While Greg and I planned to be in Nashville for longer, sometimes life has other ideas.
About three months ago, Greg and I saw job listings online that while interesting, didn't motivate us to apply due to the location - Port Arthur, TX. Not knowing exactly where Port Arthur was, we immediately decided against applying for jobs, even though the two were pretty perfect for us - and at the same school - a real rarity. Being from Colorado, I admit I have a slight prejudice against Texas, mainly because of the way Texans drive in Colorado - very slow in the left lane. Because of this, Coloradans generally have developed an anti-Texas stance, and growing up in Colorado, this is in my blood, to a certain degree. Truly, it was the last state in which I ever thought I would reside.
A month and a half go by as Greg and I apply to different college teaching jobs across the nation. I even began taking the tests (results pending!) in order to be a public school music teacher. We were hedging our bets, trying for at least one of us to have some stability through a full time job (with benefits).
A bit of history: Since marrying six years ago, neither Greg nor I have had a full time permanent position. Originally, Sharkbait Studios (www.sharkbaitstudios.com) was envisioned to be full time for the both of us, but after six months of concentrated work, we realized that we couldn't work together that much - it was bad for our marriage. Part time, yes, full time, no. Right at the time, Greg began work at MTSU, and I soon after began work at JRP, TSU, Belmont, and The Art Institute. We both ended up enjoying our taste of academia and even began our doctoral programs this past January.
Between three jobs and doctoral school, I really didn't take well to such a lifestyle. Without even so much as an office at either school, I felt a bit homeless, and my salary was minimal for the amount of time I spent working. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel and I knew things had to change. Meanwhile, Greg had tried to work for several schools and finally ended up at The Art Institute with me - a place we both really loved. Yet, there were no full time positions there, and for the immediate future there was no guarantee of anything like that any time soon.
So after a few interviews for positions that never panned out this year (and one close call with a school in Daytona Beach last year that we thankfully turned down), the Texas positions were revisited. Port Arthur was researched and we discovered, to our surprise, that Port Arthur is 1.5 hours away from Houston - where Greg's sister lives. Our families are very spread out - Greg's father is in Los Angeles, Greg's mother is in NJ, my parents are in CO and my sister is in NYC. When we moved to Nashville we knew nobody and had no contacts or family here, so having a family member nearby (especially his sister and her family) was an added incentive to take a second look at these positions.
The college is Lamar State College-Port Arthur (www.lamarpa.edu), and they had a Live Sound Instructor position (pretty perfect match for Greg's resume), and a Commercial Music Instructor position (pretty perfect match for mine). After a bit of research, we thought "why not!? What do we have to lose?" So about a month ago, we applied and immediately heard back from the Chair of the music department. He wanted to arrange to fly both of us down to Port Arthur a.s.a.p. for interviews.
Last week, after finals were complete at The Art Institute, and after a big project was turned in for our doctoral program, we went to visit TX for 5 days.
Tuesday: The first day we flew into Houston (early morning flight), rented a car, drove to Port Arthur, checked into the hotel, and promptly had our two interviews (one after the other - each an hour long) and tours of the campus, meeting Deans and even the President of the college. 6 hours after arriving on campus, we left and found an incredible sushi place.
Wednesday: The next day we spent looking at real estate. I had come with a plan (excel spreadsheet). For those of you who know me - REALLY know me - I am organized to a fault. I had done extensive research on the area, and even if we didn't get offered the positions, I wanted to be prepared in the event that we did. We only had two days in Port Arthur before heading to Greg's sister's place in Houston, so we needed to absorb the area like a sponge. Real estate is one of the best ways to get to know each pocket of the area, so we grabbed a real estate agent (who turned out to be a total blast!), and she drove us around until we found an area in which we can picture living. This area is called Nederland, TX, and is a 15 minute drive from campus and a 15 minute drive from Beaumont, TX, the closest 'city'.
That evening, we invited the head of the music department to dinner, and while we all only anticipated an hour and a half's worth, six hours had passed. Mike Judy is amazing, and we had such a good time with him. He and I share a lot of common characteristics: a past in theatre, writing and performing, and he also has a real interest in office products. Just my kind of person! And this would be our potential boss, so it was thrilling to see that we would be in a good place with good staff and a quirky, funny, talented boss. Both Greg and I had a great time.
Thursday: On day three, we drove around looking at real estate with our agent before driving over to Houston. We found two houses that really caught our eye, and we made mental notes on each property we saw and liked. Meanwhile, we also got pre-approved for a loan in the event that we needed to offer on a house - IF we were offered these positions. The night before with Mike Judy (Chair of the music department), he hinted at possible job offers, so we needed to prepare in the short time we had left. We left the area and found our way to Greg's sister's house, and our heads were swimming. We were excited about these positions, and even really liked the area in Texas. Mind you, the ENTIRE time we were there it was 100+ degrees out (rare heat wave, just for us?). Was this TX initiation?
We arrived at Lauren's house. Lauren is also going through a major job change - coming from a large law firm as a partner and going to a smaller law firm as a managing partner. This is a very big deal for her and we were so excited for her. We all went out to see a play at the local regional theater ("The Farnsworth Invention"), and then went for sushi and sake. We all had so much fun. Lauren and her husband Geoff are really awesome to hang with, and because they are both lawyers they have unique perspectives on the world. I love them both!
Friday: Day four brought us two full time, tenure track job offers. The music department at Lamar was excited about us and had paid for our entire trip down there (per diem and everything), and we were also really excited about their new commercial music program. After a short amount of time in discussion with Greg, we: a) accepted the job offers, and b) put in an offer on our favorite house in that area. We don't mess around, people.
We found out that Greg would need to report for work August 3, and I would need to report for work August 17. WOAH! That means we have exactly a month to get back, give notice to our jobs, finish projects with our current recording clients, and pack our lives up. OMG. That night we all went out for Mexican food, got home, had a few drinks and got silly.
Saturday: The final day in Texas we faxed in our official offer letter to our real estate agent, had a delightful breakfast, saw a hilariously badly acted (but cute!) children's play with our nieces, and caught our flight back to Nashville. Right after getting into Nashville we headed to the Ryman Auditorium for a night being entertained by Bill Maher.
Over the last few days we have told our bosses, our clients, my students, our neighbors, colleagues and friends about our quick, unexpected move to TX. While both Greg and I wish that these positions would have been in Nashville, only because we love being here so much, we must follow this path at this time. Both positions are so unique and offer opportunities that are beyond what we can comprehend currently. We both also completed our doctoral class last night (holy crap, yay!), and withdrew from the upcoming class and semester with a plan of returning in January after we have adjusted to our new house, jobs and environment.
A lot of change is on the horizon, and many people have asked if we plan to open Sharkbait in TX. The truth is, we are not sure yet. First thing's first. However, our equipment is owned and will be moving with us, and there is music in the air there, so I have no doubt that some recordings will be done in Nederland, TX, whether they be via a commercial set up or through our private music rooms. One thing I know for sure is that my grand piano is coming with me! It is my favorite piece of gear and cost more than my car or Greg's!
So one month from today we will load up the cars (a POD is on the way) and drive to Nederland, TX with our precious kitties and a dream. We hear today about the house we had a final offer on. Our backup house is already under contract, so if we don't get this one, we may need to chill and rent a place when we get down there (or long term at La Quinta Inn, where they accept animals). Nothing is for certain in life, is it? If someone told me - when we were moving down to Nashville with a cat and a dream - that we would be moving to Texas four short and amazing years later, I would never have believed it, and would most likely tell that someone that they are on some serious drugs.
The truth is, Texas isn't so bad, and you can pass the slow drivers. : ) Even the heat didn't seem to bother me as much as it does here in Nashville. Strange. I think there is less humidity there or something. Probably a honeymoon phase.....
I look forward to this next chapter of life with excitement and anticipation. With my own personal job, I get to teach everything I ever wanted to: commercial voice, piano class, songwriting, commercial ensembles, theory and even audio if I so desire. It is such an oddball job for such and oddball set of skills - exactly what I always hoped and prayed for. As for Greg, his job is incredibly unique. They are offering a new program in Live Sound through the Commercial Music program, and he will be teaching all courses involved in live sound. I can't think of any other program that offers such a curriculum, and he will be building it from the ground up. It is a huge responsibility, but he is up for the job. We both already have taught audio and even have run a moderately successful recording company in NYC and Nashville. That is already on the resume and that cannot be taken away. However, we will both now be blazing new trails ahead, and are eager to settle into our new lives, full of promise, challenge, possible "hurricane days" off, and new colleagues, friends and students we have yet to meet.
To our family and friends: thank you for your unending support and love. You all are our backbone, propping us up and allowing us to be brave in the face of change and challenge. While our lives haven't been easy and don't look to be easy any time soon, Greg and I both feel that we are moving in the right direction, even if that direction points to the deep south, gulf coast, "hurricane alley", Texas.