There are many different professor stereotypes. One is that they have no life outside of the courses they teach. This is one stereotype would like to prove wrong. To do so, I interviewed three Gannon University professors about their favorite hobbies.
Communication Arts professor David Blaetz is often seen as an expert in television and audio production among Gannon students. Although his hobby centers more on audio production, it is not recording and experimenting with various sound effects like his students learn in digital audio production class. By day he is professor of video and audio technology, but by night he is a professional musician.
Blaetz has always been interested in music. He stated, “Even though I did not come from a musical family, my interest in playing a musical instrument started at a very young age.” In 4th grade, he started playing viola in his elementary school orchestra. By 5th grade he moved to cello and by 6th he was onto the acoustic bass. “I clearly had a sound in my head and it got lower every year.” Blaetz said, “I’ve stayed with the bass since then, including electric bass, electric upright bass, and acoustic bass.” Although Blaetz is primarily a bassist, he has been known to hit the drums and other percussion instruments from time to time.
Blaetz has always been an active musician in the Erie music scene. When asked which venues he has played at, he stated, “At this point in my life, it is easier to mention the few places I have not played. I have never played at the Erie Playhouse or the Erie Insurance Arena. There are also some country bars I have not seen. Otherwise, I have played at just about every music bar, country club, and festival stage in the area including the Warner Theatre, The Erie Art Museum, and The Schuster Theatre.” Blaetz truly has hit just about every music venue in the Erie area. In fact, he traveled regionally with a Jazz power trio and toured part of the Penn State campus circuit with a folk group in the 1970’s.
Blaetz said that at one point, he counted every band he has rehearsed and performed with in public. The total number was about twenty eight. Currently he contributes to The HELIOTROPES, the Sam Hyman band, and Jazz configurations led by Allen Zurcher, Charles Ventrello, or James Madden.
Although playing musical instruments is something Blaetz has done since a young age, it does come with many challenges. “Learning how to play an instrument well enough to not think about how to play it when performing with others is one initial challenge. Another is respecting and enjoying the contributions of the other band members.” Blaetz also stated that understanding the role of his instrument within the context of the musical style being presented is absolutely crucial. In his experiences as a musician, Blaetz has noticed that audiences always have diverse tastes of music. “Understanding and appreciating that audiences all vary widely in how they enjoy the music that you are offering is important.”
In addition to playing, Blaetz enjoys listening to music as well. His tastes in music vary, but he cannot really pick favorites. Countless musical artists have inspired the music he plays. “As far as inspiration, I have been influenced by the work of jazz greats Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, Chris Potter and their respective band members,” Blaetz said. “But I was also inspired by the recordings of The Beatles, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, The Band, Charles Ives, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Jimi Hendrix and Cream.”
Theology and fine-arts professor, Dr. DeSanctis loves to design and build nativity sets, which are doll house-like artistic recreations of the setting of the birth of Jesus. DeSanctis stated that he likes to build huge nativity sets, not little dinky ones.
Inspired by his grandfather, who was a church decorator, and spending Christmas with his children every year, DeSanctis began building nativity sets in his basement studio. DeSanctis’s nativity sets are more than a hobby. His sets are displayed around school and homes throughout Erie. DeSanctis shared that his favorite nativity set is the one he is currently building for the Gannon Bookstore. It is six feet high and forty inches tall.
The Sports Fanatic
Ms. Janice Whiteman, chair of the education department, enjoys watching sports in her spare time. She enjoys watching a variety of sports including: tennis, golf, football and baseball. However, her favorite sport to watch is basketball.
Perhaps basketball holds a special place in her heart because her two grandchildren play basketball. Her 15-year-old grandson is on McDowell’s varsity basketball team, and her 12-year old grandson plays on an incredibly talented basketball team that only lost one game last season.
Whiteman loves watching college basketball as well. “If I could attend any major sporting event, it would be the NCAA final four. My family is also very involved in completing the brackets, which makes it exciting.” She attends Gannon Men and Women’s basketball games and is very vocal with cheering AND booing. However, her favorite team to watch is Duke. She especially loves the Duke and North Carolina rivalry. Other than basketball, there are many sporting events she has attended including Browns, Pirates and Indians games.
Professors do not solely live for the material they teach. Although parts of their subjects are often incorporated in their hobbies, they participate in whatever gives them enjoyment, just like anyone else. Whether it is cheering and booing at sporting events, jamming with a band at a local venue or creating something beautiful in a basement studio, professors have passions outside of their career.