I cleaned out my office today. A small room in a strange building that has been on the university’s “condemned” roster for at least a decade. A building that used to house crappy apartments, brought into the fold long before my time to serve as offices for the music education department. The Annex. When I arrived in 2011 the music education graduate students had offices on the second floor, with the faculty on the third. A year or two later and the faculty were moved back to the music building. We were moved to the third floor and the musicology grad students took over the second floor. What about the first floor? No one knows the entire answer to that question. Some random marching band storage, the OPE music library, at least one random office that no one seems to enter or leave, probably a wardrobe to Narnia. Suffice it to say that its a weird place—crumbling stairways, leaky windows, a ‘conference table’, questionable stains on the carpet, piles of discarded office furniture, random closets full of personal items from long-gone graduate students, empty tall filing cabinets, empty short filing cabinets, filing cabinets (and a bathroom closet) filled with irreplaceable artifacts from the history of music education, echoes of so many ideas, and lots of memories.
Each book I packed away brought back a different memory or emotion. Snippets of a conversation with a colleague, a vision of a particular classroom where I first encountered an author, the excitement of making a connection between ideas. Moving my files out of the cabinet I ran across group projects with people who I haven’t spoken to in years, notebooks from my first days as a master’s student, scribblings of ideas that fizzled, and some that follow me to this day. Chord charts from ukulele sing-a-longs, conference programs, IRB applications, photocopied articles, each one indexed to a rich experience that shaped who I have become. I didn’t know what I would become when I moved into that first office five years ago and hung my newly made ukulele on the wall above the hideous and comfortable new chair.
I’m grateful for the meals and conversations with friends around these tables, though I wish they had been more frequent. I’m grateful too for the photos on the wall that remind me of the rich past of this place, though I wish I had learned more. For the stacks of music education aptitude tests around the corner, for the random books on shelves inscribed by some of the great minds in our field. Change is a constant. There are those who might lament how things have changed in this strange building, in this strange profession. Others celebrate such changes as progress, righting the wrongs done by those who have gone before us. I know I’ve changed in this dusty, odd-smelling, and very special place. I’m too deep in the quagmire of my dissertation to thing more specifically about this topic at the moment, but I can say that each word I write or thought I think throughout the rest of my career will be influenced in no small part by my years shared with good people in this building.