This week I will travel to Richmond, VA to be a Senior Faculty Mentor at a Junior Faculty Symposium sponsored by the Popular Music Study Group of the American Musicological Society. That’s a mouthful. Here’s a longer, but clearer, explanation. Scholars who work in popular music studies are still relatively underrepresented in musicology. And while this may or may not be factually true (I haven’t run the numbers), it at least still feels true that pop music scholars have a more difficult time landing academic jobs because we/they have to legitimize our field of study to be taken seriously. Earnest (and awesome) members of the American Musicological Society (arguably our flagship organization) founded a Popular Music study group a few years ago (see http://www.ams-net.org/studygroups/pmsg/), and have been busy sponsoring conference panels, building facebook pages (see https://www.facebook.com/AMSpop), etc. And this week we will celebrate a first: a several-day symposium dedicated to mentoring junior faculty and graduate students who work in pop music. (Big shout out to Eric Hung for putting this together!) The idea is for those of us who have more experience in writing, teaching, and landing full-time jobs to pass on some wisdom to help the next gen of scholars.
Here’s the interesting bit: it’s called a Junior Faculty Symposium and I am a Senior Faculty Mentor without a Faculty position. To be sure, when I was first asked to join this workshop, I DID have a full time, tenured position. I taught at a public university for ten years. Got tenure there. Served on (way too) many committees there. Learned much from my students there. Developed administrative chops there. And, of course, I wrote there: I published my first book and nearly finished a second; finished and submitted several scholarly articles; traveled the country giving talks; did the conference circuit, etc. In short: I was a productive faculty member and have plenty of insight to share with the newbies.
Except I’m not a faculty member anymore (by my own choice) and my dedication to academia is not what it once was. I don’t yet have a clear post-academic path I can point to as a model. So this week I will be mentoring from the fence: here’s what I did and wouldn’t do again; here’s what I hope to do next. But now I’m the newbie all over again.