Deaf ear to tantrums, sharp eye for performance

June 22, 2007

Name : Frank Griffith

Age : 48

Job : Director of music performance and senior lecturer at Brunel University.

Salary : upper £30,000s

Practical training/education/ background : Professional musician for the past 30 years. Bachelor of fine arts from City College of New York and master of music from Manhattan School of Music.

Working hours and conditions : I work very flexibly. I’m in work three to four days a week and often arrive late ­morning/early afternoon, but I don’t leave until 11pm.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage/work with : Classes are usually between 10 and 25 students depending on the topic. There are nine other full-time music colleagues as well as a similar ­number of part-time lecturers who float and glide through
as needed.

Biggest challenge/bugbear this year : Meeting the demands of the imminent research assessment exercise submissions while teaching and marking, not to mention a separate research project looking at innovative ways of teaching and encouraging improvisation.

While the pro­ject funding bought out some of ­my teaching there was still the matter of module-leading, supervision and assessment that is unavoidable, and not feasible to delegate to others.

How you solved it
: See above answer on “working hours and conditions”. In other words, one must just get it all done.

Worst moment in university life : Coming into work (regularly) and not being able to find a parking space — on campus or on local civilian land. This coupled with paying a hefty annual fee for a parking pass.

What is your office like? It is reasonably useful and ­­com­­fortable, although our teaching facility is limited in terms of the amount of rooms and space for students to flow and flourish.
What university facilities do you use? Various cafés and eating establishments, shops and the library, of course.

Do you socialise with other people at the university? Yes, but more in a work-type setting, not in an overly merry way.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with ­professionally and how do you cope with them? Paper/penpushers who make high demands on proof of what you taught and so on. I complete the forms and try to be as pleasant, economical and civil as possible.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard : Not really bad behaviour but many student performers, especially singers, get very emotional about scoring less than a first on performance exams. To the point of trying on the tears and so on to get their mark raised.

They’ll say : “Well, I got 55 last year and my aunt in Rotherham said that I’m twice as good now as I was this time last year so…” I think that many youthful performers take it as a real insult if you mark them down for singing out of tune or getting the rhythm wrong and so on. They hold it tantamount to telling them they are not attractive or questioning their choice of hairstyle or suchlike. It is all part of the fun of ­teaching performance. They wouldn’t complain anywhere as strongly about a similar mark on an essay or composition.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university/ other departments?

Yes, lots, as I’m often asked to provide a jazz group for other department and university ­functions, conference parties and so on. Music is good that way. We played for the
Queen’s campus walkabout in May 2006 for her 80th ­birthday year.

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