Mason Provost Spices Up Lyrics to Gilbert and Sullivan Classic

Posted: May 12, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Peter Stearns
Provost Peter Stearns
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Although the night was filled with vocal and instrumental performances from Mason’s Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, University Singers and more, one of the highlights of the Department of Music’s Annual Scholarship Concert last week was a rendition of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” performed by Mason Provost Peter Stearns.

Leading the second half of the program, Stearns appeared on stage with a shopping bag in his hand. Pulling from his bag a wrinkled sheet of paper containing the song’s lyrics and putting on his plumed Major General hat, Stearns performed several verses of the original song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, “Pirates of Penzance.”

Then Stearns removed his Major General hat and replaced it with an academic cap to sing his own version of the song, this time titled “I Am the Very Model of a Bureaucrat in Academe.”

The idea for Stearns’ performance originated in the fall of 2007, when the Faculty Arts Board met and enjoyed a performance of “The Pirates of Penzance” by the Virginia Opera. Stearns volunteered to perform the popular song and also decided to write his own parody of it.

“Dr. Stearns’ version of the song was sensational, and his baritone voice and diction is impeccable,” says Rick Davis, associate provost for undergraduate education and artistic director for the Center for the Arts. “How many universities can say that their provost has performed with a full orchestra in front of a thousand people and also written their own lyrics?”

His tongue-in-cheek verses, full of inside-Mason references, are reprinted below.

“I Am the Very Model of a Bureaucrat in Academe”

Lyrics by Peter N. Stearns to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major General”

(Chorus in italics)

I am the very model of a bureaucrat in academe

With FTEs and budget ploys my office hours routinely teem

I know the deans of Mason and I quote their fights historical

From Struppa down to Terry D in order categorical

Acronyms bedeck my day from SPP to CHSS

With ICAR, SOM and CHHS in all a very pretty mess

I know the cherished handbook and the Senate full of rhetoric

Student pranks and faculty gripes I take with an emetic

Student pranks and faculty gripes he takes with an emetic

Student pranks and faculty gripes he takes with an emetic

Student pranks and faculty gripes he takes with an eme-te-te-te-tic

Then I can cite the details of the last contested tenure case

And groan with you about the state of our beleaguered funding base

In short in details otiose with members of my staffing team

I am the very model of the bureaucrat in academe.

In short in details otiose with members of his staffing team

He is the very model of the bureaucrat in academe.

With U.S. News and BOV and ratings that we all can name

I tout galaxial greaty-ness with all the vigor I can claim

I can witness SCHEV or BOV and tune out their cacophonies

While reading the whole chorus of the Frogs of Aristophanes.

I can tout the academics and research that should so clearly mount

While knowing that it’s football that alone will ever really count

To handle major donors is but part of my great stratagem

Made simpler by the fact that there are only three or four of them

Made simpler by the fact that there are only three or four of them

Made simpler by the fact that there are only three or four of them

Made simpler by the fact that there are only three or four (no more) of them

Retention, hoops, diversity and even office station’ry

Are part of what it takes to thrive at good old Georgie Masonry

In short with data mindnumbing my colleagues I routinely ream

I am the very model of a bureaucrat in academe.

In short with data mindnumbing his colleagues he routinely reams

He is the very model of a bureaucrat in academe.

We seize the change and like to boast we’re very entrepreneurial

Though some may claim our strategic sense is no more than mercurial

Our global thrusts have sometimes closely bordered on hysteria

When I confused sinology with ventures out in Syria

My knowledge of technology tho I’m web-based and downloadery

Is roughly the same level as my knowledge of embroidery

But still on global issues or as a leader of the packademe

I am the very model of a bureaucrat in academe.

He is the very model of a bureaucrat in academe.

He is the very model of a bureaucrat in academe.

He is the very model of a bureaucrat in aca-aca-deme

My administrative knowledge is self-taught and elementary

I’m happiest when engaging facts from some forgotten century

But still in matters P and T or Final Four or Nobel Prize

I am the very model – and I know well how to plagiarize.

But still in matters P and T or Final Four or Nobel Prize

He is the very model – and he knows well how to plagiarize.

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