It’s Monday, which means it is Meet A Deac day! We all know that the core purpose of college is to get a great education, and I have been trying to feature more of our terrific teacher-scholars in Meet A Deac.  Today I am pleased to introduce you to one of our exemplary faculty members, Elizabeth Clendinning of the music department.

Wake Forest professor of music Elizabeth Clendinning, Tuesday, February 11, 2020.Elizabeth, thanks for doing this. Let’s start at the beginning: what is your title? I am an Associate Professor of Music and Director of Gamelan Giri, the Wake Forest University Balinese Gamelan. For Fall 2021, I am also Interim Associate Chair of the Department of Music.

And how long have you been at Wake? I started teaching at Wake Forest in 2014; this is my eighth year.

In layperson’s terms, what do you do at Wake? I teach introductory survey courses in world, popular, and Asian music. I also direct our Balinese gamelan ensemble, a course in which students learn to play music on traditional, hand-carved and gilded percussion instruments from Indonesia. I love thinking about how society and the performing arts interact and sharing that passion with students!

Music professor Elizabeth Clendinning leads a rehearsal for the gamelan, a traditional Indonesian musical instrument, in Scales Fine Arts Center on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.

And tell me a little bit about your educational background. I have a BA in Music from the University of Chicago, an MM in Ethnomusicology from Florida State University, and a PhD in Musicology, also from Florida State University. In addition, I have studied with various esteemed gamelan teachers across the United States and in Bali.

COVID has impacted all of our jobs in so many ways. How has it changed yours? Somehow I ended up as the faculty chair of the Online Education Committee of the undergraduate college for ’19-20. I was told that the job was “easy”…famous last words. I also spent a lot of time trying to replicate hands-on musical activities online, with some success.

What would you say your biggest challenge was related to COVID? Not hearing live music.

And what did you miss most about normal times on campus? Making my students laugh. Feeling shivers run down my spine when making music in an ensemble. Travel.

What advice would you give students if they asked you? Don’t be too quick to choose a major, and don’t choose a career path based on what your family expects of you. The world is wide. College is a time to explore. Almost any undergraduate degree will unlock doors for you; they might as well be doors that you find interesting and fulfilling.

How about parents and families? What advice would you offer them? Encourage your children to take chances and make mistakes when the stakes are relatively low. High-achieving students often condition themselves to avoid failure and might avoid trying something that they might really love because they are afraid they will not instantly succeed.

In your opinion, what is the best part of working at Wake? I love the energy of my colleagues and the opportunity to introduce students to new subjects and ways of thinking.

And now….the bonus questions!

Ninth House - book by Leigh BardugoBook you are reading now: I just finished Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Favorite music: This is an impossible question to ask a music professor! I am really missing listening to live gamelan right now; I was supposed to travel to Bali in 2020, and 2021, but neither trip happened. There’s something about feeling the gongs vibrate your entire body and hearing the intricate melodies float across the rice paddies…Gamelan music and dancing in Bali

Favorite movies, TV shows, Netflix, etc.: No all-time favorites, but recently I’ve been enjoying Never Have I Ever, Young Rock, Alone, and Star Trek: Lower Decks, as well as a carefully curated selection of ’80s cult sci-fitv show: Never Have I Ever (promo poster)

Websites you frequent: New York Times, BBC…but I’m too busy living offline these days to spend much time online.

Guilty pleasures: Leisurely afternoon naps. Lying out at the pool. Getting pedicures. Chocolate, cheese, and more chocolate. Making things for my baby daughter; I just started painting a mural for her bedroom.

Introvert or extrovert? A little bit of both. I love crowds when I have a reason or a purpose to be there. I love being alone. I love being alone-together with another person, quietly working on separate tasks. My favorite is to be part of a group of four–share a table, share a taxi, split a pizza, have conversations that last until dawn.

Something most people don’t know about you: I graduated from both high school and college a year early. I guess I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the world!

What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had? “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” And I would struggle to answer. Right now, I’m so busy and there are so many places I want to be at once; I’d love to be able to duplicate my body and split my consciousness in the morning and reintegrate at night, having gotten to spend each day living for two. Alas, instead I’ll just have to try to choose wisely and enjoy every minute that I have.

Many thanks to you, Elizabeth, for all you do for our students and our campus community! And as a reminder, our Meet A Deac archive is here.


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

Recent Posts