Renaissance Fan


March 4, 2013

By Joey Bland

There’s a PhD. in the pep band. And he’s a professor too. And a dean. How overqualified can you get? He’s certainly unique, but I figured out how this all fits together.

Renaissance Fan

You see, Dr. Nowicki is a biologist. He studies neurophysiology, and a quick look at his CV tells me that he studies the brains and the functions of the brains of … birds. Songbirds. This guy spends his time figuring out how and why birds sing. Now, if you spend all day with birds on the brain, what are you? That is to say, if you fill your brain up with the songs of birds – to repeat, birds and brains – what should you be called?

You guessed it … a trombonist. Naturally. This guy is so full of song, he has to get it out. And there’s no better way to do this at Duke than by being part of the pep band. Amidst the cacophony of game time, Dr. Nowicki and his compatriots find order and harmony. And they sound great. This is his chance to get those songs out of his head.

And it’s also his chance to study the birdcalls of the band. He can listen to the piping whippoorwills of the flute section, the mellifluous loons that are clarinetists, and the brassy geese that play the trumpet. And all the meanwhile, he studies their brains. And he understands them. His colleagues become his subjects. Is that ethical? Who cares? It sounds great.

Then he adds his song to their chorus, playing the prettiest call of them all – the trombone, whatever bird that instrument may be. It’s a deep-throated raven or a thrush or a … I don’t know. Ask him. He’s the PhD.

In any case, on with your research, Doc. And on with the show.

Joey Bland

P.S. If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?

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