Lentini reflects on students performing his composition

Sam Schlenner

Dr. James Lentini did not applaud himself, even though it was Carnegie Hall.

He watched 417 University of Miami (Ohio) students perform his version of the university’s alma mater. Lentini wrote it with a crescendo at the end, and the crowd got on their feet. He joined them, but did not clap.

“It’s always a thrill,” Lentini, Oakland University’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, said of hearing his own music being played.

He composed “Ulysses’ Sail,” which debuted at the Elliott Tower dedication on Sept. 19.

It’s Lentini’s second year as provost, the chief academic officer of the university.

“The transition’s been good,” he said. ”There’s a lot to do. I’m not bored.”

With his workload, the music practice has to come and go. Now it’s mornings and evenings.

“I can’t do twelve months out of the year,” he said.

But he used to. Lentini wrote “Ulysses’ Sail” mostly in the evening. It took him about two weeks.

“You’re making something up. Out of nothing.”“It’s very much like a narrative.”

There’s form to consider. It’s got to make sense.

“It’s very much like a narrative.”

Lentini studied guitar at Wayne State University and has a doctorate in composition and guitar from the University of Southern California.

During the 2013 provost search, the other three finalists had science backgrounds.

“The discipline you come from is not an indicator of whether or not you’re going to be able to lead an institution,” Lentini said.

He said that decision making skills are more important.

Lentini cites a classic provost’s challenge: “How can you make an institution high quality, at the same time, not too expensive?”

The arts can cost a lot because there is a lot of one-on-one instruction, while a business course can work with more students per class. Lentini said provosts must understand both of these teaching missions.

“The (liberal arts) are still a very important part, a core part, of the educational mission at Oakland,” he said. “Without the arts in that, you don’t have a complete community.”

He pauses.

“They have an Arts-After-Work concert today, in fact,” he said.

If he can make it over there, he’s going.

Lentini had a dilemma at Carnegie Hall. He wanted to hold onto the moment, but he also wanted to simply listen.

“It was almost surreal,” he said.

They nearly packed the place.