Current Issue

June 10, 2009

Vol. 109, No. 15

Independent scholars

In response to: Do-it-yourself scholars

Merrell Noden ’78’s cover story, “Do-it-yourself scholars,” in the April 22 issue made me proud to be a member of the Class of ’68. Noden did a great job of placing Jeffrey Perry ’68’s historical breakthrough (Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism) in the context of independent scholarship. Perry’s work has the integrity and radical relevance that so many of us in my class were seeking. I read the book and alternated in thinking I was hearing about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., or A. Phillip Randolph.  

Harrison was the kind of independent thinker who might have gotten into Princeton today, but as an African-American wouldn’t have had a chance in the early 20th century when he came of age. Without mentioning Princeton by name, Harrison’s searing critique of race and class in the pre-World War I United States spoke to our own University’s history, as well as the history of our nation. Thanks for running such a thought-provoking article.

Gene Bruskin ’68
Silver Spring, Md.

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1 Response to Independent scholars

Daniel Goodman '82 Says:

2009-07-06 08:31:16

I suspect that I am not the only Princetonian who both identified with and was cheered by the intensity with which the “independent scholars” in Merrell Noden ’78’s April 22nd cover story, “Do-it-yourself scholars,” pursue their passions. I have spent more than 25 years practicing and performing as an “amateur musician” while making my living in science and engineering. Most recently I am researching and recording a CD of music for piano and narrator by modern American composers. In both music and Academia there are far more talented practitioners than there are slots. My musical friends (even those who call themselves professionals) accept that having a “day job” is often necessary to support their love of music. In contrast, few of my engineering or scientific colleagues would accept an amateur scientist who only works evenings. This difference in outlook (and, to be frank, the difference in pay scales) helped guide my career choice, and is also evident in the discrimination against “independent scholars” described in Noden’s article. I discuss these choices and the concept of “amateur musician” in an auto-biographical essay in the recently published book, “In Their Own Words – Pianists of the Piano Society,” edited by Raymond Smullyan *59 and Peter Bispham. The book profiles 30 pianists whose music is available for download from the international Piano Society www.pianosocity.com. Some of us make our living as musicians, but most do not, preferring to stay outside the “business” of music for some of the same reasons the “independent scholars” stay outside of Academia.
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