Music Professor James Doering
-story by Lena Wallace '14
Randolph-Macon College Music Professor James Doering
is looking forward to a new academic year, including his Film Music in Japan 2014
January Term (J-term) course. Doering, who teaches
courses in film music, music history, music theory, keyboard performance and the
politics of music, says he first became interested in music when he was seven years
“My whole family played an instrument of some kind,” he says. “One of my older sisters
took piano lessons and so I asked my parents if I could do the same.”
Doering’s simple childhood question evolved into seven years of piano lessons and,
ultimately, a musical career. Although he took a “musical break” in high school,
he returned to the piano while studying at the College of Wooster where he says
he was inspired by several professors, particularly Daniel Winter, who showed him
how learning is a lifelong pursuit. Winter also shared with Doering the ways that
music can unlock new ways of experiencing life and the world around us. After Wooster,
Doering went on to earn an M.M.in piano from the University North Carolina at Greensboro
and a Ph.D. in musicology from Washington University in St. Louis.
Along the way Doering also learned the organ. He has been the organist at Duncan
Memorial United Methodist Church since 2001.
As a pianist, Doering has performed at
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the
Richmond Italian Food and Film Festival, and the 555 Festival in Policka,
Czech Republic, to name a few.
As a musicologist, his work has focused on the history of the American orchestra
and film music. Doering’s recent book,
The Great Orchestrator: Arthur Judson and American Arts Management,
published in 2013, is a biography of one of America’s most powerful music managers.
Currently, he is at work on an article about the prison film "Cool Hand Luke."
“Lalo Schifrin's score for the film cleverly blends bluegrass and classical music,”
he says. “The article is about the score and the interesting history behind it.
My research has included reviewing documents from the Warner Brothers archives at
USC and interviews with the musicians involved with the film, including Schifrin.”
Doering was the 2007 recipient of the United Methodist Church Award for Teaching
Excellence. He says he was attracted to R-MC because it reminded him of his liberal
arts undergraduate experience.
“I always wanted to get back to a small liberal arts college,” he says. “I knew
at R-MC I could teach a lot of subject areas.” One of Doering’s most rewarding experiences
while teaching at R-MC was when he taught a blind student how to play the organ.
“Playing the organ includes reading the notes off the page and translating the notes
into actions,” Doering says. “The experience taught me a new way to make music and
understand it from a new perspective.” His advice to incoming freshman music majors
is to keep all options open.
“You can major in three different ways,” he says. “You can major in
music, arts management with
a music focus, or music with a minor in education.
In these areas you can find a path that suits you, and also switch paths easily
if you become inspired to venture in a new direction. Keep your ears open.”
Doering and his 2014 J-term students will visit Washington, D.C. and Japan as part
of the Film Music in Japan course. This will be Doering’s second trip to Japan.
In 2012 he traveled with several professors
in preparation of integrating Japanese
studies into their curricula. The trip was made possible through The Japan
Foundation Center for Global Partnership grant,
“Honoring the Life, Work, and Good Spirit of Taylor Anderson: Enhancing Japanese
Studies at Randolph-Macon College.” Taylor Anderson ’08 died as a result
of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The grant is helping R-MC reach its goal
of increasing course offerings in Japanese language and culture and will allow students
to travel to Japan as part of their studies.
“The course uses film as an introduction to Japanese music. We’ll watch several
films with music by several of Japan’s most respected film composers, then travel
to D.C., where students will study American perceptions of Japanese music,” Doering
says. “Then we’re off to Japan, where we will learn about the culture and context
that inspired the music heard in the films we watched. In Japan, we will visit historic
sites, museums, a film studio and hear live music.”
Doering’s favorite thing about teaching at Randolph-Macon is “being a part of a
vibrant learning community. It is exciting to be around 18- to 22-year-olds as they
discover new things and start to find their places in the world.”