Our far flung correspondents: Delaware reporting in post-AMS
Hi. I suppose that most this blog’s followers don’t know who I am, so I’d like to take just a few of my “1,000 words or less” and introduce myself. My name is Rebecca; I’m senior—read: undergrad. I go to school in Delaware.
I’m writing to disseminate my thoughts on being a first-time AMS conference attendee in the age of Twitter and academic hipsterism.
The San Francisco AMS meeting was indeed my first national conference. I’m incredibly grateful to my institution’s music department for awarding me a decent amount of funding to help offset the cost of flying across the country and staying in a swanky hotel. I more-or-less attended the conference alone; I didn’t know anyone who had less than ten years and 3 degrees on me. I had also never been to San Francisco. Going to AMS meant a lot of “firsts.”
(Here’s the part where I talk about the things I’m supposed to pretend didn’t happen:)
I was incredibly nervous leading up to the conference. In preparation, I packed my suitcase a full week early, wrote several versions of an “elevator pitch” describing my thesis, and frequented department websites in order to match faculty names, faces, and research projects. I even wrote out the entire BART schedule for Thursday afternoon, and made sure to have exactly $8.10 to make the trip to the Hyatt. I convinced myself that everything had to be perfect to survive the conference.
I quickly learned that papers are the glue that holds the meeting together, but more celebrated conference traditions include meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and drinking lots of coffee. Since I have no musicological “old friends,” I relied on a few individuals to help me meet new ones. The conference Buddy Program is an excellent resource; I was lucky to be matched with Amusicology’s own Ryan Raul Bañagale, who served as living proof that musicologists at my school aren’t the only human musicologists out there. (By the end of the conference, I realized that pretty much everyone is a real person, but more on that later.) If I can impart any wisdom upon future first-time conference attendees, I’d strongly encourage participation in the Buddy Program. I’m also going to name names and thank my advisor/mentor/professor/more-than-occasional therapist Phil Gentry and my former professor Charles Carson for always being around when I wanted an introduction and for making sure I was surviving the conference. I could go on with more thanks to more people, but that’s not the point…
It turns out that AMS is exactly my scene. Pardon my gushing, but I found it incredibly refreshing to spend a weekend being around brilliant, kind people who share my otherwise fringe-interests. This may be old news to most of the community, but I found myself amazed by the scope of thought represented at the conference. I find it hard to believe Michael Jackson and C.P.E. Bach can be examined at the same conference, within a single discipline. Isn’t the diversity wonderful? I certainly think so.
I’ll admit that I was afraid of meeting all sorts of people who I had been hearing and reading about from the safety of my own anonymity. It shouldn’t have surprised me that the people I met were as interested in talking to me as I was in talking to them. It also shouldn’t have surprised me that I could actively participate in the conference through Twitter, which served as an equalizer. I’m only a “little undergrad,” but I comfortably held my own on Twitter. I tweeted, I replied, I re-tweeted, I got re-tweeted. Twitter made the conference feel cozy, and it was just another way I felt welcomed into the musicological community. It also made the hour-and-a-half business meeting Saturday night far more entertaining than it should have been for a somewhat clueless newbie like myself. The best part is that it didn’t feel rude; it actually enhanced the scholarly content of the conference. Go figure. In general, the musicology Tweeting/blogging world has really helped humanize a discipline that could otherwise seem incredibly daunting.
In his recent post in Amusicology, Ralph Locke mentions the “many, many papers by grad students.” I get the sense that this is something of a criticism, implying he would like to see more papers from more senior scholars. I also noticed the abundance of papers given by graduate students, but I saw it as an inspiration. If they can do it and do it well, I’ll be able to do it, too! Seeing so many student papers at the national conference makes the field seem welcoming to the scholastically green, and therefore open to new ideas. I’ll also say that there was no shortage of papers by senior scholars; I applaud the program committee for achieving what I see as a healthy balance. I’m admittedly clueless to the programming politics, but I’m impressed by the end result.
I’d like to wrap up by thanking musicologists across the country, in varied stages of their careers, for fostering a welcoming environment. I had a fabulous time at the San Francisco conference, and I’m looking forward to a lifetime of future conferences.