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The Influence of Pamela Z

The Influence of Pamela Z

She’s a female. She’s a composer. She’s a performer. She’s a media artist. I was a junior in college studying to be an orchestra director when Pamela Z performed for Bowling Green State University’s New Music Festival in Ohio. She had an exhibit for her performance and installation piece called Baggage Allowance (2010). Listening and viewing her works helped lay the foundations of my teaching philosophies.

Pamela Z photo: rubra (courtesy of Ars Electronica)

“Baggage Allowance” consisted of several smaller pieces related to items one may encounter while traveling in an airport, like a baggage scanner, suitcases, or piles of clothes. One of the most memorable pieces from this exhibit was a piece called “Suitcase” which was an open antique suitcase with a projected video of the artist sleeping inside it. The soft audio from the piece resonated throughout the gallery space, crossing paths with audio from several other of Z’s pieces like “Weeping Steamer Trunk.” It created an intriguing soundscape, reminiscent of an airport where travelers speak quietly.

“Weeping Steamer Trunk” from Baggage Allowance (2010)

At that point in my life, I never saw a piece that could integrate all of the artistic elements I loved: film, art, sound, and performance. I was internally conflicted between choosing music education over film or art school. I love teaching and love music, but I also have an incredible passion for filmmaking. Seeing Baggage Allowance in person made me realize I could include both passions. This was a pivotal moment as I was developing my teaching style and forming my ideology as a teacher. Pamela Z stated in an interview, “I’ve always felt that if there are boundaries in the arts, they’re easy to cross. I like them blurred. Think of Rauschenberg. He was suppose to be a painter but was also into dance and sound performance. In my mind, I keep opening myself up. I choose everything. I’m always expanding.” She put my restless mind at ease.


After I graduated from Bowling Green State University with my music education degree, I pursued my passion for films and sound design. I received a Master of Design in Sound for the Moving Image from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland shortly after.


“Suitcase” from Baggage Allowance (2010)

Since I’ve been teaching, I strongly empathize with our students as they sometimes struggle to pick which classes to take in high school or what major they should choose for college. Often times, students feel if they choose one certain path, they are excluding other passions they might have. My philosophy as a teacher is to help my students realize their unlimited potential. I want my students to realize that their education does not end after high school, college, or grad school. I want to teach them to make strong decisions for themselves that will ultimately put them in the best possible position for them to be happy with their career field.


Because that’s what I did. That’s what I’m continuing to do. As an orchestra director, I’ve been able to make connections between music, films, sound design, film scoring, video game audio, led foley workshops, and even presented these ideas to more teachers. I am constantly finding ways to integrate my passions and experience with filmmaking and sound design to my curriculum. There are no boundaries with what I can include.


And that’s what I learned from Pamela Z. Keep yourself open. Choose everything, and always expand your learning.



Pamela Z Website

Baggage Allowance


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The Influence of Pamela Z

by Shannon Bolen -Orchestra Director, Strack Intermediate

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