may or may not be able to see, there are very large gaps at the bottoms of the (hollow) doors, meaning the hallway (and other rooms) are nowhere near isolated from the cacaphony of practicing students. Yes, I know many schools are like this, but it feels much different when you have to teach in the middle of it. Add to that the fact that someone had the idea of covering the walls in foam to alleviate the noise bleed. Unfortunately, this isn’t Auralex we’re talking about, but egg-crate foam. You know, the stuff college students put on top of their plastic matress? yep. It did nothing but kill a lot of reverb, leaving the room dead, but loud.
SEU Bass Studio Spring 07 001
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SEU Bass Studio Spring 07 008
At least I have a very nice view (and the glass, when I open the blinds all the way, helps breathe life into the sound). The room is large and would be ideal, if I could leave an amp, desk, and bookshelf there (with the books and accoutrements to go with them) in the room, but the room is accessible to all music majors. To be fair, the PAC is in the works. The only problem is the plans call for it to be built on land currently being occupied by a retirement village.

The best thing about the University is the influx of talented, enthusiastic instructors from some of the best schools in the nation. I am thrilled to work next to outstanding musicians and excellent human beings,

I know I’ve got it way better than Jason Heath and am not looking forward to leaving this gig some day.

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