Sometimes I Can’t Believe They Pay Me For This . . .

There are some days when I can’t believe I actually get paid to do my job. The day started with an engaging and inspiring talk by our (that is, DePauw’s) alum Bill Hayes and his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes, cast members of Days of Our Lives, continued with a fascinating presentation by my chemistry/biochemistry colleague Dan Gurnon on the life-saving genetic research he and his students are doing, and ended with seeing the riveting film Reparation, cowritten by my colleague Steve Timm and our alum Kyle Ham, who directed and produced the movie designed by another colleague, G. Duane Skoog.

While I’ve been trying to turn myself into more of a morning person (one who isn’t in the office at 10:30pm as I  am right now), at 7:30am today I set the alarm for 9:15, stuck the apnea mask back on, and had some more sleep.

Then I was at DePauw at 10:20am for our weekly School of Music recital hour. Two weeks ago, I had the honor of opening the first session of year with an improvisation, played over the students and faculty singing a drone. Last week, Dale Henderson, founder and guiding light of the international Bach in the Subways movement, the “man who inspired the world to play Bach,” (OK, lots of us played Bach before Dale, but not thousands of us in 40 countries in all sorts of unexpected places in an extended J.S. Bach birthday party), was our guest artist, and I interviewed him and led a question and answer session that left many of us inspired to find ways to bring classical music to new audiences. (Dale played all six suites in a standing-room-only performance that evening.)

I know, I’m rambling. This week, no Eric in the recital hour, except in the audience.

Two of our students, Derrick Truby and Dylan Prentice, led a fascinating and inspiring “Storytellers” session with our 1947 (!) alumnus Bill Hayes and his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes. They are best known for their roles on NBC’s Days of Our Lives (Susan since 1968, Bill since 1970), and have many other credits, including Bill’s 1955 chart-topping rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.” Charming, witty, entertaining, and inspiring, they had great rapport not only with each other but with the student hosts as well. Terrific advice for everyone on being enthusiastic, energetic, resilient and professional. I was moved when Bill reminisced about campus life in the 1940s. Women had to be in their dorms by 10:00pm on Sundays and weeknights, 11:00pm on Fridays, and midnight on Saturdays. Men–evidently with a later curfew if one at all–would gather on the front lawn of a dorm or sorority house to sing four-part harmony to the women, who, gathered on a porch, would sing back to them. We all, even the current students, seemed to feel nostalgic together, especially when Bill told us the tradition was one of the reasons he came to DePauw.

That came to an end and I ambled over to the Memorial Union Building for a Faculty Forum lunch. A couple of times a month, we have a light buffet lunch while a colleague does a presentation on their work. Today, Dan Gurnon, of our chemistry and biochemistry department, did a fascinating–well, not just fascinating but engaging and entertaining, the kind of thing that could help get a guy named the Indiana Professor of the Year–presentation on the work he and his students have been doing on diagnosing rare genetic diseases, in conjunction with the Rare Genomics Institute. After giving us a crash course in proteins, genes, and DNA, followed by a brief history of the story of DNA sequencing and how breakthroughs in technology have lowered the cost from a billion dollars to just a thousand or less, Dan showed us how he and his students can take the genetic information from a patient and their parents and pinpoint a genetic abnormality resulting from a recessive gene in both parents. He explained everything so clearly, and with such a great set of slides that you’d think he had an entire production team working for him, that despite having multitasked through chunks of his talk (trying to get someone to retrieve the backpack I’d left in the recital hall), I believe I just summarized his talk accurately.

It was the second “Oh, wow, I’m getting paid to be here” moment of the day. If every lecture was as informative and engaging and delivered with as much enthusiasm and humor as this was, they wouldn’t be going out of style.

Then it was off to teach a cello lesson–that’s so much fun (really) that I’d do it for free. (So when I’m at meetings that are truly work, I tell myself I do all the music teaching for free and I’m getting paid quite a bit to go to two or three or four or five meetings in a week.)

Tonight I attended a showing of the film Reparation, which has been winning film festival awards right and left, based on a play by my colleague Steve Timm, and cowritten by him and our 1994 alum Kyle Ham, who directed and was one of the producers of the film. Shot (gorgeously, with cinematography by Jay Silver) here in Putnam County, much of it in Greencastle and on the DePauw campus, it’s an intense drama involving PTSD and some psychic mystery. I would have been totally lost in it, except I kept recognizing locations and friends like Amy Hayes, Gigi Jennewein, Susan Anthony, and Joe Buser in small roles. In a very big role is the young Dale Dye Thomas, daughter of my colleague Ron Dye, who (not surprisingly) won the Best Child Actress award at the 2015 Breckenridge Film Festival. The production designer was G. Duane Skoog, who is the technical director of DePauw’s Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts; the fights scenes were choreographed by another colleague, Andrew Hayes.

Here’s the trailer:

OK, I didn’t actually get paid to go see the movie. The ticket was $6. And it was so good I had to come back to the office and write about it. It’s 11:40pm. So much for becoming a morning person!



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