Musical Contagion at Wesleyan

This week Sophie and I had dinner in Middletown and ran into a group of Wesleyan students and parents who were celebrating the end of the semester concert by the Mixolydians at the Memorial Chapel. Their laughter was contagious, and they greeted the two of us with verve. I was reminded of the joyful, adventurous singing that sweeps across our campus on a regular basis.

Speaking of joyful, adventurous music…on Tuesday I had lunch with Mark Slobin and Anthony Braxton, longtime professors of music at Wes. I’ve gotten to know Prof. Slobin over the last few years, and I wonder at his endless curiosity about the viral intersections of music with other forms of cultural production and with local traditions. He has written on music in northern Afghanistan and on klezmer, on Hollywood and on folk music, and lately authored Music at Wesleyan: From Glee Club to Gamelan. Mark is tireless in his efforts to strengthen both study and performance at Wes (and was recently appointed as the Richard K. Winslow Professor of Music).

I hadn’t met Prof. Braxton before, but I have heard him play. His pathbreaking work as a soloist, composer and teacher has been attracting audiences and students for decades. He is devoted to Wesleyan, and we spoke about the special “radiance” of the creative students who come to school here. Prof. Braxton’s energy and dedication to his craft are legendary, and I find deeply admirable his willingness to go beyond conventional musical borders. If you haven’t heard him play, you might just check out these two Youtube videos for a taste of what Anthony Braxton has to offer.

One of the joys of my job is getting together with faculty who are enlivened by the work they do. It is contagious for students…and for presidents, too!