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 | , , , , , , , ,

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