Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Week of Classes

In the planning stages of our move to Dallas, I received three or four emails from the university with various dates and times of MANDATORY events I had to attend in my first two weeks on campus. I put them all on one big schedule (because I'm compulsive that way) and have spent the last two weeks trying to survive it. The diagnostic exams were no small part of that, and I'm happy to report that I got through those with favourable results (like that Canadian spelling?). The schedule I wrote out didn't reflect the fact that classes also happened to start halfway through it, so – I've been running around quite a bit.

On Monday I went and found the Perkins bookstore, which is in the basement of Bridwell Library (a smaller library associated with Perkins). The store is called Cokesbury and is actually a chain – it is the bookstore of the United Methodist Church. Our Perkins books are there, and my books for Meadows classes are at the Barnes and Noble down the way – which doubles as the SMU bookstore. When I went to get books there, I picked up a couple of items of SMU paraphernalia – I'm told school spirit is way big down here. Only they just call it "spirit", and I guess I could have skipped buying a SMU shirt, because everywhere I've turned this week there has been a free t-shirt of some kind. But I digress.

I only have one class on Mondays, called "Introduction to the Organ". It could also be referred to as "Organist Psychology 101" – it's a class for us choral MSMs to take to help us talk intelligently to organists. The professor is Dr. Larry Palmer, who told us an anecdote that he was once told by a conductor in front of the whole orchestra that the organ sounded "too Protestant", and he hopes to make us better communicators than that!

Tuesday was filled with classes, the most exciting of which being Conducting I, which is taught by Dr. Pamela Elrod. She seems very sharp – and she brought brownies for us. Major points there. She talked to us about doing score analyses where we "map" the piece of music we are preparing to conduct out on a kind of timeline, which is very cool and appeals to every nerdly impulse I have. As a consequence of taking this class, I would like to report that I have ordered my first-ever baton – stand by for how I do with that!

On Tuesday evening all the MSMs (first- and second-years) were invited to Dr. Hawn's house for a dinner and – of course! – rehearsal. It was great to get to chat with all the people in my programme together – less than a dozen of them in total. We all make up a fairly diverse palette of Christian experience, with United Methodists, Presbyterians (U.S. and Canada), Catholics, and Episcopalians. Those that are from the same denominations come from differing geographical locations – Antigua being the most far-flung example. The informal rehearsal in preparation for Thursday's "Feast of Beginnings" chapel service was my first chance to hear the MSMs singing together – what a sound. Sadly, I didn't get to sing with them at the service because I had a class. Drat!

On Wednesday we had a sort of welcome assembly for Meadows students in the very snappy Caruth Auditorium, which houses one of two 2-million-dollar organs at Meadows. Dr. Palmer played an amazing piece on it to begin the meeting, which later concluded with a performance by the Meadows Wind Ensemble. They were actually more of a brass group – is it lame I was expecting flutes and recorders? They were incredible.

On Thursday during my Intro to Graduate Studies class – which is really a research methods class geared towards music students – we got acquainted with the resources at the Hamon Arts Library at Meadows. I ran over after class and got in on the last twenty minutes of chapel (singing my part from the back of the room!) and ended up, by coincidence, taking communion side-by-side with David, who was all robed up and singing with my classmates. We got a free pizza lunch, and later a free barbecue dinner courtesy of our residence – our kind of day. Thursday was also our first meeting of Church Music Colloquium, which all the MSMs take together and which is taught jointly by Drs. Hawn and Anderson. And yes, we had the infamous quiz on the syllabus – I did well enough, but in the end it wasn't to be graded. Not sure whether to laugh or cry over that one.

On Friday, I had Interpretation of the Old Testament. I'm looking forward to the chance to take an in-depth look at the Bible in this way, and lucky for me I ended up in a very small section with only seven students. The prof, Dr. Scholz, is brand-new to SMU and seems very interesting. It will be heavy on the reading of course – but that's why I'm here.

I had the afternoon off, so David and I biked over to the local small movie theatre (the Angelica) and saw an absolutely incredible movie – "Man on Wire". It's a documentary about Phillipe Petit, the tightrope walker who covertly and illegally strung a cable between the World Trade Centre towers and walked across. I really recommend you find it and see it – it's a deeply moving film.

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