In the summer of 2005, Jillian and I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where we were both going to attend graduate school at Florida State University. Throughout my time there, I learned so much about music theory as a discipline, and academia as a career in general. One of the things I learned early on was that jobs were relatively scarce; certainly scarce enough that being picky about where you applied for jobs would most likely leave you unemployed.
As I approached graduation, I applied for jobs across North America (In one fleeting moment I contemplated applying for a job in South Africa, which was promptly vetoed by Jillian and my better judgement). The first work I landed was as an adjunct professor at my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario, in my hometown of London, Ontario. It was a great experience, but it’s difficult to make a living on adjunct work. Shortly after graduating, I was lucky enough to get hired as a visiting professor at Ithaca College. Before I applied for that job, I probably couldn’t have pointed to Ithaca on a map. Ithaca turned out to be one of the most gorgeous and interesting places I’ve ever lived. It was a difficult year because Jillian was finishing her coursework at UWO, and we lived apart for most of the 8-month school year.
In 2012 I interviewed for a position at the University of Miami. I never thought we would move back to Florida, but when I arrived for my interview, I knew the job would be a great fit for me. I would be working with some wonderful colleagues, including another music theorist, Juan Chattah, who would become a great friend and mentor to me. The music program at the Frost School is one of a kind. The students are exceptionally talented and diverse; I’ve taught freshman music theory with concert pianists and laptop DJs in the same class, and that diversity has always been a wonderful and rewarding challenge for me.
My job at the University of Miami is a secure, permanent, renewable position. It’s a teaching-focused position (technically, I’m a “professor of practice”); I teach something close to five sections of class each semester. While I will always love teaching, as anyone in the business can tell you, teaching five sections of class per semester is a lot of teaching. Nevertheless, I’ve maintained my research profile to the best of my ability given my situation, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a more balanced teaching-research-service load. And while the position was very secure, and I’ve always felt valued, I’ve always thought about the allure of the growing-more-elusive tenure-track job, and the tenure that hopefully comes at the end of the tunnel. And in my current job, that opportunity would likely never arise.
Every year, seemingly fewer and fewer tenure-track jobs are advertised. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t applied for a few, but as I mentioned above, I’ve been very pleased and felt very secure in Miami. My colleagues are great. My students are great. Jillian and I started a family here, and even went through the process of becoming permanent residents of the United States. We became happy with the idea of putting down roots in sunny Florida. And, yet, those tenure-track job postings kept arriving in my inbox.
My friends and family outside of academia frequently ask us if we ever plan to move back to Canada. I’ve always chuckled at this question; clearly they didn’t understand the academic job market. There are exponentially more academic jobs in the United States than there are in Canada. Sure, I’d apply to a Canadian job, but I’d given up hope of ever landing one. Going on the job market is exhausting. If we ended up in a place where we felt we could settle down, we would do so. Maybe we’d retire to Canada, but I’d never be so picky. Besides, I’ve grown to love living in the US.
A few months ago I sent in an application for a tenure-track job at the University of Lethbridge, in Lethbridge, Alberta. Jillian and I laughed about the idea of moving back to Canada, her back to the province where she grew up. As you tend to do with job applications, you try to forget about them once you’ve sent them off. A few weeks later, I received a phone call from an Alberta area code. It was the University of Lethbridge. They wanted to schedule a phone interview. I did the phone interview and thought it went well, and lo and behold, a few days later, I was invited for an on-campus interview.
While I was on one of the many planes I took to Lethbridge (it’s quite a haul from Miami), I wondered about the job, about the city, and about moving back to Canada. I had never been to Lethbridge; I had no idea what I was in for. Once again, I was flying to a place I never thought I’d live or work, but that’s the way it goes. When I arrived at the school, I was immediately greeted by their wonderful faculty; my potential future colleagues. As I spent time there, meeting faculty and students, I realized that this could really be a place for me to grow as a scholar and a teacher.
Sitting in the Calgary airport, I noticed the Canadian accents all around me. I texted Jillian, telling her that even though I’d never been to Calgary (or Lethbridge), it strangely felt like home. Throughout my trip, became more enamored with the idea of raising my family in Canada.
Last week, I received an offer for a tenure-track job in music theory at the University of Lethbridge. After spending the entire weekend talking about this with Jillian and a few other friends and family, we decided that this was a wonderful opportunity for us. Today, I sent them a signed contract, officially accepting the position.
The job will offer me fantastic teaching and research opportunities; some of which I would never be able to realize in Miami. I want to reiterate, however, that this decision comes in no way as a slight to the University of Miami. “The U” has provided me with invaluable experience, and the friends we’ve met have shown us tremendous support. We will miss the gorgeous winters (well, “winters”). We will miss our friends. But we are ready to start our next adventure. We are ready to come home.