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The class that most affected my life!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The college class that had the most long lasting influence upon my mind was Black Music. I had studied it for three semesters and easily accomplished A’s in voice, trumpet, and piano. It was an unwritten formality to enroll in saxophone and complete the quartet.

Billie Holiday:

Dizzie Gillespie:

Oscar Peterson:

Ornette Coleman:

My professor, Dr. Richard Davis, was one of the leaders of the UW-Madison Teacher's Union. This semester, he found himself in the midst of a very arduous negotiation for increases in teacher's wages and benefits.

It was an unusually warm spring afternoon day. Not the type to be stuck within a windowless chair filled cement box with pencil in hand. Rather, the perfect scenario in which all students dreamed of spending at the Union Terrace cooled by the breeze off Lake Mendota.

As a few hundred students settled into the enormous lecture hall for their final exam, Professor Davis instructed us to take out a piece of lined paper and write our name and ID number at the top along with the number one on the first line.

Holding up an album cover for us all to see he shouted, "Your attention please! Question One! What is the name of this album and its lead artist?”

He sheepishly smiled as laughter broke the silence and became the dominant sound of the moment.

He calmly spoke into the microphone, "If you answered ‘A Love Supreme’ by John Coltrane, put an A on your paper, drop it off on the stage and have a summer filled with peace and joy.”

It cemented my lifelong desire for



and John Coltrane!

What is the class that most affected your life and why?
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  • no profile photo CD5741646
    I hated school all of it really, but the one thing that I remember was the teacher that got me started in the arts and theater.. I fell in love with every aspect, it opened the doors to performing and writing
    4290 days ago
    I believe it was my high school honors english teachers. They excited my mind to learn more to seek out the truth & that knowledge is power. Now some many, many, many years later, I am starting to feel that fire ignite once again.

    Thanks for sharing & blessings!

    4302 days ago
    Have to say, it's a Spanish class I'm taking now at an Argentinean non-profit in New York. It's the content of the class and also the teacher. He's made learning a language into learning about your inner soul... that language is about connecting with other souls.

    I love it. Hope I can afford to take it for ever!

    4302 days ago
  • PAG2809
    I'd have to say that it was one teacher who changed my life, rather than one class. TJ was my English teacher my junior and senior years in high school - American Lit. and British lit. He was the sort of teacher who believed in context, so he'd always explain how the literature fit into the time, whether it was "current" events or mores - why it was written in a particular manner and how people reacted to it when it was published. Even though we had American History and British History classes that were designed to (and did) move concurrently with the lit classes, I learned more from his class. He was so passionate a teacher than I don't remember him ever having notes with him. He'd just walk in with his copy of the text (still love Norton readers) and start talking. One day his back was out. He lay down on his back on one of the 6 ft tables we sat around and lectured, just as passionately, from that position. During our free periods we'd hang out in the department office with him and he'd play jazz records for us. We graduated from high school 30 years ago and TJ died 15 years ago, but when we get together at reunions we still talk about him and how profoundly he affected our lives. Oh yeah, and I have a masters degree in history and architectural history and do interdisiplinary work with archaeologists and historians - all about context - and have a music library full of jazz and blues.
    4303 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4569907
    There have been tons of college classes that have changed me and I have enjoyed. But one class taken last year was not at a college but a church (which is amazing, since I am not reglious) but the military base personal highly suggested it to all the military families. It was a financial course called "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey...it has influenced me to get out of debt and live a life without credit cards...and that is very, very peaceful :o) and has no doubt changed my life for the better.
    4303 days ago
    Okay, wowo - this is such a loaded question. I can think about a lot of classes that at least impacted my life in some way or another. I can think of a few fondly. I can even think of great teachers through my educational career that had a great impact upon me, particularly at that point in time. But thinking of the one class that had the greatest influence? Wow, that's tough.

    I would have to say, at least as I ponder and write this: marching band in college. I know, it's not truly a "class" by most standards, but I was enrolled in it, and received the credit each fall semester. We weren't a stellar band. Oh, at one time The Gamblers had quite a reputation in the area as being great, but not while I was there. Still, I loved it. It was marching band where I met my husband 16 1/2 years ago. It was marching band that tied me (as a commuter living at home with mom & dad) to the campus and helped me feel as if I belonged there. It was marching band that introduced me to a group of core friends and the building where I would spend most of my four undergrad years. It was marching band that introduced me to a passion of music and an ultimate life experience: marching a World Class Drum and Bugle Corps and being able to march Finals, as one of the Top 12 corps in the world. That experience led to a multitude of other and life-lessons that I carry to this day.

    So, I guess I wouldn't be where I am and walked through what I have, without some of the experiences and fortitude I gained both in and through that "class".
    4303 days ago
    I was born and raised on a Native American reservation. I have interacted, befriended, work with Native Americans all my life. Our reservation is quite poor: not as poor as some of the reservations in SD but still poverty and alcoholism are the biggest problems.

    The class that most affected me was a class on the Red Road approach to sobriety by Gene ... the founder of the program. He enlightened me about the issues that face the children raised in homes affected by alcoholism. Although I had lived there all my life and had seen (so I thought) the damage done by the disease, until he said out loud these problems my head had been in the sand.

    I came away with a much more educated, informed view of life in some of the reservation homes. I also came away with a better understanding of the hurdles in their lives, and more compassion about the struggles faced by these families.
    4303 days ago
    the class that affected me the most...was not at a university...
    it was in a yoga studio.....

    i learned about opening to grace and going with the flow....
    to have compassion for all people.....

    i will always love my first teachers....Diana and Isaac of Lake Center Yoga in Longwood, Florida..... they have changed their names since i went to their classes to reflect the type of bliss yoga that they teach now in addition to the Anusara yoga that i benefited from when i went there....

    if you are in this area...please do drop in to see them.....

    hugs to all,
    4303 days ago
    I loved all (well, maybe there was a couple I didnt LOVE) the classes I took at U of Iowa...but my favorites were definitely Psychology of Loss and Trauma and Intro to Social Work. The loss and trauma class had guest speakers twice a week--they each shared the story of their loss and how it affected them. At that point, I had never personally lost anyone close to me. The following year, one of my very close friends was killed in a car accident and I remember everything we learned in that class---methods of coping, the different stages of feelings one goes through, etc. Truly life-changing.
    As for the social work class, it made me view things in a completely different perspective...it made me want to make a difference. We were required to volunteer throughout the semester for the class and it was a fantastic learning experience. If I wasn't a psych major, I could see myself working in the social work field....I love being able to make a difference in someone's life! :)
    4303 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/13/2009 9:26:08 PM
    I am gonna have to think about this one.
    Honestly when I was going threw collage at 17 years old I had a new born so I really don't even know if I had brain cells then the comprehend any class I was taking.=-) and I don't think I showed up enough for high school to have anything meaningful come out of any class. All that said and can you believe I am an educator. LOL!
    GREAT blog
    4303 days ago
    Jeff- Great question. I thought of several classes but the one that stuck out the most was the one I took the longest. Orchestra. 7 years of orchestra class- 5th -12th grade. several different teachers but always the same concepts. Appreciation of music (primarily classical), discipline, appreciation for the arts, performing in front of audiences, performing alone, meeting MANY life long friends from all over the state/world.
    I complained about this class for many years but now looking back, I know that I don't regret any minute of it. I hope my boys have the same art opportunities that I had in school
    4303 days ago
    Jeff- Great question. I thought of several classes but the one that stuck out the most was the one I took the longest. Orchestra. 7 years of orchestra class- 5th -12th grade. several different teachers but always the same concepts. Appreciation of music (primarily classical), discipline, appreciation for the arts, performing in front of audiences, performing alone, meeting MANY life long friends from all over the state/world.
    I complained about this class for many years but now looking back, I know that I don't regret any minute of it. I hope my boys have the same art opportunities that I had in school
    4303 days ago
    Okay don't laugh...I had read your status and immediately knew which class I had taken that had the most impact on me and it was...History of Jazz! It was cross-listed as a History and Music class and opened my eyes to a whole world I had never known before. I really had not been exposed to jazz before taking this class in 2006 when I was in my mid-30's...I know pretty sad to go that long in a life before being exposed to jazz! But I found the history and the music just amazing...I absorbed the sounds of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and others. It was certainly an awakening for me!

    I now can't imagine my life without knowing jazz and I really hope someday to travel to those places like Chicago (you lucky guy!) and Nola to truly experience the birth of a music genre that is truly unique.
    4303 days ago
    I would never have guessed this about you! My most changing classes were -- Religion and Culture, Apocalypse Then and Now, and Philosophy of Religion -- all for different reasons. The first gave me the confidence to realize I was at the top of my class, the second showed me my area of focus for graduate studies, and the third helped me realize my full potential and pushed me towards the actual graduate programs I want to do. I'm sure I will have more to come but for now those come to mind.
    4304 days ago
    I wouldn't say too many of my classes were life changing, but the most interesting one I took was a humanities course on Concepts of the Male and Female in Western Culture, based on literary works from ancient philosophers to modern day fiction. What made the course interesting wasn't just the content, but the class make up itself. I had talked a friend of mine into taking the course with me, and in a class made of mainly of women, his male, eastern, muslim input made the course that much more interesting as we had the opportunity to share some insights and discussion that might have otherwise not been brought into the classroom debates.
    4304 days ago
  • JEM0622
    A class entitled 'The Literature of AIDS'. Very moving and very enriching conversation. ~Julie
    4304 days ago
    I was so thrilled to finish my bachelor´s degree a few years back at age 51 - ALL of the classes were my favorite!!! I enjoyed being the oldest in every class, usually older than the prof. I found that the world outside MY world was completely different and I needed to make a lot of changes. It was truly a life changing experience. I graduated from Houghton College with a degree in management and began a lifelong career in managing my own life!
    4304 days ago
    I had several professors who influenced my thought processes in college, who showed me that critical thought is worthwhile. If your theory or idea is sound, all that is left is to push it up against validation to see if it stands.

    Dr. Doug Crews taught several human genetics classes of mine, and taught his students the difference between lies, damn lies and statistics. Once I took his classes, statistics were a breeze and economics made much more sense because I could follow the thought process of the numbers rather than the figures themselves.

    My biochemistry instructor Dr. Francis was great (we wrote essays, because he refused to use "garbage in, garbage out" as a teaching method for biological functions - I learned more chemistry that term than I did in the two years before that) as was Dr. Wenzel, my Evolution prof (who is still trying to disprove Darwin's theories using social insects, and challenged us to do the same - another essayist).

    Great blog topic, Jeff!
    4304 days ago
    Ahhhhh...John Coltrane's A Love Supreme..does it get any better than that? What an amazing series of classes Jeff! I had no idea you were a musician (well why would I? heh heh)! What was your undergrad major? I started out as a music major (piano and voice), but finished in social work, working in the field for over 20 years.

    Jim Gregg, A HIGH SCHOOL journalism teacher, who became my advisor when I was editor of the school newspaper, undoubtedly most deeply influenced my academic and personal development, by believing in me, pushing me, encouraging me, he and his wife taking me to plays and other mind-expanding events, etc.

    Then he left to finish his PhD in political science at UC, Santa Barbara. My sophomore year in college, I was looking over classes and, lo and behold, DR. Jim Gregg was on the schedule. You can be sure I took his American Politics and Policy class! Our friendship continued...I even babysat for their two children, and Dr. Gregg continued to mentor me and convince me that I COULD think independently and was bright and worthy! He definitely set me on the Path!

    Thanks for this wonderful piece. I have LOVED reading each entry. Dr. Gregg actually introduced me to Victor Frankl -- what an amazing soul and intellect!!! I haven't read A Woman Of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. I just did a bit of *googling* and learned that she and her husband Oliver Hailey, a playwright, wrote for film and television. They served as creative consultants for the enormously popular television series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (which I LOVED). Looks like a must read, eh:

    "Hailey's first novel, A Woman of Independent Means, written in 1978, was an instant bestseller, and her adaptation of this work for the stage won the Los Angeles Critics Award. In 1995, NBC aired A Woman of Independent Means as a six-hour miniseries starring Sally Field, and in this medium, too, the work won critical acclaim. In addition to A Woman of Independent Means, Hailey has written three other novels: Life Sentences in 1982, Joanna's Husband and David's Wife in 1986, and Home Free in 1991. All of these novels have been praised for their commitment to searching out the subtler truths of interpersonal relationships and personal integrity." http://www.readinggroupguides.com/g

    Thanks everyone! What a delightful read to wake up to!!!
    Blessed be!

    4304 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/14/2009 8:38:42 PM
    Wow. Good stuff!

    I'd have to say mine was a management course in which we had to interview mid-level managers in the broadcast field and write a paper. (My degree is in telecommunications.) I interviewed a local disc jockey who happened to be working as a program director at my favorite station... Oldies 93 WBBG. We had a nice chat and his expertise was definitely going to give me a pretty good starting point for my paper. When I was leaving, he said he'd keep me in mind if the station had any events that I might be interested in helping out with. Needless to say, I assumed he was just being nice so I thought nothing of it. That was on a Friday. I got home from class the following Monday and there was a list of events in my mom's handwriting waiting for me on the cupboard. He had asked my mom to have me call him so I could give him my availability. The next thing I knew, I was an intern at the station for the rest of the summer and was placed on the payroll in the fall. I was on the air there for six years before downsizing destroyed the radio industry. To say that class changed my life would be an understatement.
    4304 days ago
    Some of my favourites Jeff!!! you've great taste in music!

    The class which affected my life most would have been English 11. It was the teacher ... Mr. John Wiebe. He instilled in me a love of literature. The books he had us read are books I have loved from the moment I read them and as an adult, had to go and buy them ...

    To Kill A Mockingbird ~ Harper Lee
    My Anotnia ~ Willa Cather
    A Woman Of Independent Means ~ Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
    Just to name a few ....

    While he has since passed away, I will always remember him with great fondness for the way he lit this love within me! Thanks for giving me yet another excuse to enjoy my memories of him!
    4304 days ago
    Great blog Jeff! I was most affected by an assignment, not a class per se. I did a piece on existential psychology, in particular, Viktor Frankl. As you know, he wrote his seminal work "Man's Search for Meaning" in a Nazi concentration camp. Some of his ideas were completely new to me. For example his idea of a 'will to meaning'. He theorised that meaning is essential for life, having watched people around him 'choose' to die in the camps when they had abandoned hope and could find no meaning in life. He thought that searching for meaning within a life is an essentially human element. I agree!

    But when I read other parts of his work, I felt like I was coming home. His thinking about suffering and freedom is particularly meaningful for me. I love that he believed he was free, and his captors were restrained, because he was the one who was free to choose his actions. They were governed by obeying other people direction for their actions and their thoughts.

    The other part of his writing that affected me had nothing to do with his theory at all. I was impressed by his boundless compassion for his fellow humans, in the face of his own massive suffering.

    His work began a change in me that continues to this day. When I was younger, although I was principled, I was arrogant, judgmental and harsh on people I perceived as weak or whinging. Frankl helped me realise that the internal landscape of the individual cannot be seen from the outside. I still have a tendency to be arrogant, but now I try to treat all people with compassion. I don't know what they are going through, either in their lives, or in their minds! Kindness, patience and compassion cost nothing but effort and choice. I am working towards being more Frankl-like in my life!
    4304 days ago
    Man, I wish all finals were that easy! So far I haven't had any "life changing" classes (I'm in my 3rd year)...but I really hope I will before I graduate!
    4304 days ago
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