Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Going Back to College: the oil patch, jazz on the street

After graduating from high school in 1967, I had trouble concentrating on college English and calculus and chemistry. Being away from home, with at least theoretical access to thousands of college girls, passionate about skiing, it was difficult to focus on the research paper I was supposed to write or the daily math assignments.

Later, after having lost my 4-year scholarship, I basically reinrolled in my first year of college. Without the scholarship, I paid tuition and room and board with money I earned working summers in the New Mexico oilfield. I enjoyed the work, and went back to what we called the oil patch for four summers. It was good money, earned outdoors, and it kept me in great shape. It also helped me focus on just why I was in college, learning skills that would serve me well after my body got too old for that kind of backbreaking labor.

So why should I have been surprised when my son Tom dropped out of college after his first year and headed to New York City to be a jazz musician? He spent two years playing on the streets, in the subways -- busking for his food and rent. It wasn't easy, but he got lots of practice. Finally he decided he wanted to go back to college. He enrolled in the jazz program at New York's New School University.

This time he wanted the education. This time he was focused. This time he flourished. Check out his website if you like jazz: http://www.bigbangbigband.com/live/

Integrated-studies students at UVSC fit Tom's and my profiles more often than not. They may have a few years of experience after high school. They may be working to pay for the education. They may be doing exactly what they most want to do after taking time to figure out just what that is.

For example, one of Tom's friends and fellow musician, Craig Sowbey, is an IS student here, with emphases in music and business. Craig pays for his education by running his own recording studio.

But I still haven't run into a fellow roughneck. When I do, I hope I get to be an advisor for the thesis.

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