By Mallory Graves
Timothy Shook is the chair of the department of music and professor of music. He has been teaching at SC for 32 years. All together he has taught for 40.
Shook’s favorite aspect of educating would have to be the relationships he forms while doing so.
“It’s really the interactions with the students and conveying the information to them that I enjoy the most,” Shook said. “When teaching, you really work together with the students, and that’s what forms the relationships. Honestly, I have probably learned as much from them as they do from me. Teaching is just this continual learning process which has been really enlightening to me throughout my career. I have learned a lot about technology from students, I’ll tell you that. But, I really think it’s a gateway to society and culture as it is now, as opposed to how it was. I think it’s interesting that you can see things from their viewpoint, and that is really a highlight for me.”
Shook describes how his time as a student differs from the times of current students.
“When I was a student, we tended to follow all of the rules, meaning that there was a kind of role that we played,” Shook said. “We didn’t speak up or against anyone really. Now, I find that students are more open, more creative, and really more adventurous than I ever was as a young adult. Students now explore more for themselves and seem more independent, which is a great thing. During my years as a student, it seems as though we were just there to be fit in the structure that was already laid out for us.”
This past summer, Shook took a trip to Svalbard, which is a Norwegian archipelago between the mainland Norway and the North Pole.
“I did a study in a town called Longyearbyen, which is on the town of Svalbard,” Shook said. “My purpose for going there was to study the arts education culture. Since Norway is a socialist country and the education is free, meaning they have all sorts of opportunities there for students. In Svalbard, they value the arts highly, and they have what ultimately is a wonderful public education system. But along with every public school, they have what they refer to as like a music school where it’s like a conservatory is what we would call it here, but it’s all government funded.”
Shook interviewed many people about the arts culture when he attended The Artic Festival.
“It was interesting to get first-hand responses from some of the locals about the significant Norwegian history,” Shook said.
The trip to Norway was not a random one for Shook. He has been fascinated with it for a while now and has been there five times.
“I was going to study several other places, but it was preempted by COVID-19,” Shook said. “I was planning on going to New York, Alaska, Chicago, or Austin, but all of that was prevented by the virus. It would have been cool to go to those places, but I’ve always had an interest in Norway. I’ve been there several times and I have relatives there. Because of my passion for northern Norway, the snow and the Scandinavian culture, I wanted to take advantage of that and try to visit there. I got this grant to study the educational system there, so I mean it was for a short period of time, but it was very informative. I learned a lot about the cultural and personal interests of the Norwegian people. One thing that was intriguing to me was that I’ve been to Norway before above the Artic Circle in the summer when the sun was up all the time. I wanted to go an experience what it was like when the sun never rose and it was dark 24 hours a day while I was there. It was really quite fascinating. I was there in the time of what they refer to as the ‘Blue Light’. That is basically when the sun is starting to encroach upon the area. There was this really interesting sheen of blue was there during what we would familiarly call daylight, and it was quite the sight to see. It was weird, but I didn’t see the sun the whole time I was there. I enjoyed it, though. You know, they just live where they’re in darkness for about three or four months out of the year, but they also have three or four months where the sun never sets. It is just a different way of life.”
Every time Shook has explored Norway, he has tried new things.
“The first time I went, it was really kind of a graduation present for myself,” Shook said. “I’d always wanted to go when I finished my doctorate. I took my two older children and my mother also went, because she has cousins there, and we visited family. We also visited one of my first students at Southwestern. He lives in Tromso, Norway, which is a town just north of the Artic Circle. He was a music major and one of my piano students when I first started teaching here. We got to know each other really well while he was here. Another cool thing that I tried when I was there was all of the different foods. I ate flounder, seaweed, seal, and various forms of whale. When it comes to trying new food, I am pretty adventurous, so it made it fun. The only thing is I would probably not go for the whale again, because of the strong taste. Everything else was really good. The last time I was there, I participated in a dog sled ride/race. I thought when you did this, you just hopped on the sled and took off, but I was shocked to find that you actually have to get to know all eight of the dogs before you do so. I also had to learn the mesh words and when to use them, which that took about an hour and a half. It was a lot of fun, and I was glad I got to check another thing off of my bucket list.”