How I landed in Alabama is usually the first question people ask me when they realize I don’t have a Southern Drawl. So for all the curious people I haven’t had the pleasure of explaining myself to, this seems an appropriate first blog.
Put Simply, my family is full of artists or as I call them creative entrepreneurs. (Yes, I’m snobby about the term artists. Because we aren’t cutting off our ears or starving as the modern romantic theory would have us.) Together we cultivated a belief that I would travel and move with my career. I would blow around in the wind like seeds from a dandelion, landing where I belonged, for as long as I continued learning and growing. I, as all members of my family, was and am still encouraged to seek adventure and destiny.
So when Jacksonville State University offered me a job to teach double reeds and music history in 2007, I uprooted from my tenure track job in the high altitude mountains of Utah’s Snow College to become a seed, planted in the rich red dirt of Alabama.
It is only fair to say that I moved to Alabama with expectations. Expectations that were born and cultivated through hours of reading novels. My vision was romanticized into THE South, a land where the air and politics were thick, where people drank mint juleps and used colloquialisms daily like “give me sum sugah”.
These expectations remind me of people’s expectations about my life in THE West. Upon meeting new people I am usually asked- how did I survive and travel? At this point I look a little shocked as they reference fording rivers, hunting game and the large levels of dysentery. It appears The Oregon Trail computer game was played in schools all over the United States, not just Oregon.
Societal expectations aside (because I could go on for hours about the affinity for Football, Southern Beauty Pageants, Baptist zeal, and the phrase “bless their hearts”), I also moved to continue to grow as an artist and cultivate my sound.
I find music from each location has a unique sound (timbre) and their use of rhythm and phrasing differs based on their speech. As a society, we reference these linguistic differences by saying, “they have an accent”. My desire was to create a musical global accent, to create sounds that are universal, adaptable, and resonant with a broad audience of all cultures and backgrounds. For this reason, I have taken every opportunity that came my direction; performing in Mexico with less than 2 days notice, jumping on a bike to perform in chapels on the coast of Spain, and taking artist residencies in the wilderness of Canada. When the offer came to move to the Deep South, I believe it was the next step in adding colors and textures to my art. In my inner thoughts this sounded like, “I’m going to learn how to play bassoon with a Southern Drawl.”
The realistic follow up question is- have I learned to play with a Southern Drawl? I can only say that at my last Northern gig (about a month ago) I was asked why I had an accent, yet my students would argue I don’t sound “Suth-an”. Maybe I have landed a bit in-between, a mix of all of my global adventures. Or, as my inner thoughts say- “I’m becoming a veritable musical mutt.”
For all the creative entrepreneurs who are curious where my inspiration for this blog came from:
“Do you have the patience to wait ‘til your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving ‘til the right action arises by itself? The master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present and can welcome all things.”
-Tao Te Ching