Aerial photograph of the Immaculate Conception Chapel

Get to know Samuel Dorf

Sam DorfEvery good Jewish boy wants to make his mother happy. Typically, an 8-year-old, pre-Mitzvah boy aspires to be a doctor or a lawyer. Much to his mother’s chagrin, however, 8-year-old Sam Dorf wanted to be a musical archaeologist. He didn't quite know what it meant to be one, but he knew he loved music and Indiana Jones — without the whip and the snakes.

These days, Dr. Samuel Dorf is train jumping across the continent in search of the lost lute of the Last Crusade. He does, however, have his very own office, cluttered with relics of his career and personal life, strewn across a desk far too big for the modest size of the room. The clarinet tucked under the chair next to the door serves as footstop for the umbrella balanced precariously next to the piano keyboard that consumes the wallspace opposite his Macbook.

Sam has spent most of his adult life studying musicology and dance culture, collecting degrees from Boston University, Tufts University and Northwestern University along the way. He has published articles in the Dance Research Journal, The Journal of the American Musicological Society and the International Journal for Music Iconography, et al. An assistant professor at UD, he teaches classes including a music history survey for music majors and music in film for non-majors. He also directs the Early Music Ensemble, a collection of University and community members which puts on semi-annual musical performances.

"I love it here!" said Dorf, enthusiastically touting the caliber of student he’s experienced at UD through his two years here. Some professors from other universities or conservatories tend to complain, he said, about their students not caring about the material in a music history course.

"What’s great about our university is that the students actually care," he said with a chuckle. "I think it has to do with the way I try and run class," he continued, mentioning the connections he makes between 18th century operatic story lines and those found in modern sitcoms; and that child stars in 1712 faced similar challenges as those nowadays being forced into the limelight and struggling through adulthood.

"I find this job rewarding because we get to talk about things that are interesting and the students are really into it," he said. Sam is particularly smitten with the newly redesigned CAP curriculum, anticipating the opportunity to make interdisciplinary connections between seemingly unrelated departments.

"The crossing boundaries courses are especially exciting," he said. "I'm really excited about bringing my passion for interdisciplinary research into the classroom." Having grown up in Boston, spent time in Chicago and Victoria, British Columbia, marrying an Eastern European woman and raising 6-week-old twin infants in Dayton, Ohio, it’s safe to say he's lived in and between many cultural disciplines as well.

He loves to cook and praises composer Robert Schumann's wife to be "a better [musician] than her husband in certain areas." A recovering clarinetist, Sam now plays the viola da gamba and tinkers the electro-ivories on the keyboard in his office — the one next to the umbrella and across from the Macbook. And while, in the future, he hopes to be able to study and teach more about the relationship between music and dance — "What’s the deal with the Macarena or the Electric Slide or the Dougie?" he joked. But seriously, "I'm interested in these relationships" — Sam Dorf is comfortable with how far he’s come.

"I think 8-year-old Sam Dorf would be pretty darn proud, you know, to be a musical archaeologist," he beamed, flashing grin reminiscent of his not-so-childish idealism. "I'm actually studying the interaction between archaeology and music, so the 8-year-old Sam Dorf would be really happy."