About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.
In addition to directing award-winning bands in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, Andrew Mast is an astute observer of history.
The Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music and director of bands stepped up to organize the Jan. 15 recital that helped launch the year-long celebration of the 175th anniversary of Lawrence’s founding. He did so in part because he has been fascinated by the school’s rich history ever since he arrived on the Conservatory faculty in 2004. The recital featured faculty, students, and alumni performing pieces composed in or near 1847 or composed by Lawrentians.
History—musical or otherwise—helps inform and inspire Mast’s teaching at Lawrence.
When he’s not directing the Lawrence Wind Ensemble and the Symphonic Band, he might be found teaching a course on band history. Or a course in First-Year Studies. Or he might be pursuing his interest in the Vincent Persichetti Society, an organization he co-founded that is dedicated to the work of the prolific 20th-century American composer.
Then again, he might be seeking inspiration on a long motorcycle ride through the Wisconsin countryside. That, too, is a passion.
Mast, who earned bachelor and doctorate degrees from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, is a past recipient of Lawrence’s Freshman Studies (now First-Year Studies) Teaching Award in 2011 and the Young Teacher Award in 2009.
We caught up with Mast to talk about interests in and out of the classroom:
In the classroom
Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?
My mother was Scandinavian and my father was raised Amish, resulting in a hyper-attenuated sense of modesty that precludes me thinking very much about what others should know about me. I would hope that it doesn’t take long for students in my classes and ensembles to get the sense that I care about them as people and try not to take myself too seriously.
Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?
Perhaps it’s cliché, but every rehearsal energizes and excites me. I’ve been fortunate to take the Wind Ensemble to regional and national conferences, do recording sessions and work with world-renowned performers and composers, but I just love the “daily-ness” of working with Lawrence students in a collaborative way.
Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?
So many come to mind, but I distinctly remember guest-conducting in the Czech Republic commemorating that region’s liberation from the Nazis after World War II. This was during the early years of the Iraq War when there was so much turmoil about that conflict, but being reminded of a time when American forces had been part of something so (nearly) unambiguously noble was truly heartening. The combination of music and politics was perfect.
Out of the classroom
This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?
My usual answer to that question is that I’d be teaching something else—probably English or history—but if you’re going to kick me out of the classroom altogether, I would run a motorcycle touring company. Or sell motorcycles. Or find a way to earn money riding motorcycles that didn’t involve going ludicrously fast on them.
Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?
The stage of the Memorial Chapel, hands down. Whether for an evening concert or during an afternoon rehearsal when sunlight is streaming in through the stained-glass windows, I never fail to have a catch-my-breath moment at the sheer beauty and palpable karma of the place.
One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?
So many of each I’d love to share, but here goes:
Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig—the combination of father/son narrative, middle-brow philosophical inquiry, and depiction of motorcycling combines in one of the few books I’ve re-read multiple times and love it.
Recording: Uff da. You’re asking a musician, so this is a tough one, but I’d have to say Moving Pictures by Rush. All I know is that if I’m ever in a coma and I don’t respond to Tom Sawyer, go ahead and pull the plug because there’s nothing going on inside.
Film: Since it’s that time of year, I’ll say Groundhog Day. This isn’t the greatest movie of all time but I’ve loved it each of the 100 times I’ve seen it. Sly commentary combined with Bill Murray’s goofiness makes me laugh and think every time.