The Frontman: Professor’s passion for music, teaching highlights him in the classroom and on stage
It’s another band practice in the basement of the Dischiave house. Susan is upstairs keeping the pizza warm; the guys are in the basement preparing. With the two couches pushed up against the walls and the rest of the furniture moved to the side, the four band members tune their instruments and take their places in the center of the basement. Dave Molta is the last to arrive.
‘Just in time,’ yells David Dischiave as he takes a swig of his Saranac Pale Ale.
In the corner of the room, surrounded by two Fender amps, a microphone stand and an opened-up ironing board stands the most dynamic member of the iBand, Jeffrey Stanton, ‘the conductor,’ as his three friends and coworkers refer to him.
He’s dressed in the same clothes he wore to work, dark green slacks, sneakers (not dress shoes) and a cream-colored button-down shirt with no tie.
His suitcase is a backpack, packed to the point in which the seams look like they’re about to burst. Out of the backpack appears the fifth member of the iBand, Stanton’s laptop. Using a software program called Guitar Tracks Pro, Stanton creates drum beats to match the sound and style of the iBand.
It may seem like it, but this is no ordinary garage band. The iBand is composed of four ‘human’ members, all of which are faculty at the School of Information Studies. Dischiave, Molta and Paul Brenner all play the guitar. Stanton is the group’s bassist, an instrument he picked up just a few years ago to give the iBand a more diverse sound.
For all members except Stanton, the iBand is, and probably will be the high point of their music careers. However, music has been in the blood of the recently named associate dean for Research and Doctoral Programs for a long time.
Despite his obvious ear for music, Stanton is best known around the iSchool for his brilliance and patience with students. He is a professor, a dean, a doctor, an advisor, a husband, a father, an author and a musician. He’s written more than 60 scholarly articles, published a how-to book for companies entitled ‘The Visible Employee,’ written a mid-grade science fiction novel for children grades three to eight, and has the same solid high-pitched voice and subtle talents of Eagles bassist Timothy Schmitt, at least according to his assistant Roberta Segreti. Segreti overhears the iBand practice routinely in Stanton’s office.
Music is a huge part of his life. It’s what introduced him to his wife. It’s what enabled him to develop unbreakable friendships with people he never thought he would, and it has given him life lessons and experiences of which most aren’t fit to print.
As a young man in the early 1980s, a period that saw rock music become harder, raunchier and more diverse, Stanton became serious about his music career, while attending Dartmouth College. He would split time between his contemporary rock band, Full Circle and his reggae-inspired group, Root System, playing at various venues and parties.
‘It was a big distraction from doing any useful school work,’ Stanton said about his early music experiences. ‘I’m trying to think of a story that’s fit for public consumption,’ he said.
After more than a minute of pondering, staring into space with a slight smile he said, ‘I don’t know, they’re all really bad.’ A few seconds later he added, ‘a lot of fun though.’
After graduating from Dartmouth in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a minor in music, he moved out to Boston to pursue his dreams of making it big in the music industry- a decision he would later reveal as ‘misplaced optimism.’
However, it was in Boston that Stanton met his soon-to-be wife Judy, a professional violinist with a love of music even greater than his own. The two started a band together, Big House, which lasted no more than three years.
They married in 1987, and in 1999 had their first and thus far only child, Abe.
As a professor Stanton may be tough, but his expertise of information technology and interpersonal skills keeps students engaged.
He said the undergraduate level is tougher. Last fall, Stanton taught the iSchool’s introductory course IST195; approximately 200 students packed into Watson Auditorium in the early hours of the morning. If it wasn’t his constant pacing up and down the alleyway that separates the two large rows of seats, it was his way of relating algorithms and binary code to everyday life that kept students from text messaging on their cell phones.
Isabelle Fagnot met Stanton in the spring of 2003 while pursuing her master’s in linguistics and teaching French at Syracuse University. She joined Stanton’s research team four years ago, initially as an independent study student.
Now, she has nearly completed her dissertation on women and minorities in the IT field.
‘Jeff was instrumental in me applying to this school,’ Fagnot said. ‘Jeff is a very bright person and very good at seeing what people can do. I had no experience in a research team before, but Jeff gave me a task and made me believe I could do it. The fact that he trusted me and made me see what I was capable of accomplishing was instrumental.’
Shuyuan Ho has had a similar experience with Stanton. She’s been a research assistant of Stanton for nearly four years and served as his teacher’s assistant in labs for IST195.
‘As a student, I always felt he was very approachable. He’s very insightful too and logical in criticizing my papers and ideas,’ Ho said.
Stanton’s credentials stretch far beyond a bachelor’s at Dartmouth. He received his masters in 1994 and his doctoral in 1997, both from the University of Connecticut and both in industrial and organizational psychology.
He’s taught at Eastern Connecticut State University and later at Bowling Green State University before coming to the iSchool at SU in 2001 as an assistant professor. Under the new leadership of Interim Dean Elizabeth Liddy, Stanton became associate dean for research and doctoral programs in the summer of 2007.
If there’s one thing he doesn’t have enough of, it’s time. The Daily Orange interviews were routinely interrupted by students and faculty members. But what Stanton considers bad is equally good; he gives each visitor his undivided attention. Whether it’s reviewing a colleague’s work or scheduling a time to talk with his grad students, Stanton tries to do it all for others, often sacrificing time meant for himself.
He tries not to let it get in the way of his family life, however, which he admits is far from glamorous. It’s based on routine. Stanton goes to work, kisses his wife goodbye, comes home, eats dinner with his family, drives Abe to karate practice and two to three times a month volunteers as the role of Cub Scout Den Leader for Abe and six of his friends.
His one form of personal solitude is his passion: music. Twenty years ago it was ponytails and club rock bands, now it’s slacks and the iBand.
But there’s something about the way Stanton polishes the edges of timeless hits like ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ and ‘The Wild Night is Calling’ that makes them sound different and perhaps better than the originals. You can see it in the way he closes his eyes while playing out a riff on his bass guitar or eases up to the microphone before singing a tune. There’s an obvious affinity there, a love of music.
‘It takes on a life of its own,’ Stanton said. ‘That transcends the normal thing of playing in a band, and you feel like you’re part of something that’s bigger.’
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