Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


[Ed. Note: this post is adapted from a few lines of text that I posted on Facebook yesterday. I honestly don’t know what the subject of this post would think of that, if he were here to hear about it.]


On Monday, I got an eMail from Boston University, and it wasn’t a desperate request for alumni giving. By the time I read the first couple of sentences, I kinda wished it had been.

To the wide community of the School of Music,

A great spirit has left us, Professor Emeritus Joel Sheveloff. He died peacefully last night with his family at his side.”


I don’t have nearly as many Joel Sheveloff stories as many of my BU comrades probably have. I was not a musicology major; the majority of my time at BU’s School for the Arts was spent dealing with secondary music education methods – the unsticking of valves, and the managing of adolescents.

But Sheveloff’s “Music of the Baroque Era” was my very first grad-school class (aside, perhaps, from BUMB band camp?). He set the bar kinda high.

Amazingly, many years later, when we chanced to cross paths, he knew exactly who I was. Which, considering the number of graduate and undergrad students he’d dealt with in his career – and the relatively microscopic role I played in his career as a teacher – was entirely extra-credit, as far as I was concerned. I was just very pleased.

I suppose that’s the best story I could tell.

But my experience in his class was – the topic, and the need to earn a decent grade, aside – characterized by a great deal of enjoyment, because he was one of those teachers whom you’d remember for all the right reasons. He cared about his subject. He cared about his students. He had a healthy disregard for kow-towing to the establishment; but he wasn’t nasty about it. And he loved to tell a joke, and remain utterly deadpan doing it … except when he knew the joke he’d dropped had detonated properly, at which moment there was this little bitty tiny upward tick of a smile, and a knowing look out at the shrapnel.

My favorite story would be this one, one which I have delighted in telling and re-telling:

In addressing “The Messiah” during that Baroque Era class, Dr. Sheveloff noted that Handel’s first language was not English. His proof:

[1] the scansion and emphases in what he called the Golf Ball Chorus: “FORE!! unto us a child is born…” …

… and [2] the peculiar rhythmic content of “All We, Like Sheep, Have Gone Astray”. To demonstrate *that*, he sang, “All We Like Sheep! I like sheep … you like sheep … all! God’s! children! like! Sheeeeeeep!!”

I have still not stopped giggling, twenty autumns later.


November 11, 2015 Posted by | arts, current events, education, music, news, teachers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace on Earth, … Oh, Never Mind

I’ll keep this relatively brief – partly because some time ago I blogged about this subject and there are some topics I’ll repeat myself about, happily … and others about which I wish I didn’t feel the need to write at all, never mind again and again.

By now, if you’re anywhere online, you’ll have noted that last week, when the Starbucks coffee empire decided to make its coffee cups red (instead of the usual green) in recognition of the upcoming holidays, a small subset of our great nation lost their minds.

In short, the “controversy” appeared to surround the fact that there wasn’t a specific message or image to indicate that those particular “holidays” were in fact the ones that Christians celebrate. (There’s a tiny debate in MY mind about how certain of those Christians celebrate certain of those holidays, which I’ll get to.)

Of course, as is their custom, the pretend cable channels that broadcast pretend news have stepped in to help amplify the Losing of the Minds.

Those non-journalists have once again invoked the now age-old chestnut to describe any tiny little perceived lack of respect toward this most traditional of holidays in this most traditional of religious traditional faiths. Yes indeed, we have again seen the annual arrival of The War On Christmas.

It turns out that the impetus for this most reason strain of the War On Christmas Virus was a rant ‘n’ rave session by a fellow from Arizona.

Joshua Feuerstein, who identifies himself as an “American evangelist, Internet and social media personality” on his website, posted a video on Facebook about the Starbucks cup that has been shared nearly 500,000 times. In the video, the Arizona-based Feuerstein says he told baristas in a Starbucks that his name was Merry Christmas so they would write Merry Christmas on the red cup. “I think in the age of political correctness we’ve become so open minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Feuerstein says in the video. “I decided instead of simply boycotting, well why don’t we just start a movement.” … “I’m challenging all great Americans and Christians around this great nation, go into Starbucks and take your own coffee selfie. … Let’s start a movement and let’s call it, I don’t know, hashtag Merry Christmas Starbucks,” said Feuerstein, who also said in the video that he wore a Jesus Christ shirt and took a gun into Starbucks with him, “since you [Starbucks] hate the 2nd amendment.”

Oh. I get it now. This is only tangentially about the Yuletide, and much more about a fellow who likely suffered from a dearth of parental attention as a kid, or who perhaps feels the need to compensate for some other lack in his life.

And about a fellow whose interpretation of that Second Amendment to the US Constitution roughly boils down to “my right to have guns trumps any other consideration anywhere anytime”. Considerations like other people’s safety, security, well-being, and sometimes their very lives.

As the astute Charlie Pierce puts it, “Because nothing says ‘Peace on Earth, good will to men’ like a pest in a Jesus shirt coming into a coffee shop strapped.”

Meanwhile, it can’t be a coincidence that the media people who this year and every year drive or amplify the War On Christmas idea into American skulls, do so using the terms “war on…” and “assault on…” It just can’t. The terminology of terror has been proven persuasive. (Friends, it’s exactly that; and you cannot convince me, after all these years of post-9/11 alert-level colors, that it ain’t.) The language of violence gets people’s attention like no other language.

Also, and more sweepingly, the media amplification systems do their thing in a way that makes them (as well as the yahoos whose yahoo-ism they prop up) seem blind to the basic Scriptural underpinnings of that most traditional of holidays … and toward making a buck off of other people.

Which is kinda the point of some people’s take on Christianity in the first place.


P.S. Me, I think if there were really a War on the Christmas that a lot of these people celebrate, it would take the form of a massive boycott of all holiday shopping activities.

November 11, 2015 Posted by | current events, news, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment