By Bina Davidson on behalf of Features Staff
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight a YU faculty member. For the February edition, the YU Observer is highlighting Dr. David Glaser.
Name: David Glaser
Educational Background/Qualifications: BA – Hunter College, CUNY; MA –
Queens College, CUNY; DMA – Columbia University
Hometown: New York
How long have you worked at YU?: Long enough so that last year I had a student whose mother took my Sense of Music class. I started as an adjunct in the fall of 1995.
What got you passionate about your field?: I had been an avid listener, but hadn’t thought about starting to compose until I heard a recording of Schoenberg’s “Pierrot lunaire”. I hated it the first time I listened to it. But as it was considered to be a seminal work of 20th century music, I decided to give it another chance, and another and yet one more. After listening once a day for about a month I began to understand it and hear what was great about it. It was intriguing enough that it led me to try composing. Once I started to see that I could create something out of nothing more than vibrating air, I was hooked.
What do you like about working at YU?: I really enjoy the size of the school and the smaller classes that I teach. I can get to know my students and really feel as if I’m mentoring them, teaching them how to think, rather than just transferring information to them.
How has COVID/Zoom affected the way your classes function?: The downside, as we all know by now, is that it is exhausting and somewhat sterile. We can’t exchange ideas as freely or quickly as we do when we’re in person and I can’t go off on as many of my (always fascinating) tangents. But I think we still manage in spite of the distance to connect.
If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be, and what would they speak about?: This was a surprisingly hard question to answer. I finally chose Charles Ives. He was an American composer who worked in the first half of the 20th century. He had a very rigorous music education, first from his father (who was a bandmaster in the Union Army) and then at Yale University. He had a unique musical vision, far different from any one of his contemporaries. He realized that he couldn’t maintain his integrity as a composer and still make a living from his music, so he went into business and built a successful life insurance company. Ives was a pioneer in developing estate planning. His music was rediscovered in the 1960s, and he is considered an “American original”. He is a great model for anyone who wants to pursue a unique vision.
Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in your field?:
Don’t do it! I think everyone should study music, art and literature. But all of these fields, while giving you great insight into life and culture, as well as enduring pleasure, are just too difficult a way to make a living. Look at Charles Ives.
What is one thing you want students to know about you?:
As we’re in one crisis now, I’ll refer back to one at the beginning of the century. I was teaching on Sept. 11. Needless to say, classes ended early that day. I walked down Fifth Avenue (I live in Greenwich Village) watching the smoke from the towers and wondering how and why this could happen. When I got home, after making sure the family was okay I went into the kitchen and started cooking. But before I decided on a menu, I slipped on headphones and cued up Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”. It was at that moment that I realized I needed a refuge, a place where everything was in order and made sense, a place to find one of the great monuments of human thought to balance the chaos outside.
Is there a YU professor you admire who you would like to see highlighted in future editions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.