Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Delving into the motivations behind the melody

“At Redlands, there’s a prevailing sentiment that everyone has something to contribute to a particular performance or endeavor, and that has been really valuable to me,” says Professor Katherine Baber, who is the Mozley Endowed Salzburg Director.

Professor Katherine Baber is intrigued by questions of identity in American music, particularly how different music styles pass between subcultures and are often politicized. The musicologist is particularly interested in the works of composer Leonard Bernstein and the ways in which he influenced the definition of American music both here and abroad.

In 2019, Baber explored both concepts in her book Leonard Bernstein and the Language of Jazz, an outgrowth of her doctoral dissertation. There's a long tradition of Jewish musicians drawing on the African American music, she explains, and Bernstein drew heavily on jazz to formulate his idea of American identity.

Although Baber enjoys conducting research, she also finds great joy in teaching. Being in the classroom is like performing in a chamber ensemble, which I used to do. As an instructor, you’re working in tandem with your students to achieve a common goal—it’s like having a conversation.”

Baber has taught music history courses at Redlands for the past 10 years, exploring subjects from the symphony after Beethoven to the music of the 20th century. My interests are wide-ranging,” she explains. “I worked in academic publishing at Indiana University Press while completing my dissertation, and had the chance to cover an array of topics in the humanities, which I enjoyed."

The ability to remain a generalist is one of the things that Baber most appreciates about Redlands. In fact, she is currently stretching her wings in the University’s program in Salzburg, Austria, as the Mozley Endowed Salzburg Director. Although the semester has been disrupted by COVID-19, she recently published the first of a two-part blog for the Botstiber Institute of Austrian-American Studies about the special conditions of the Salzburg Festival this summer, which is one of few such events going on during the pandemic.

“There’s a strong liberal arts emphasis and interdisciplinary attitude towards pedagogy [at the U of R] that really suits me,” she observes. 

An attitude of flexibility and open-mindedness is something that Baber and other Redlands faculty seek to cultivate in students as well. “We try to teach students to be flexible about what their careers can look like, and we underscore the importance of collaboration,” she notes.

And, if students show an interest in pursuing a career in musicology, Baber goes out of her way to help them find a research area, craft a project, and/or gain admission to graduate school. “Caitlin Carlos, one of the first people I mentored into graduate school, is finishing her Ph.D. in musicology at UCLA and is now a visiting professor teaching music history at U of R while I’m in Salzburg,” she says with delight.

Baber finds mentoring students who readily embrace the subject matter one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching at Redlands. “My students are willing to take risks and trust each other and me in the classroom. We frequently talk about sensitive subjects like cultural appropriation, which can be uncomfortable, but they’re down for these difficult discussions,” she says. “They’re respectful, open-minded, and willing to change their minds when it seems warranted.”

This open-minded attitude characterizes faculty interactions as well, Baber continues. Musicologists teaching classroom subjects like music history often feel isolated from others in the department who are teaching performance, she says, but this is not the case at the U of R.

“My colleagues are very open to collaboration and team teaching and are constantly involving me in programming and pre-performance activities,” she says. “At Redlands, there’s a prevailing sentiment that everyone has something to contribute to a particular performance or endeavor, and that has been really valuable to me.”

Learn more about the School of Music and the Salzburg program at University of Redlands.