Sligo Line by Bob Howard

I’m in a Band

I started playing the violin when I was 6 years old with a tiny instrument that sounded a bit like a dying cat. My family deserves an award for putting up with me.

In addition to learning classical violin in a pseudo-Suzuki-method setting, I also learned a lot of fiddle music: bluegrass, old-time, and Irish. Looking back, I’m glad I did – I don’t think that I could have picked up fiddling later in life without the foundation created by my first violin teacher. When I left that teacher, however, fiddle music was figuratively placed on a shelf so I could focus more on auditions, my various ensembles, and my potential future as a professional violinist (more on that abandoned dream later).

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Strozier books - by Catherine Williams
Portland fall - by Catherine Williams

Bouquets of Newly-Sharpened Pencils

One of my favorite films, You’ve Got Mail (bless Nora Ephron), perfectly describes how I feel at the beginning of a school year:

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” – Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail

Sure, I’m always a little apprehensive, a little nervous, and slightly dreading the amount of work – but I’m also one of those people who finds stepping into a new classroom and reading a fresh syllabus exciting. This year will be the first year in many that I will not be attending classes of my own. For the first time I will not be writing a series of term papers or pulling my hair out at assigned reading deluge. Of course, this is all replaced by my dissertation work, which is equal to or greater than previous semesters’ workload, but it’s definitely not the same.

Unfortunately, as you’ve already learned, Tallahassee doesn’t really do fall. Today the high temperature is 101ºF and the National Weather Service is calling this a “dangerous heat wave.” Oh, good. No sweaters or cozy scarves here for awhile. Just because Starbucks is giving us the pumpkin spice latte early this year doesn’t mean it will feel appropriate to drink it!

But no matter the weather, FSU starts on Monday and I’ll be teaching my sixth class ever. I can’t wait to meet my students, flail about music history, and probably annoy them with things like going to the library and listening to music. And while a “bouquet of newly sharpened pencils” seems a bit dated, I have to stop myself from buying out Target’s school supplies department. I’ve made up for it by spending half of my first paycheck on new books for my research and wasting hours re-arranging my desk space at home. It’s still a hot mess, but it’s difficult to be organized when you have six sets of score anthologies.

So to those of you starting school soon, good luck. Be nice to your teachers, get to know your fellow students, and read all the things!

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge 2

Why I Did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Part II

A lot has happened since my original post about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I went to update that post for the second time and ended up writing more than expected… so here it is.

The amount of money raised by the ALS Association (keeping in mind that this is NOT the only nonprofit dedicated to ALS) has reached $31.5 MILLION as of today, August 20. It’s not realistic for me to track it here, because every day the ALS Association releases a new, higher set of numbers. I’m amazed each time I check back. For the ALS community, who are not used to seeing these numbers, it’s awe-inspiring.  Continue reading

Mozart - by Catherine Williams

I’m an Introvert

I did not know that I was an introvert until I learned to be honest with myself. When I was younger, I always attempted to tailor the well-known Myers-Briggs personality test to what I wanted to be: an extrovert.

I am not an extrovert.

A few years ago I read one of those BuzzFeed articles about introverted people and I couldn’t stop myself from nodding along at every line. See, the problem is that I think I always confused introversion with shyness, but I’m not shy once you get to know me. Or, as my mom always said when people labeled me as shy: “she’s not shy, she’s quiet.” Well, exactly. I am not one to make myself the center of attention in a group of strangers. On a Saturday night, I’m perfectly happy to watch a movie or read a book at home. Continue reading

What Grad School Looks Like by Catherine Williams

How to Survive Graduate School, Part I

I’m going to do a whole series of posts on this. Keep in mind that I’m not actually done with graduate school, so technically I haven’t survived it yet. But I do have one graduate degree, so that has to count for something, right?

I graduated with my master’s degree in historical musicology in the summer of 2012. Writing my thesis was a long, arduous process – and that’s nothing compared to the dissertation I’m just beginning. The thesis was a 5k. The dissertation is going to be an ultra marathon. In the Sahara Desert. Wearing flippers. I’m not joking. Continue reading

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Why I Did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

UPDATE: The ALS Association announced today that they have raised $11.4 MILLION from the ice bucket challenge. Again, comparatively: last year between July 29 and August 16, they raised $1.7 million. And the new donor count has reached 220,255. This is wonderful.


If you haven’t heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge, let me Google that for you.

I’ve seen many videos and positive posts about the challenge, but I’ve also seen a slew of negative responses to the idea of “raising awareness” and “not actually doing anything but pouring ice water on your head.” I’ll be honest, there are definitely videos out there that say nothing about ALS (or any specific charity, disease, whatever). But for every video that lacks connection to awareness, there are dozens more that talk about ALS, mention friends or family members affected by the disease, point viewers in the direction of the ALS Association or the ALS Family Charitable Foundation. They might be doing a silly thing, but they’re also starting a conversation about a terrible disease. Continue reading