It’s been a good week in independent land. Late last week I got news that my proposal to present a paper at next spring’s annual conference of the Society for American Music was accepted. This is new research, and I’m delighted to be able to share my ideas with my SAM colleagues. (The title, for those who might be interested: “Sing out, Brother! Zilphia Horton’s ‘Unfinished’ CIO Songbook”.) I’ll be giving a similar paper this fall at the joint meeting of the American Musicological Society and Society for Music Theory supported by (and here’s more good news) an AMS Membership and Professional Development Travel Grant. I am extremely grateful for the travel grant. These are reserved for conference attendees who have little to no financial support to attend conferences, a perk I gave up when I resigned my position. It’s a way for the AMS to support Independent Scholars (and others).
The fall conference, which will be in Milwaukee, will be my first conference as an Independent Scholar. I’ll have a city instead of a school as my name tag affiliation. I’m sure I’ll be bombarded with questions, such as “why did you give up tenure?” “What are you doing now?” “Are you still writing?” These will be in addition to the traditional scholarly greeting: “what are you working on these days?” And I’ll happily answer and will return the question. Because we don’t go to conferences just to hear the formal research presentations. In fact, more seasoned conference goers pace themselves and only go to a few papers each day, if any! (Rookie mistake: at my first AMS conference, I went to 19.5 papers. Why the .5? Because I hit the proverbial wall in the last paper and had to sit in a dark room for a few hours to recover.) We (I?) go to conferences for the informal learning, the one-on-one discussions about the things that inspire us to write and urge us to keep learning. And there’s also the reunion element. Once you’ve been through grad school, you become part of a network of people that go back to conferences every year. The entire event is one big “HEY!!! HOW ARE YOU!!!” greeting. It’s possible to get stuck in front of the registration table or book exhibit for infinity hours. (Apropos, see this recent blog post by Katy Hamilton, discussing her recent conference adventures.) If anything, I anticipate enjoying conferences even more now, since I won’t have the benefit of a constant scholarly community at work every day. But I sure will have writing projects to talk about!