After the Bubble Bursts: Peter Gillette

Peter Gillette

Since leaving Lawrence two-and-a-half years ago, I have realized how little I learned, but how much I learned about.
It was not my professors’ faults that I did not “learn” all that much — it was mine. As a double-degree trumpet and English major, I seemed to spend too much time practicing and rehearsing to study, and too much time studying to practice. And I had a bad Lawrentian habit that did not help matters.
And yet, I think it was a great education. I am now finishing up a master’s degree in trumpet from the University of Iowa and about to officially begin a doctorate here in historical musicology.
And now, on dozens of occasions, I have begun revisiting the books, theories and notes from “back in the day,” and they are often quite helpful to my research, or my mind’s exercising of itself.
Just three weeks ago, a medieval music professor brought up the notion of “palimpsest,” a layer of text under another. I ran across it both in a Latin course and, incredulously, geology, where Marcia Bjornerud uses palimpsest as a governing metaphor for earth as written history. Let us just say I barely passed either class, but I still “process” them.
You see, there is no reason to be in such a hurry. There are a lot of great books and gobs of great equations in the world to tackle. There is more music to learn and to perform, there are new techniques to get comfortable with and there is a whole lifetime in which to do it.
I still sometimes question why I spread myself thin. I learned the most, perhaps, from John Daniel, my trumpet professor. He approaches the trumpet through the lens of mastery, and relates everything in his life to a single-minded quest for perfection.
I learned about mastery from him, but it took me some time away from the Bubble to realize that mastery, perfection, whatever you want to call it, takes a unique combination of patience and impatience – you have got your whole life to get there, but … where are you headed right now?
Being in grad school, straddling academic and performance work, however, can make me feel like “Arrested Development’s” Buster Bluth from time to time: I will probably end up with 25 years of schooling when all is said and done. Will I have something to show for it, financially, morally, spiritually, physically?
Who knows? Who cares? There’s a credit crisis on. I will keep teaching music history to bored undergraduates one day a week and tooting my horn until it all blows over. I think I will be safe until the used-book market bottoms out.
Finally, one piece of “social” advice: Do not move with your three Hiett quadmates into a flat in Chicago, Boston, Madison or Seattle … at least not right away.
Shake off your Bubble-dentity for at least a short time, and then try to reconstruct a new life that you want. Do not get me wrong, all of my closest friends are Lawrentians, but hey – you have got to have some time to separate the wheat from the chaff.