An age-old cliche contends that “those who cannot do, teach.”
The phrase implies that some educators are in the classroom because they do not measure up professionally outside academia. Some professors of film, acting and music at CSUN, however, teach by choice, and have the resume to back it up.
Eric Edson has been a working screenwriter for more than 20 years. He sold his first screenplay at age 23 and has credits on 17 feature screenplays.
His most recent project, is a movie of the week titled “Lethal Vows” starring John Ritter, was produced and aired while Edson was employed at CSUN, and it was not a first for the professor.
Despite what many would call success in Hollywood, Edson, an associate professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department for the past seven years, continues to educate.
“When you teach at the university level, you use all of yourself,” Edson said regarding how being a professor differs from being a writer.
One advantage that campus life has over the Hollywood scene that Edson enjoys is the interaction with students.
“I did well as a screenwriter, but writing is 80 to 88 percent sitting in a room alone,” Edson said.
Lillian Lehman has been an employee of CSUN since 1985. Initially a part-time professor, Lehman became a full-time professor in 1990 and received tenure in 1996.
“I have always had a passion for teaching,” said Lehman, who has been a working actress for more than 30 years.
Lehman’s resume reads like a TV Guide list of television’s tops show in the last quarter century: “Sanford and Son,” “Kojak,” “Dallas,” “LA Law,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Magnum P.I.,” “ER,” “Seinfeld,” “Cold Case,” among others.
Lehman has also had a reoccurring role on the ABC daytime drama “General Hospital,” playing Dr. Joyce Meadows, over the past 15 years.
“My work (as an actress) allows me to bring guest speakers into my classroom,” said Lehman, who also admits that being a working actress and a full-time professor can be a challenge.
“I did have to make teaching a priority,” Lehman said. “I had to prioritize my whole life to teach.”
For Lawrence Stoffel, director of bands and associate professor in the Music Department, working in education is performing at one of the highest levels within his profession.
“The university setting is the professional level for bands,” said Stoffel, who spent eight years as the director of the marching and concert bands at Northern Illinois University before coming to CSUN.
Stoffel, who holds a doctorate of music from Indiana University and a master’s degree in music from the University of Colorado, said that in the area in which he specializes, Classical Orchestra, “opportunities exist primarily in the school setting.”
“It is as about as competitive and anything could possibly be,” Stoffel said of securing a position in a Broadway theater orchestra. “One in thousands will make it.”
At the same time, Stoffel estimates there are about five top touring orchestras in the country.
“People never leave those gigs,” said Stoffel, who estimated that on average there is probably one position in all the groups combined that becomes available every five years.
Stoffel said that if a classically trained musician is not working in the school setting, a Broadway theater or in a touring orchestra, then more than likely they have several different jobs to help pay the bills.
“Most musicians work pick-up gigs,” Stoffel said. A pick-up gig is when a musician fills in with a band for a designated period of time. “It is inconsistent work, but it can be lucrative,” Stoffel said.
Darren Dickerson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.