We are so proud to feature alumnus, Robert Hutchinson, who graduated from CSUB in 1992 earning a B.A. in Fine Arts with a concentration in Music and a minor in English. He furthered his education with a Master of Music in Composition from Northern Arizona University, 1993 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Music Composition from the University of Oregon, 1998.
What career advice would you give our students?
Always show up and always be prepared. It’s almost impossible not to learn if you show up. If you attend as many classes and events as possible, you’re building a reservoir of knowledge and experiences that will benefit you throughout life. Additionally, there’s nothing like being prepared to give you a feeling of confidence. In fact, most of my nightmares are about being late or unprepared!
I also recommend gaining as many skills as possible. The jobs I applied for were in Music Theory & Composition, but the skills that helped me get jobs were my ability in jazz and my knowledge of music technology.
Finally, I recommend making as many personal connections as possible (also known as “networking”). Again and again, I've seen my colleagues, family, and my students get interviews through connections, whether it’s their own connections or connections through their families, professors, or friends. Once you get to the interview, however, it’s up to you to show what you learned.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? Was there a pivotal moment?
In February of my senior year, the idea of becoming a music professor hit me like a lightning bolt as I lay awake one night. A number of ideas came together: my love of music theory, composition and analysis; my admiration for all my CSUB professors, who demonstrated passion for their jobs and and unending love of learning; and the desire to teach the types of music classes that were only offered in college.
What do you attribute your success to?
I must first give credit to all the people who shaped my life and educational development, especially my parents. I don’t know if my mother was whispering, “You must do well!” into my crib, but I had an innate feeling that I should always do my best at everything, including sports. I was disheartened when I wasn’t good at football and baseball, but that meant I focused more strongly on swimming, music, and school. I also attribute my success to Dr. Doug Davis of CSUB, as he was a major role model and mentor for me. His classes covered an incredibly large amount of material, but the weekly quizzes made learning all that material manageable. Additionally, he was an essential job reference for the two jobs I’ve gotten as a professor. At both schools where I was hired, members of the search committees knew of Doug’s high reputation as a composer and professor, which helped me get an interview.
What hardships did you face, and how did you overcome them?
The hardships I faced had to do with almost giving up on my dream of being a professor. I almost quit school after the first year of my doctorate because of the debt and because the school wasn’t feeling like a good fit at that point. But, a trusted faculty member gave me a pep talk that convinced me to stick with it. Also, when I was finishing my doctorate, I didn’t get hired in my first year on the market and almost gave up. In the year that followed, I looked to my love of English literature, which was my minor at CSUB, and started to make plans to come back to CSUB to finish an English major and become certified to be an English teacher. I even took the CBEST test so I could be a substitute teacher in California. Fortunately, I landed a job as a music professor in my second year on the market.