Some assorted thoughts about working from home the last half of the semester

In no particular order

We had like a thousand high school students in the music building at NDSU right before spring break. I had just flown in from Nashville at the beginning of March. Knowing what we know now, that’s kind of terrifying.

We had a pretty good warning that classes would move online, and I spent one evening writing a disaster plan for what I’d do if my teaching went online. Within ten minutes of NDSU announcing that we’d continue with online classes, my students had a copy of that plan in their inbox. I’m kind of proud of that.

The fact that the plan changed multiple times after I sent it is less impressive.

I planned on teaching from school, until over spring break I watched the cases in ND jump from 1 to 6 to 15 within a day. I quickly discovered where my comfort zone is.

I spent part of spring break shopping for new components for my studio computer. I did not spend spring break measuring my studio computer to see if those components would fit. I spent the next week shopping for a new computer case.

For spring break and the next couple of weeks, I had the worst sort of writer’s block. Most of my projects had evaporated or were delayed, and I didn’t have any real deadline. Some of my attempts to get rid of writer’s block involved trying to write bluegrass clarinet music (I failed) and setting government proclamations about COVID-19 to music (I didn’t fail, and that’s somehow worse).

I read a lot of words about how if you weren’t taking advantage of this opportunity to stay distraction free and work on your own projects then you weren’t doing it right. I also read a lot of words saying that if you weren’t actively grieving then you weren’t doing it right. I read a lot more words where people argued with each other about it.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how we metabolize and process events like this. Some of us need projects and distractions. Some of us need comfort and connection. There is no single right answer.

I spent some time thinking about how the above applies to education and teaching, and about how I can make my courses more customized, especially if we’re still online in the fall. I also thought about how in developing a career in music, there is no single right answer.

I think we’ll be online in the fall, despite our best efforts, and I’m planning my courses as such. An online class can be transitioned to classroom learning much easier than a face-to-face class can be transitioned online in no time. Worst case scenario, I spent this summer making resources that supplement my classroom teaching.

After all, never let a crisis go to waste (thanks Scott Meyer for that).

I have no idea how 189 (Skills for Academic Success) is going to become an online class.

I’ve been trying to create distractions for myself and my students. At NDSU, we’ve been having composition contests and an online creativity book club. At VCSU, we’re planning for our annual composer’s concert–all online.

I started an orchestra piece in 2015, but wasn’t good enough to finish it, and was fortunate to realize it at the time. By the time I got good enough to finish it, I didn’t have the time. This semester, I’ve had both for the first time, and I’ve written about eight minutes of orchestra music. Some of it is really good. The rest of it will be.

I remembered, for the umpteenth time, that my creativity is all-or-nothing: Either I have multiple projects, or I have zero. Picking up some coding projects kickstarted my reading and composing. I reinvented AudioAtlas and uploaded the code via Bitbucket.

I finished Ray Dalio’s Principles, Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul Craft, and Scott Kaufman’s and Lindsey Gregoire’s Wired to Create. I’m working my way through Robert Greene’s Mastery and re-reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.

I’ve ordered from Amazon less in the past two months than at any other time in my life since getting a prime membership. And I don’t miss it. I’ve ordered from SheetMusicPlus like three times already. I also discovered that you can buy online from Ace Hardware, and that changes everything.

I bought stamps. I didn’t need stamps, but I needed to buy stamps.

I remembered podcasts are a thing.

I set up our home media server, my new computer, and the NoteForge Backup Server to contribute to Folding At Home, which is a distributed computing platform for protein folding. One of their projects right now is COVID-19.

It’s been nice not being in the music building until 9 every night.

Like most of the world, I’m very much in need of a haircut.

My seasonal allergies are awful this year.

Kyle Vanderburg