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Bruce Polay

Professor and Chair of Music

Conductor and Music Director, Knox-Galesburg Symphony

At Knox Since: 1983


Bruce Polay joined the Knox faculty in 1983. He earned his D.M.A. in

instrumental music from Arizona State University and his bachelor's
degree from the University of Southern Carolina. His teaching interests
include music theory and history,
composition, songwriting, and orchestration. 

Why did you decide to become a professor?
I have always enjoyed teaching. At Knox I have been fortunate to teach within a variety of my interests -- particularly music theory, music history, composition (including a songwriting workshop) and orchestration.

Why Knox?
For me, Knox has provided an opportunity to mentor strong students with a great desire to challenge themselves through learning. I enjoy our students' vitality and their will to succeed.

How would you describe academic life at Knox?
Rigorous, informal, challenging, broadening, inviting.

What are your current scholarly interests?
On the classroom side, I teach in four distinctly different disciplines within the study of music. My travels as a guest conductor and performer enrich my ability to relate real-life experience to the classroom. On the performance side, my work with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony affords me the opportunity to cultivate a professional working relationship between students at Knox, members of the community and the College faculty, and from throughout the west-central Illinois region. Hopefully this invigorates both my teaching and our students' ability to learn new and exciting perspectives.

What are the essential qualities of a Knox student?
Ideally, I hope for an open mind girded with a willingness to challenge known perception with creativity and depth.

What surprises you about Knox students?
Their generosity to reach out to others.

How has interacting with students affected your own academic interests and research?
The challenge of teaching encompasses the challenge to learn from any situation. So interacting with student perceptions helps me understand a perception that my be different or differing from my own.

What is your most memorable moment at Knox?
Just before I was hired I told my soon-to-be department chair, Charles Farley, that I would accept the job on one condition and one condition only: that I would never be forced to wear a tie! (We both laughed, after Charles got over my prank!)

Do you have any advice for students who are considering studying at Knox?
Be prepared to do your best and to have an open mind about learning and yourself in today's world.

What would you be if you weren’t a professor?
A world champion body surfer or an auto mechanic.

What are your interests and hobbies?
Surfing (I still can), and vintage cars, along with reading history, particularly invested in WWII.

What is your favorite thing about Galesburg?
It's small enough to know many folks and large enough to be supportive of a diverse number of high quality arts programs within the community.

Can you give an example of a Knox graduate who has gone on to do interesting things?
Many, Dr. Steve Jackson went on into social work in Chicago, married and is now living in town working at CSC, Monmouth College, and as a freelance musician; John Eisemann, who did a recent honors project with me in orchestration, just accepted a high school choir job in his hometown of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Emmie Barford, who did an honors project in performance/analysis with me, is now practicing medicine in upstate New York; Dr. Kira Horel, who studied conducting with me, is now director of orchestras at the University of Tampa (Florida); and Carrie Wild, who was one of the first members of the Knox College String Ensemble that I founded back in the day, is now a successful artist in Indianapolis, Indiana. And the list goes on with wonderful students that I have had the honor and privilege of mentoring in 29 years at this prairie college.

View Bruce Polay's faculty page