Jim Caldwell, a professor in the Western Illinois University School of Music since 1985, is pursing a completely different dream that is now becoming a reality. Caldwell will graduate with a bachelor of fine arts in art degree in May after not taking an art class since sixth grade.
Caldwell teaches music theory, composition and electronic music at WIU. He is also a composer, and specializes in computer music. He is a co-director of the annual New Music Festival.
In his professional world, Caldwell is the chair of the University Personnel Committee, a former president of the WIU chapter of UPI Local 4100, was named the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 2009, and received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005.
However, Caldwell sparked a new interest in simply learning to draw in 2004 when he began taking studio art classes in the art department. He had no art experience other than what is required in grade school and middle school. After the first few classes, Caldwell just kept going and eventually realized that he had accumulated enough credits to pursue a degree in art.
After meeting with Professor Jan Clough for advising and figuring out what courses he had left to take, Caldwell is now taking his last course requirement, an art history class. Caldwell will graduate in May and take part in undergraduate commencement while wearing his doctoral regalia. He will even have his own graduation party.
“My experience in the Art Department has been meaningful to me, and I think of myself as a visual artist, as well as a musician now,” Caldwell said. He adds that teaching has been wonderful and inspiring, and his traditional-age classmates have always made him feel welcome.