Day Job, Dream Job
Krannert staffer balances work and music
With a PhD in American history, Denise Wilson seems overqualified for the job of administrative assistant to the chair of Krannert’s Department of Economics. For Wilson, however, the position is in perfect harmony with her lifelong passion for traditional music.
Wilson and her husband, Michael Lewis, make up the duo Traveler’s Dream, which performs a spirited blend of Celtic, French-Canadian, and early American music at venues including folk concerts, cultural events, state and national historical celebrations, and schools and colleges. The group released its third CD, “Home Comes the Rover,” in June of this year.
A native of Lafayette, Indiana, Wilson got her start in music with the Tippecanoe Ancient Fife and Drum Corps, which she joined in high school. During her undergraduate years at Purdue, Wilson sang with a French dance band while studying abroad in Strasbourg, France. After returning to the United States she joined with several musical friends to form the traditional band, Bon Jolais, and toured with that group for 15 years.
During this time she also completed her BS in French and MA in history at Purdue and earned a PhD in history from West Virginia University. Following that, she spent seven years as a history professor at Lakeland College in Wisconsin. Throughout it all, Wilson’s love for music remained a constant. “It’s been one of the most enduring threads in my life,” she says.
Wilson — who plays the, concertina, guitar, Irish flute, and tin whistle in addition to singing — returned to the Lafayette-West Lafayette area in 2000. Within a few months she reconnected with a former guitar teacher, Michael Lewis, and it wasn’t long before they began performing as Traveler’s Dream. She joined the Krannert staff in 2001. “With music, it’s feast or famine much of the time, so I needed a job that provided medical insurance and a regular paycheck,” admits Wilson.
Working 20 hours a week during the summer and 30 hours a week during the school year, Wilson provides administrative assistance to the department chair and the director of graduate studies. She works with the recruitment director to coordinate the recruitment of new faculty and organizes special events and conferences. Compiling and maintaining departmental data and maintaining the departmental Web site are also among her varied responsibilities.
“It’s an arrangement that works well for the economics department and works well for me. There’s enough flexibility to pursue my interests in music, as well as my interests in French culture and American history,” says Wilson. “I enjoy the diversity of the work I do, but mostly it is the people I interact with at Krannert — staff, faculty, and grad students — that make this an enjoyable place to work.”
Wilson’s day job has also helped her view her musical passions from a different perspective. “Over the past several years, I’ve become more conscious about approaching music as a business and more effective at marketing and promoting Traveler’s Dream,” she says. “It certainly doesn’t hurt that I work at one of the best business schools in the world.”
For more information on Traveler’s Dream, including a schedule of upcoming performances, visit www.travelersdream.net.