Now that the conference season has wound down for me (after 5 in about 6 weeks), I have had some time to reflect on the process. And, like my colleague and friend, Megan Lavengood, I think we all benefit by speaking freely about our experiences in the professional circuit (cf. the end of her post). All told I presented at 4 conferences and attended a grad student workshop, and, in short, I’d recommend against squishing so many conferences into such a condensed time. I was utterly wiped by the last couple, and though I really appreciated the variety of feedback I got on my work from multiple places, it was simply too much.

I’ll get to my talk itself and the feedback in my next post, but I’ve come to appreciate conferences as vehicles for scholarly and professional discourse. My very first conference was the mega-SMT/AMS/SEM joint conference in New Orleans, which was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I knew almost no one, the conference was spread throughout multiple buildings, and I wasn’t even sure I’d want to stay in either music theory or academia. I went to a bunch of papers I barely understood, and asked a critical but incoherent question to a senior scholar and was immediately shot down by another senior scholar in the audience. Overall, it was less than ideal and fostered a clear sense of hierarchized proceedings and competitive discourse.

Now that I’ve co-chaired CUNY’s music grad conference, gotten to know some people in the field, and have an adequate background in music scholarship, these meetings are generally more enjoyable. But, as a recent thread in SMT-Discuss revealed, there are still a bunch of issues, especially at our big national conference. Lots of smart people brought up lots of important points in that thread, and, writing weeks after, I’m not adding much to the discussion. I’m also ignoring the selection process, which can be problematic itself, of course. But I hope my personal mini-distillation might bring some of our tiny subfield’s problems into dialogue with broader issues rumbling throughout higher ed.

Short of adopting the free beer standard of some other conferences, a couple of things I wouldn’t mind seeing. (There’s also been a lot written about making conferences more accessible in general, so I won’t rehash these valuable perspectives here, but I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with some of the ways to make presentations and meetings more inclusive and accommodating.) Continue reading