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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

My friends named Tim

My friends named Tim are each making some big changes. Tim Fawkes is heading off to Texas for Grad School and Tim Gray is going to focus on being a photographer. I wish them each the best of luck.

Tim Fawkes is also a writer, but not too publicly. Publicly, he is a musician. Here are a few of the wonderful things he wrote about his decision to go to UT Austin.

For the past four years I have been teaching high school music in the suburbs of Chicago. In that time I have: – Spent a week with 120 teenagers in London, and slightly shorter trips to such cultural meccas as Columbus, OH and the Crystal Lake, IL Holiday Inn – Gotten in a minor fender-bender trying to make the 40-mile drive to work, then gotten in a serious car-wreck 10 weeks later, on the same errand – Pretended to know a lot of cello fingerings (“Oh… Well, what do you guys think? Sure, third position sounds great.”) – Convinced a student that I was dating “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman – Received the following gifts: Campbell’s Soup at Hand, an electric massage thingee, two squirt guns, a first aid kit, and about 762 pounds of candy – Politely declined to be fixed up with “some nice girl” by the school secretary – Left for work as early as 1:30 a.m., and returned as late as 7:00 a.m. – Been that cool teacher who totally disregards the lesson plan so the class can discuss politics all period, or brings doughnuts to class, or wants to listen to the music the kids like – Been that a-hole teacher who didn’t tolerate their disrespect, their lack of focus, their lack of commitment – Gotten many free haircuts from the deacon of the local church (he’s good!) – Learned how to be more flexible, how to be more understanding, how to be… younger Over the past couple of years I’ve developed a pretty clear idea of what’s important to me as a musician/teacher/leader. I know that I’m a good musician, and that I thrive on performing, be it as a conductor or trumpeter (still hoping to take up the mandolin soon!). I know I want and need to get smarter, better, deeper. I’ve observed that many people, even those with lots of musical training, can’t or don’t access so much of the music that I hold so dear, whether it’s Beethoven, Mingus, or Eno. I think this has much to do with the way music is taught (and not taught) to kids; with the way musicians show themselves to the public (too many of them operate from the standpoint of, “if you don’t understand it, it’s your problem”); and with the way music (particularly classical music) is presented (i.e., in just about the most dreadful way possible). This concerns me because I want this music to continue to be around, because it has such power and beauty.

The bold type is my own editing. I really respect Tim for not selling out. He loves music the way that Mr. Nearpass loved Jazz. He wants to make it accessible to kids. This is a noble task–music shaped most of my childhood and was incredibly important. We were blessed at University School to have Mrs. Grimes and Mrs. um… Connor? I don’t remember, but we had passionate music teachers who started us young and insisted on things like pitch and trying out intrsuments. A school where it was coolest to be in BAND! Even though Mr. Humphrey was burnt out, he still kept the music flowing while I was at South.

In the end of the email, Tim includes his ideal job. Just in case someone from NPR is reading, here it is. Hire this man when he gets his PhD: If I’m really lucky, I might host the coolest public radio show ever, taking a single theme for each show and interspersing great music of all kinds with cool readings and other stuff to fit the theme.

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