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October, 2019

I Sing, Therefore I Am:
CUA Philosophers Bond at Annual Talent Show

By John H. Tucker

In Plato’s Symposium, the ancient Greek philosopher defines music as “the effects of love on rhythm and harmony."


On Feb. 17, love, rhythm and harmony converged in Caldwell Auditorium as the School of Philosophy staged its 7th annual talent show featuring an array of musical acts by artistic graduate students and professors. The show is one of the more harmonious examples of the special camaraderie shared by faculty and students in the School of Philosophy.


“At times, I almost forget that [the professors] are my teachers,” says doctoral student and talent show performer Geoff Batchelder. “Philosophy is about living a good life, which is not possible without friendship. It’s important to remind each other that we’re not defined by our professions.” 

Members of the School of Philosophy Blues Band, from left: Doctoral student and lecturer Teep Schlachter, 2005 graduate Paul Heimann and doctoral student Geoff Batchelder. The show also featured a cappella chamber music, a classical piano performance and a French aria.           

A festive crowd of approximately 100 philosophers enjoyed snacks while listening to the bluegrass sounds of Professor Timothy Noone and Kevin Artz, a professional duo billed as “Harp N’Steel” that brought a backwoods-y vibe to the party. The School of Philosophy Blues Band was the show’s main event, mixing together old school country western with vintage-’60s rock ‘n’ roll. The band, made up of three graduate students, two professors and one alumnus, jammed out to hits such as “Midnight Hour,” “Cousin Dupree” and “Wang-Dang Doodle.”


“Music has been a subject of philosophical inquiry since the time of Pythagoras,” says Batchelder, who performs in the blues band alongside his professor, Richard Hassing, and is a former member of Noone’s Latin reading group.


He adds that the ancient Greeks used the idea of harmony to describe a healthy soul, composed of reason, emotion and desire. “When emotion or desire dominates, the soul gets thrown off balance, but when the soul’s parts are in harmony — like the notes of a chord — we find happiness,” Batchelder says.


The talent on display is not always musical. Several participants in years past have hushed the crowd with heartfelt poems and dramatic recitations. But it was music that gave the February tradition its start in 2000 during the school’s annual party, held that year at the Consolata Missionaries house in Brookland. In an attempt to liven the mood, doctoral student Al Harmon and his young son strapped on their slide guitars and broke into Hawaiian song. Once the music began, Noone jumped into the fray, followed closely by Batchelder. Before long, the students even persuaded the Consolata brothers to join the ad-hoc act by crooning African anthems. A tradition was born.


The talent show is one of many occasions the school’s faculty and graduate students use to forge bonds outside the classroom.  

The school holds an annual fall barbeque and softball game on the grounds of the Dominican House, located across the street from campus. Professors and students bring their spouses and children to the daylong event, held to ring in each new academic year. The students and teachers also organize picnics and dinner parties throughout each semester.


Professor Tim Noone, left, pictured with "Harp N'Steel" partner Kevin Artz.

“The kind of philosophy we pursue is not an aridly technical sort, detached from human purpose,” says Richard Velkley, professor and expert on 18th–20th-century German philosophy, who ventures out to restaurants with his students multiple times a semester. “It emphasizes human well-being and attracts people with sociable natures who are interested in the well-being of others.”


Master’s candidate Kia Hanning says she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to socialize with her professors outside the classroom. “It’s neat to see them without their ties and collars,” she says, explaining that the mutual comfort level is a product of the school’s preferred class style, which is rooted in discussion. “We philosophy people are kind of ‘out there,’ so we have
lots to talk about. And professors need to have fun, too.”


Though the mood is often casual, the discussions remain scholastic. Doctoral student Anna Mathie says the conversations she has during group outings with professors focus on philosophical connections to current events. “We’ll talk about what a recent Supreme Court decision meant philosophically, for example, or what’s going on in the Church,” she explains.


Lately, however, the chatter has been all about the talent show. Asked what a central topic of conversation has been, Mathie answers in the form of a question: “What is the essential form that defines bluegrass music?”

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Last Revised 03-Mar-06 01:12 PM.