During the 2015 Philosophy School of Phish courses, I introduced the Artist Interview Project assignment. Students conducted interviews with artists from the Phish community and wrote responses incorporating themes from reading assignments and class discussions. Now you will be able to read the assignments online!
As a philosophy professor interested in engaged, experiential learning, I often experiment with new assignment formats. In my ethics courses, I include an informal interview activity. I’ve also incorporated blogging in PHL 205 (Ethics) and PHL 150 (Great Ideas in Philosophy). The Artist Interview Project is the first time I’ve combined these two engagement opportunities for students. Over the course of the term, students drafted interview questions, conducted interviews with their assigned artists, and authored introductory blog posts connecting the interviews to course material.
As you might imagine, I was a bit nervous running this assignment for the first time. Students, regardless of their level of experience or course involvement, were required to communicate with artists whose work I admire. Out of concern that students might not be respectful interacting with the Phish community or that I might not be able to recruit enough artists for the class to interview, I considered cancelling the assignment before the term began.
I can report, without hesitation, that I am grateful I did not listen to that “trace of fear.” Overwhelmingly, the students found this assignment to be highly rewarding. Specifically, interacting with the artists helped ground their understanding of abstract philosophical concepts and provided a deeper appreciation for the Phish and the community the band’s music has inspired.
As the instructor observing the interview projects unfold, I was completely floored by the time, attention, and consideration the artists offered to my students. These interviews– and the discussions they provoked in my classroom– represent our community at its finest. The careful, reflective responses from the artists make me proud to call myself a phan. While the Artist Interview Project created unique, lasting learning experiences for my students, it was only possible because an amazing group of talented, dedicated, and thoughtful artists offered their time and attention.
With my deepest gratitude and profound respect for the participating artists, I will be posting the final assignments on this blog. They will also be cross-posted on phanart.net. Students’ names have been removed to protect their privacy.
The assignment involved two components. First, students were required to conduct the interviews. Second, they wrote reflective summaries of the interviews, which incorporated conceptual tools we studied throughout the term. The assignment included quite a bit of flexibility to permit student creativity and incorporate artists’ preferences for interview format. As a result, the final products vary in method, content, and organization.
I hope you will enjoy reading these interviews, especially the words of the artists themselves. As you read the assignments, please keep in mind that the blog posts are student work; undergraduates are not professional music journalists or academics. I am making the blogs publicly available as a service to the Phish community. Doing so is an experiment. If it goes well, I will consider publishing more student work in the future. Please be respectful in your comments.
It’s worth noting that many of the students enrolled in the course were not Phish fans. In fact, some of them had never heard of Phish before enrolling in the course! The opportunity to introduce students to my favorite band through philosophy has been one of the most exciting, yet surprising, components of teaching the Philosophy School of Phish. (Yes, some of those non-phans became new phans over the course of the term, although it was certainly not a requirement or even an expected course outcome.)
Finally, in addition to thanking the artists, I would like to thank the students themselves for their enthusiastic participation, engaging discussion, and philosophical curiosity. It’s truly been an honor to work with you all.
Update: The assignment continued in 2016. Check out the complete list of participating artists, as well as the interviews themselves!