To many people, a professor’s life revolves around school. Most of their time is spent either grading papers, lecturing classrooms, meeting with students or conducting research.
And to a certain extent this is true. Most professors do, in fact, dedicate a large amount of their time on our education. Studies have shown that college professors can work upwards of 60 hours per week, which is 50% more than the national standard.
This doesn’t mean our teachers are always focused academics though. Far from it.
Despite their huge academic workload, some professors still make time to explore the artistic world.
Eric Schmitt, an instructor in the English department, is among one of these people, moonlighting as a musician when he isn’t in the classroom.
From early on, Schmitt showed signs of musical talent. He picked up the trumpet at a young age and then proceeded to teach himself the guitar in college.
However, his professional career seemed to be headed in an entirely different direction. At the University of Texas-Austin, Schmitt decided to major in business.
Eventually, though, the tide started to change.
“It just wasn’t a good match for me,” he said. “And so about halfway through, I started taking some philosophy and literature classes."
In the end, Schmitt graduated with a degree in business. However, his artistic dreams were not crushed. In fact, they had just begun.
Influenced by his humanities courses, Schmitt decided to enroll at McNeese State in an MFA program for creative writing. His love for literature and writing blossomed there.
Then, in 2000, Schmitt made a career move which would finally bring together his two passions: writing and music.
He took a job in the English department at LSU and met Randolph Thomas, the chair of creative writing. The two of them quickly became friends, and the rest is history.
“Randolph and I would get together pretty often and trade tunes and songs, stuff like that,” Schmitt explained.
Slowly but surely they recruited a few more musicians to join them. Before long, the folk/Americana band, Flatbed Honeymoon was born.
The group recorded and released two albums before disbanding. By that point, Schmitt had become enamored with the craft. With or without a band, he was ready to start his musical career.
Today, Schmitt has released two solo albums under his own name: “Piña Coladas and a Polynesian Girl” and “Unraveling.” He continues in the folk/Americana genre, but has added his own accents of rock and pop-rock throughout his work.
Many of his students probably wouldn’t expect this, however. According to Schmitt, he maintains a ‘very different persona’ in class. He even has a special hat resembling Indiana Jones’ that he wears exclusively for his performances.
“I keep a good bit of separation,” he said. “It’s not like I go out of my way to hide it from students…I just don’t bring it in.”
Some students may know Rudy Hirschheim as the Ph.D. advisor for LSU’s Information Systems department. Others might know of his work with the executive MBA program.
However, very few probably know of his musical career and how it came to be.
Rudy grew up in Buffalo, New York, where he started playing music at six years old.
“My grandfather was the concert pianist for the Berlin Philharmonic,” Hirschheim explained. “My dad wasn’t musically inclined but he said his son would have to be."
So, Rudy’s father let him pick whatever instrument he wanted to play, and he gravitated towards the drums. Soon after, he moved onto the saxophone playing in big bands like that of Glen Miller.
Everything changed when 1964 came along. Almost every musician wanted to be The Beatles, which included Rudy.
“There was a group of us all playing guitar trying to be like The Beatles,” he said. “One day, we all looked at each other and said ‘somebody has to play bass,’. I thought about it and said, ‘if it’s good enough for Paul McCartney, it’s good enough for me."
Hirschheim went out and bought the same exact bass as McCartney, an original 1964 Hoffner violin-bass. Him and his bandmates went on to play at parties and dances all around Buffalo, covering songs from the likes of Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night, and, of course, The Beatles.
However, after his undergraduate at SUNY-Buffalo, Hirschheim found it hard to make time for music. He went to Toronto for his master’s, England for his Ph.D., then finally, to Houston to teach. In all those years, Rudy rarely ever picked up an instrument.
Coming to LSU in 2003 changed all of this.
Like Schmitt, Rudy Hirschheim met a colleague in his department, a finance professor by the name of Don Chance.
“He kept saying we should start a college band but I was hesitant. Eventually we met some marketing professors who were singers and I decided to give it a shot,” he explained.
They came together and formed Capital Gains, an obvious finance joke between them. After their first show, Rudy said the feelings all came rushing back to him.
Now, Rudy plays in a local band, Rockin’ Rouge, and couldn’t be happier.
“Professor by day, artist by night; that really is the ideal environment for me,” he said.
So, more than fifty years later, Hirschheim is back doing what he loves, almost as if he never left the music scene at all.
Edward Richards was born in Baton Rouge but has lived all over the United States, moving nearly twenty times in his life, to places like Ann Arbor, San Antonio and Denver, just to name a few.
During his travels, he acquired a Bachelor’s from Rice University, a J.D. from the University of Houston, and a Master’s of Public Health at the University of Texas. Richards held an assortment of positions, too, from litigation consulting to working with the CDC in the ‘80s on the AIDS epidemic.
After some time, Richards finally got a call back to his hometown. In 2002, LSU offered him a teaching position at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where he has been ever since.
Originally, his research was on public policy. However, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Richards turned his attention toward a subject he was heavily interested in as an undergrad— environmental science. He began studying Louisiana’s coastline and how climate change is impacting it, or, as Richards bluntly put it, “the whole problem of Louisiana washing away.”
The storm did more than reinvigorate an old academic interest, though. It also reinvigorated an old pastime for Richards—photography.
“It really got me thinking about how southern Louisiana is going to be gone one day,” he said.
So, a couple of months after the storm, Richards went around Louisiana, Mississippi, and even Florida, photographing and documenting the storm’s destruction. His goal was twofold: to archive the architectural damage while also seeing it for himself.
“Photography is an enhanced way of seeing,” Richards said. “By taking the pictures, taking the time…you see a lot more than you would just walking through the place.”
Although it’s been more than ten years since Hurricane Katrina, Richards is still as invested in photography as ever. His focus has become broader, though, as he now captures pretty much anything and everything South Louisiana.
Unlike other professors, Edward Richards’ artistic hobby overlaps with his academic profession. He gets a chance to see the problems he researches and teaches about firsthand.
Still, though, at the end of the day, Edwards is still bound by the conundrum all teachers and artists face.
“The clash is just always time,” he said.