Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An Idle Degree

I graduated from the University of South Carolina in December of 1990. I remember graduation night because, compared to my high school graduation, it was rather impersonal. I remember walking across that stage as my name was called, pausing to take my diploma (or facsimile thereof), shaking hands with the presenter and walking off the stage. It was done. Four and a half years, two majors later, I was the proud owner of a baccalaureate in Music Education.

But something had stirred deep in my being during my final semester. Call it the effects of Student Teaching, but I awoke one day to the realization that my current course was steering me to a life of complete academia. One day I was a student, the next, a teacher. The sum and total of my life (professionally speaking) would equal school.

It was this epiphany that kept me working as an assistant manager for a local Blockbuster Video. This was the “glory” year: my first time out on my own in the big wide world. Earning a paycheck and paying rent, groceries and utilities. Rooming with one of my best pals and receiving free cable. Ah…life was good.

From Blockbuster, I joined the Air Force. I wanted to load bombs on airplanes (at least I thought). I became a crew chief on F-15s, and, got stationed in Okinawa Japan. Even though it was hard work, it was rewarding. It was guy work. You come home all stinky and smelly, hydraulic fluid still in your hair. And, I got to do cool stuff like help the pilot get strapped in, participate in launching and recovering a jet (you know, the waving your arms part) , refueling a jet an engine is still running. Arr! Arr! Arr! Arr!

After the Air Force, my wife was instrumental in pointing to me to my current career with computers. “Do something you love.” I was worried that I had no formal training in computer repair or programming. For the most part, it was self taught. I joke that I went to the University of Barnes and Noble, because many times I would run down there to look through one of the “dead tree” computer books for a solution (thank goodness for Google).

We home school our two daughters, Katie (8) and Megan (6). They are fortunate to have one of the best private violin teachers for a mom, and so our music appreciation is actually Violin and Piano lessons. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, and I was home. Megan and Cindy were finishing violin lesson, and I could hear some frustration over a rhythm. I asked Cindy if I could help and she let me take over. I realized what the problem was. The fist four measures of the music had a repeated rhythm pattern, but the last four were different. She was not transitioning to second pattern. Putting down her violin, I had her clap with me the pattern. I turned on the metronome and eventually made the transition. I had her then clap rhythm and sing the pitches together and then alone. Finally, she picked the violin up and played the correct pattern and we finished the piece.

Until yesterday, I never used my music degree. It may have been simple rhythms, but for me, it was dad’s integration into the home-school day that meant everything.

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