I received an email from a colleague inviting me to send him an idea for an abstract for potential inclusion on a panel next summer in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The email was sent to a few people, and inclusion on the panel would be on a first-come, first-served basis. I ignored the email for a couple of days because I was feeling tired and massively under-confident. Couldn’t the guy just ask me to join the panel?! Apparently not. I know I don’t deserve to be selected – it’s a small panel, and a growing field, and many better-known and better-connected people are doing way cooler stuff far better than I am. I should probably feel more flattered that he asked me at all – he’s at Oxbridge, after all, and I’m part-time at small private institution in a former Job Centre off of Kilburn High Road. I decide to reply, because according to a talk I gave three weeks ago at a big American university and then put immediately up on YouTube, this is the area of scholarship I care about the most. Plus I do know all and like most of the people the email went out to.

But I’m already going to Brazil this summer, albeit with a bunch of people from the other side of my scholarly life (I am even agnostic about what field I’m in, which is crazy since neither one I’m pitching for really exists at all yet). Getting to Brazil is a massive pain in the arse – it’s horrendously expensive and time-consuming, and trying to fund my travel is causing friction between about a dozen people in two organizations in two countries. And I’m knackered! At the moment I really want just to watch a film on TV, and drink most of a bottle of wine. But there is no future in that, so I Do The Right Thing, stay up a bit later, and write a response:


Hi ____ and all,

 Thank you for thinking of me. I’d love to be involved, but regret that I must decline on similar Grounds to ____. 

I am attending the ISME world conference this July in Brazil, and have found it rather awkward (not to mention costly) to fund – at present I have an outbound flight to Porto Alegre, and one back home as far as Rio, but nothing all the way to Blighty. I am rather hoping that the two institutions (threatening to be) funding me value having me in the UK sufficiently to find the cash to get me back across the Atlantic. 

I’ll be sorry to miss this – there is something very appealing about consecutive summer conferences in Brazil. 




But as I am about to hit ‘send’ I realize that this could be a tremendous opportunity – what if I do get the job I’m being interviewed for tomorrow, instead of the one I really want that I was invited to apply for but that’s in a field where this resaearch and conference would seem utterly superfluous? I gather some strength and alertness out of nowhere, and craft a motivated-and-excited-and-sort-of-confident-fresh-young-scholar email as well:


Hi ____ and all,

Thank you for thinking of me. I am not 100% certain I will be in Brazil next summer. However, I have very nearly scraped together the funds to be there this summer for the ISME conference, so I’ll throw my hat optimistically into the ring. Plus the ISME conference isn’t going to Sao Paulo…

This panel would be of great interest to me and of huge relevance to my current work. I will present data from a study I am carrying out this Christmas, about perceptions of consistency in time and timing when playing an identical musical theatre production to click track multiple (54) times over 30 days. I presented a lecture on this nascent project by invitation last month at Case Western Reserve University, and it was well received, so hopefully this could be of interest to the proposed panel. 

All best, and thank you again, ____, for thinking of me. 




I leave both emails open on my desktop for about twenty minutes, pour a glass of wine (even thought it’s nearly 2.00 AM and I have get up before 6.00 so I can beat the waking of the baby and get to the café near the office to get a couple of hours’ writing done before I need to teach). I decide out of a vain hope to raise my spirits to send the second one, and go to bed. In the morning I find that, because I was too depressed to reply at all for 48 hours, a respected colleague has beaten me to the draw. But I’m on the bench in case he decides he doesn’t want to visit Sao Paulo for week to (drink a lot and) attend a conference about popular music. As if.




One Response to “Do I really Want to Go to Brazil?!”

  1. Jean said

    Hi Gareth,
    His model, called Snowball Self, became the theoretical framework for my dissertation (his book already came to across the atlantic!). I am a drummer and would love to chat about “being and becoming a drummer.” I wish a good trip to Brazil and I have certainty that you will be well received here

    Best wishes

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