The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Professor Picks: Dr. Alfred Petrosky

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“I think I take a collector’s mentality to music,” Dr. Alfred Petrosky, Department Chair of Managing, Operations and Marketing at California State University, Stanislaus, said. “I’ve got about 3,400 CDs between here and home, and I’m always looking to find a little niche that I haven’t explored before.”
And he isn’t kidding. A glance in his office will reveal analogous, physical niches within bookshelves and upon drawers filled with stacks of CDs; a glance at the playlist Petrosky provided will take in a wide-ranging collection of genres – from classical to jazz to Pet Shop Boys.
“I don’t like to stay static,” Petrosky said. “I can’t understand anybody who wants to listen to just one genre, even if it were popular music. That’s still restricting to me.”
Petrosky teaches marketing. He has been a professor at CSU Stanislaus for 19 years, the chair of his department for seven. After my first interview for this feature, Dr. Scott Davis immediately recommended I talk with him.
Classical music takes up the most space of any genre on his playlist. Petrosky stressed that it’s these particular artists’ versions of the songs that make them phenomenal. His delving into the genre began with a symbolically appropriate movie.
“Like a lot of boys my age, a bunch of us got tied up into classical music just because we went to see ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’” Petrosky said. “On one LP – back then I was listening to those black, spinny things, right – on that [movie’s] LP you had a broad range of classical music.”
Petrosky referred to his younger self as “that freaky little kid who liked to hang out and listen to classical music.”
“Typical mother and father screaming, ‘Turn that damn stereo down,’” Petrosky joked. “But in my case it was probably Shostakovich that was playing too loud.”
Concerts are Petrosky’s main vehicle for discovery. Him and his wife subscribe to the San Francisco Symphony, and every Labor Day weekend the two attend the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle with their son, where, Petrosky explained, “we get our dose of popular music.”
Petrosky’s concert-going can sometimes take him across the country.
“I hadn’t been to New York for 12 years, so I decided if I could find a four- or five-day window during Winter Intersession, I was going to go,” Petrosky said. “I found a cheap ticket and decided since I’m going to go, and I’m going there to listen to music, I’m going to go in high style. So I bought a front row ticket at the Metropolitan Opera. Anna Netrebko, the one [who sang at this year’s] Olympics, was the female lead on that one, and that was otherworldly.”
It might be hard for casual listeners of music to understand the genuine tone behind the word “otherworldly.” Petrosky more than once referenced the degree to which music physically draws him in.
“I find that I just can’t work and have music playing,” Petrosky said. “It pulls my attention away, especially if it’s something that I really love; I won’t be able to do anything but pay attention to it.”
The notable artists who didn’t make it on the playlist are just as diverse as the ones who did: the aforementioned Shostakovich – one of the biggest classical Russian composers of the 20th century – Prince and centuries-old choral music.
“I’ve been buying Tallis Scholars music and The Sixteen,” Petrosky said. “And I’ve rarely listened to it in person before, but that would really reflect my current tastes a little bit more if I had been able to find a spot for that in there.”
Petrosky’s history with jazz is just as rich as his history with classical music. When asked how music has figured into his career, Petrosky began an explanation of his doctoral dissertation – a study of how artistic and aesthetic innovations diffuse throughout society.
“So for the better part of two years I was hanging around a lot of DJs for jazz radio stations,” Petrosky said. “And writing about that and going to jazz societies – groups of people who were really enthusiasts.”
This understandably led to a few years’ abstinence of jazz music. When Petrosky admitted that part of this was due to his difficulty getting into contemporary jazz, he was quick to add that this was probably to his detriment, reiterating what I found to be his approach to listening to music – which is equal parts critical, open and participatory.
When discussing James Mercer, the songwriter for The Shins, Petrosky built on this approach a little, tying the various disparate artists together with a simple, nebulous but elegant thread.
“There’s something about the way [Mercer] constructs songs that really appeals to me,” Petrosky said. “And that goes through the entirety of the list there. I like music that follows some kind of sinuous path, that surprises me the direction it goes.”

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Professor Picks: Dr. Alfred Petrosky