Remembering Steven Bach: Lectures

I never really considered Steven a traditional sort of teacher – it’s hard to look back at his classes and see them as lectures. “Lectures” always seemed like too cold and impersonal a word, one that would put what Steven Bach did on the same level as some monotone community college professor. Learning from him was so much more than that – he was a storyteller, and taught almost by parable at times, never giving an answer right away, and always having this brilliant flash of enthusiasm when he thought anyone in the class might be getting what he was starting to drive at.

It annoyed some of my peers. They always said they came to college to learn, and would ask me why Steven wouldn’t just teach – to which I’d usually respond “why wouldn’t you just listen?” It remains to me a mystery how anyone couldn’t listen to the man, his stories were always so layered, so good [factual? Mostly, though he referenced Fatty Arbuckle fucking that girl to death with a green-glass Coke bottle a couple of times, and we all know that was bullshit… but again, as I said, almost like parable], and he had such a theatrical way of presenting them. Some days you’d come into the class, he’d pop in late [as he did], and everything would be so chill and relaxed, the class lounging in the seats, and Steven making small talk about what movies we’d watched that weekend. And then, slowly, almost so you wouldn’t notice at all, he’s segue into a point or a story, and the next thing you knew you’d be on the edge of your seat, listening to every single word.

And Steven was good – he knew he had you, because once you were on the edge of your seat, his voice would just get progressively lower, and lower, until it was just a raspy whisper, and looking around, the entire room would be leaning forward, hanging on every word. And sometimes when he had us there, he’d slam his arm down on the table top, open-handed, or shout out loudly about his point, and those times happened infrequently. But more often than not, he’d just smile, and lean back in his chair.

It was just as effective as any shout too.

Being in class with Steven Bach made you feel like you were being taught by someone who’d actually been a part of something. And by someone who actually wanted to teach. In fairness, I believe that was true for the rest of the Bennington faculty as well, but in practice, Steven was peerless.

1 comments :: Remembering Steven Bach: Lectures

  1. Randall - you hit the nail on the head! Steven was a fabulous story teller. As a child, when the holidays came around, we'd wait patiently by the phone for "Stevie" (as he was known to family) to call. His enigmatic lifestyle as the big hollywood executive, who was far too busy with too many important things to hop a flight to poe-dunk Denver for the holiday, left us with baited breath by the phone to hear the stories of his latest adventures! One Easter in the mid 70's he phoned us and casually mentioned he was celebrating the holiday with his friend Peter.... as he nonchalantly shared his exploits, the color drained out of my grandmother's face, as she realized her son was phoning her from Peter Seller's home! At the tender age of 6 or 7, in the height of the Pink Panther fame, I recognized the name and realized this was a BIG DEAL! Steven was only talking to family, and probably trying to defend his choice of not coming home, not trying to get a huge pedagogical point across.... so I can only imagine what it was like to have him as a mentor and teacher!!