Title: Assistant Professor of Music
Degree: Ph.D., music history and literature, University of California, Berkeley; B.A., music, Bowdoin College
What brought you to Hood College?
Two primary factors brought me to Hood: first, I was eager to teach in a small liberal arts setting, as I myself attended a small liberal arts school as an undergraduate and considered it a transformative experience. Second, Hood is reasonably close to Washington, D.C., where my wife, who works in the legal profession, has many career opportunities.
What do you value most about your relationship with students?
Especially with my music majors, I value the sense of discovery my students and I share when we talk about pieces and composers. Most students are accustomed to listening to music as an aesthetic experience rather than as an historical endeavor. When they are asked to do the latter, students are often astonished to find that certain pieces with which they may already have been familiar still have things to offer them. That moment of discovery, when they realize there is more to piece than the sheer sonic pleasure of listening to it, is reciprocal: to see my students experience it causes me to experience it as well. It is that moment of discovery that I value the most.
Why is teaching your dream job?
Teaching is one of the relatively rare jobs where one's education never ends. When I design a new course, I have to learn about material I might not otherwise have taken the time to research. And even when I am teaching things about which I'm already familiar, students always find new ways to digest the material, which is a learning experience for me as much as for them. I consider myself very lucky to work in a profession in which the opportunities for intellectual growth are limitless.
If you were to consider another career, what would you consider and why?
If I were not teaching, I would probably seek an administrative position at an arts or performing organization (e.g., a local orchestra). Ideally I would be involved with some form of outreach and education—writing program notes, giving pre-concert lectures, etc. This appeals to me not simply because I want to bring the arts to a wider population (though that is noble enough) but also because it would enable me to continue researching the repertoire. Also, I have strong beliefs about how classical music should be pitched to the wider public (beliefs that lie outside the scope of this question!).
Describe your approach to teaching.
Since music—like any other form of art—is a creative act, students often have a difficult time adjusting to the notion that it can be scrutinized in an academic way. At the beginning of each semester I am careful to point out that musical works can tell us just as much about history as a war or a political doctrine does, and that our job in a music class is to treat compositions as historical artifacts rather than as sources of personal aesthetic pleasure. I do not think it is my aim to teach students why a piece of music is beautiful; I think it is my aim to teach students how a piece of music is a reflection of human values and to think about what these values say about the culture that produced them. In my opinion, this approach epitomizes the critical thinking that a liberal arts education tries to instill, because it requires students to consider cultural artifacts from perspectives that lie outside their own assumptions and prejudices.
Describe your academic interests and research?
My principal academic interest is French music of the 19th and 20th centuries with special attention to music's interaction with French intellectual culture (philosophy and aesthetics, history and politics, etc.). My research focuses as much on music's consumers as music's producers—that is, not simply the people composing the music but also the people listening to it. I study what French people listened for when they evaluated music (i.e., what they valued in music), and speculate about how these values reflect the culture of their time.
When you aren't working, what are you doing in your spare time?
When I'm not working, I'm working! Much of my time not spent teaching, grading or lesson planning is spent researching and reading about history and music. Outside of academic work, though, I play European board games and have recently taken up origami.
Name three books that you would recommend everyone read:
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