SF State professors balance teaching with music world tour

Many students know how difficult it is to balance their school schedule with their work schedule and a social life; however, several professors at SF State have tacked on a touring schedule to that list.

SF State has more than a handful of professors who are also musicians who balance being a touring musician with teaching.

The members of the Alexander String Quartet have been in residence at SF State since 1989, and although they are lecturers and mentors to students, they also tour the world. The quartet tries to organize its out-of-state performances during winter and summer breaks when school is not in session, but on the occasions that they do have a few shows during the school year, they try to book them over the weekends so they don’t miss as many school days.

“It does require some juggling and keeping all the balls in the air,” said band member Paul Yarbrough, who plays the viola.

Despite their busy schedules, the quartet takes advantage of playing as many shows as possible, both out-of-state as well as on campus.

“We tour about one hundred dates per year,” said Sandy Walsh-Wilson, the band’s cello player, who added that sometimes the quartet will also play in classrooms around campus. “This is where we work, this is where we live.”

The members of the quartet agree that leaving during the semester has become easier due to the internet, smart phones and technology that wasn’t around when they started their residency.

Yarbrough said that members of the quartet will spend extra time with students while on campus so that they can have the momentum to work while they’re away.

The members of the quartet are not the only musicians who need to balance their schedules. Martin Seggelke, a conductor for the school’s string ensemble sees touring as a way to become inspired as well as learn to work with new artists and bring new ideas back to campus.

“You never know what you’re going to meet out there,” Seggelke said.

Although Seggelke has not yet toured since he started at SF State, he finds that being a professor and touring complement each other and that they are profoundly rooted in each other.

SF State also encourages its teachers to work outside of campus as musicians.

“It’s one of the expectations if you want to make tenure, to establish a portfolio of outside work,” Seggelke said.

Students also said that they benefit from teachers who have music experience outside of campus.

“It’s kind of cool,” said Jules Figueroa, 31, a music major at SF State.”It shows that they’re not just a part of the pedagogy and that they have legitimate experience.”