If you’ve never sat down with Dr. Rachelle Davis, you absolutely need to. All musicians have to have a good ear, but Dr. Davis is also really great at listening and she’s ridiculously smart and interesting. So tuck your feet under you and get comfy and get to know a little more about Dr. Davis. Then, stop by her office in Paulin Hall sometime and introduce yourself. You won’t regret it.
Name: Rachelle Davis
Title: Professor and Chair, Department of Music
Faculty since: 2005
Classes Taught: Basic Conducting, Orchestra, String Quartet, Survey of Music, Music History: Antiquity through Baroque, Music History: Classical and Romantic Periods, Music History: Twentieth Century and Beyond, Violin and Viola Lessons, Violin and Viola group class
Education: B.S. in music, Pacific Union College; M.M. in violin performance with violin pedagogy cognate, Jacob School of Music, Indiana University; D.M.A., Butler School of Music, University of Texas
What made you want to become a musician?
I don’t know. I couldn’t not be musician. I was always a violin performance major in college, but my dad wanted me to get a ‘real’ job—ie: something that paid the bills. I took pre-Physical Therapy coursework (including G-Chem) until I actually did observations my junior year and decided PT was not for me. One summer I went on a five-week international music tour with PUC, followed by six weeks at Meadowmount School of Music practicing five and six hours a day and rehearsing for several more. By the end of the summer I was sure I didn’t want to be a professional musician and set my sights on becoming a nurse practitioner. In February of my senior year, I realized I loved teaching (I had a couple of pre-college students) and if I got my masters degree in nursing I’d be teaching patient care instead of music. At that point there were plenty of long conversations with friends and lots of tears because I didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to music and the dreaded/beloved practicing. Sometimes what you love hurts too much. Music won. Sometimes I think I was saying yes to a calling. I don’t always like my calling.
What was it that made you love the professor role so much?
It was the ‘Aha’ moments I experienced teaching violin students as a teenager and college student. I was good at it. Also, I loved college, learning, and the way the college environment challenged and expanded how I saw the world. My brain had never been stretched as much as it was in World History or Philosophy of Religion or Great Books, classes I had to take as part of the GE package but which opened whole new worlds to me. I remember sitting at the overlook on Brookside with a date as a senior at PUC and realizing teaching college was a career option I was interested in, but then dismissing the idea as unrealistic. (Pay attention to what you wish for … )
Let’s combine the two: What do you love most about teaching music?
Most of us who teach on this campus will probably have the same answer: The ‘Aha’ moment, when someone finally understands a subject or masters a technique or, in teaching violin or rehearsing the orchestra, when the black dots on the page turn from mere notes into music that can reach inside someone and allow us to connect with each other. It is addicting in the best sense of the word.
What is your favorite musical period and/or genre, and why?
In classical music, 20th century and beyond. You can do anything and there is more edginess to the music. It is predictably unpredictable and there are so many different style options—always with a twist though. There is something for everyone. In non-classical, I like listening to jazz and blues. I love the improvisatory nature of those genres and the way notes are bent and chords are amazingly complex. Classic rock works as well.
Where did you grow up?
My family moved from Loma Linda to Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico when I was three. I grew up climbing mango trees, running around barefoot, and snorkeling. (If I hadn’t been homeschooled, I might be fluent in Spanish, but alas, I’m only proficient.) When I was thirteen, we moved to Fall River Mills, a small town in the middle-of-nowhere Northeastern California. Spectacular views of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen made it a beautiful place to live, but the nearest stoplight was an hour away and music lessons were 2.5 hours away.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An underwater archaeologist, then an astronaut. (Prompted, I’m sure, by repeated watching of Nova, National Geographic, and PBS videos of space exploration—the first space shuttle went up about the time we got a VCR. It was either that, or watch lions kill zebras on animal specials—no movies for us.) What I really enjoyed doing though was decorating and redecorating the almost-Barbie-sized doll house I inherited from someone. It’s amazing what you can do with blocks, bits of fabric, discarded/recycled odds and ends from around the house, and pieces of wallpaper from a salvaged wallpaper sample book. In an alternate reality I would be an interior designer or an architect. (I definitely didn’t want to teach violin to someone like me, who hated to practice—obviously I’ve changed my mind.)
What are some of your hobbies?
Reading. It is a form of therapy and a way to experience life through someone else’s eyes. I LOVE libraries. I can come home with a pile of books on whatever I’m curious about (the last subjects I brought home piles of books on were architecture and low-water landscaping—and, of course, fiction). I also really enjoy any kind of remodel or design project. My son thinks I’m obsessed. Maybe I am. Snow skiing makes me happy—so does hiking in scenic locations and hanging out in/on/by the water. I enjoy community and deep conversation. That too is a form of therapy. (So is coffee.)
Who are some composers and/or performers who inspire you?
Andrew Bird, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Rene Fleming, Caroline Shaw, Snarky Puppy, YoYo Ma … the list goes on. Dmitri Shostakovich, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler all lived depressed lives but wrote amazing symphonies that have a way of pulling me up when things seem upside down.
If you could have lunch with one celebrity, who would it be, and why?
This one is a tough one. People are interesting and everyone has a story to tell. When I was a kid, I would have said Princess Diana. I was obsessed. Can I pick more than one? I think Brene Brown is interesting for her work on shame and vulnerability, or Lady Gaga, for her persistence and ability to transform her vocal style from complete show pop to American songbook-style singing. Neil Gaiman would also be amazing. His capacity for inventive storytelling is awe-inspiring.
Name one thing you’re proud of thus far in life.
One thing I’m proud of from my master’s work is the three pedagogy papers I wrote for violin pedagogy classes I took with Mimi Zweig at Indiana University became the impetus/starting point for the written material on her award winning StringPedagogy.com website. Since my focus has shifted to college work, I haven’t written more on the subject.
Professional Activities: Faculty recital with Joel Dickerson, March 2016; Faculty recital with guest harpist Beverly Wesner-Hoehn, October 2016; clinician for the NCC Academy Festival Orchestra, March 2017; Benefit concert for UpValley Family Centers, May 2018.