Musician Thomas Dolby referred to himself as the “black sheep” from a family of academics. His father taught archaeology and classical Greek art at the University of London and Oxford University. His five siblings are all teachers, but it seemed that Dolby missed out on college entirely, due to his active musical career. So it is a kind of manifest destiny that the polymath artist, who has played with David Bowie at Live Aid, developed the polyphonic Ringtone for Nokia, directed films and videos, and managed to see his synthpop song “She Blinded Me With Science” reach the upper echelons of the US top 10 in 1984, is now accorded the title of Professor on behalf of Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University.
Dolby was named the university’s first Homewood Professor of the Arts at the college’s Kreiger School of Arts and Sciences. Given that the university desired to create a “Silicon Valley” for the arts, they could not have picked a more apt individual than one with the qualities of curiosity and creativity that he brings to the position since Dolby straddles the [perceived] divide between the arts and sciences with daredevil aplomb. The former Parkway Theatre is currently undergoing a $17M renovation as a three screen, 600-seat theater to be joined by an $18M art deco classroom building adjacent on the same street. It will be there that Dolby will teach his first class, “Sound On Film” this fall.
Dolby and his wife will move to Baltimore to begin this new phase of his career later this year as his three children are now matriculating elsewhere on their own even as dad gets ready to stand behind the podium. His twelve year stint as the music director of TED obviously held him in good stead to helm a state of the art arts education facility. Johns Hopkins was not the only university vying for his talents. Universities in New York City and Boston were also calling on him. His success at uniting art, technology, and business obviously gave him a high profile in academia.
Dolby will help shape the curriculum at the new center and he foresees touring musicians in the East Coast circuit as being potential guest lecturers. Currently, he’s busy programming ideas for the university’s arts incubator, which will open for the fall 2015 semester. So Thomas Dolby has now joined musicians like John Foxx, Eddie Lundon of China Crisis, or Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire in making the leap from stage to classroom. He’s in good company. So the days of Dolby on tour may be tabled for a number of years. We’ll have to see how that works out.
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