The Imposteriors to Play at JSM Dance Party
The band The Imposteriors will play three sets of music during this year’s JSM Dance Party and Lounge in Seattle, Washington, August 11 from 9:30 p.m. until midnight. To find out more about the group—which is made up of five statistics PhD academics who live in different cities—we asked them to tell us more about themselves.
MG = Mark Glickman, bass and vocals (Boston University)
DH = Don Hedeker, guitars and vocals (The University of Chicago)
JH = Jennifer Hill, percussion and vocals (New York University)
MJ = Michael Jordan, drums and percussion (University of California at Berkeley)
How did The Imposteriors meet?
BC: Bayesians have a tradition of a “cabaret” performance of skits, funny songs, juggling, and so on following the closing banquets of big conferences, dating at least to the legendary a capella performance by George Box of his composition, “There’s No Theorem Like Bayes Theorem” at Valencia 1 in 1979. I came on board at Valencia 4 in 1991. I had written a song called “Imagine” (a Bayesian spoof of the John Lennon original) and I managed to borrow the hotel band’s keyboard so I could perform it, along with Rob McCulloch, Wally Gilks, Adrian Raftery, and some other guys doing an absurd The-Pips-Meet-Michael-Jackson dance line on the side. There were a couple other songs. Luis Pericchi helped me out on a borrowed acoustic guitar, and that was the beginning of the “Bayesian band.”
Jose Bernardo knew I’d show up for all the Valencia meetings he organized and just assemble whoever was there (usually Mark and Jennifer included, going back to the 1990s) into the “house band” of Bayesian statistics. Jose would make sure all the right equipment was rented. He really deserves a lot of the credit for this becoming an ongoing thing.
Later, when the MCMSki meetings came about, the band started playing at non-Valencia meetings and was known as “IMSISBA,” a meld of the names of the two organizations that sponsored MCMSki. We became The Imposteriors when Don joined the band just before the 2014 JSM talent show and suggested it; we all agreed immediately it was a great name for a Bayesian band!
We’ve grown accustomed to doing post-cabaret dance sets, where we just play up-tempo rock and roll so these Bayesians (who are naturally rowdy and have been sitting politely, drinking wine all through the cabaret) can finally get up and dance. So over time, we built up a group of people who were really comfortable playing with each other and who, in addition to the spoofs, also had a decent repertoire of dance songs. Stepping up to three full dance sets at JSM 2015 is the next challenge for us, but I think we’re up to it!
When did the band officially form?
BC: I think I answered that above. It was just a couple friends and me in 1991, but I think Mark and Jennifer (who went to graduate school together at Harvard) were there at Valencia 5 in 1994.
If you go to YouTube and type in “Bayesian cabaret,” you will see an enormous range of material, much of it with me playing keys and leading the band. We had various bassists and guitarists over the years, depending to some extent on where the meeting was (North America, South America, Europe, etc). There have also been several people (Tony O’Hagan, Jeff Rosenthal, Kerrie Mengersen, Mark Huber, Herbie Lee, Marian Farah, Rebecca Steorts, and others I’m forgetting) who have contributed songs and skits over the years and really can be depended on to bring one really good new spoof to nearly every one of these cabarets (which now happen somewhere at least once a year).
How did you come up with the name?
BC: Like I said, that was Don Hedeker’s suggestion last summer, and we all liked it so much we launched the Facebook page the next day. Don is founder and leader of The Polkaholics, a Chicago-based punk-polka band, so is quite experienced with clever band promotion ideas.
How do you get together to practice?
BC: Excellent question! With the cabarets, I usually just got everyone together for 4–5 hours before the show and tried to throw everything together. We’ll certainly get together in Seattle pre-show, but with three sets to arrange and all of us living in different major U.S. cities (Boston, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Berkeley), we’re taking advantage of an online practice program called JamKazam. It seems our computers and Internet connections make it possible!
How long have each of you played music on your own?
BC: Hmm, my mother made me take piano lessons from grades 4–7. At that time, I begged her to let me quit so I could take trombone lessons instead. I was mostly a trombonist in college, but I was also a keyboard player laying down chords for hot licks lead guitarists in bar bands in high school, college, graduate school, and beyond (more on this below). I’ve also been a singer in church choirs, glee clubs, and bands since I was in college.
MG: Even though I play mostly guitar and bass guitar for The Imposteriors, my main instrument is piano, which I started playing when I was 5. I was classically trained in piano, and took lessons until the start of college. When I was 12, I taught myself to play guitar so I could play along with my Beatles records (much more fun than playing guitar to my Beethoven records). Some friends in college and I wanted to form a dance band and we needed a bass guitarist, so that inspired me to learn bass guitar.
DH: I have been playing guitar in bands since high school, a long, long time ago.
MJ: I played in rock bands as a kid, playing just about every instrument except the drums. Then, there was a hiatus for many years. I got started again in music about a decade ago, when some friends gave me a drum kit as a birthday present, for no apparent reason, and I set it up in my basement and found myself enjoying learning to play it. It may be the one thing in my life at which I’m getting noticeably better year in and year out; with most everything else there’s a slow decay.
JH: I think I’d prefer to remain the mysterious member of the band!
What was your first gig together, and how did it go?
BC: Well, for the current fivesome, I guess it would be the Talent Show last August. Ron Wasserstein said we co-won, so I guess it went well! I was really blown away by all the other acts as well; however, I’ve actually been a fan of the Fifth Moment’s work at NCSU for quite some time.
DH: I joined The Imposteriors at last year’s JSM talent show in Boston. It was a lot of fun and I thought it went well. I’m happy to be part of this band—everyone is so good.
How do you choose the music you cover?
BC: I think it’s pretty “democratic” in that everybody contributes song ideas. Jennifer and Mike are the ones who keep us honest in terms of not just picking songs we love from our childhoods (because then there’d be way too much “classic” material). I mean a lot of that is great to dance to, but we have Cavedogs, Mana, Neon Trees, and Grouplove in the set for Seattle. Mark and I are more 70s/80s guys, so we’ll bring the Beatles et al. And I’ll probably try to talk Don into throwing in a polka or two.
MG: I suggest songs for the band to play based on a simple rule: If I find myself snapping my fingers and stomping my feet to a candidate song, then I’ll suggest it to the band. More often than not, I’m right on target. When you hear us in August, you’ll know which songs I suggested. (Hint: Check to see if you’re snapping your fingers and stomping your feet.)
DH: Since I am the newcomer to the band, I let the others choose the songs.
MJ: I also like to go jogging, but, as anyone who has arrived at age 50 knows, the pleasure of exercise starts to become supplanted with the pain of exercise. Luckily, the iPod came out and I discovered that listening to music effectively combats the tedium of jogging. In particular, listening to new music keeps my mind engaged. So I have a pretty good awareness of all the great new music out there, and I tend to have many suggestions of covers that are not just the same old songs every cover band plays.
What is your greater passion, music or statistics?
BC: That’s a tough one. I’m a big time Bayesian; everybody who knows me knows that. I love working in that area and talking and proselytizing about it. But music and playing in a band is different; it has some of the left-brain activity that Bayesian statistics is about (even simple rock songs have form and structure), but it also brings a lot of the right-brain stuff that feeds your soul. When you’re really locked in with other musicians you’re performing with, it’s as much fun as anything I’ve ever experienced. And it’s something you can do when you’re old; it’s a better hobby than, say, rugby for that reason. I certainly expect I’ll be playing in bands long after I’m no longer professor and chair of biostatistics.
MG: I am passionate about both music and statistics, but in different ways, so it is difficult to compare them directly. I think I’m better serving humanity by having statistics as my regular job and keeping music as a hobby. It might be an interesting undertaking to have music as a profession and keep statistical work as a hobby, but society frowns upon such experimentation.
DH: I’ll never tell!
MJ: In my professional life, I find I never have enough time to get everything done that I’d like to get done, and that I’m always feeling rushed. In my musical life as a drummer, my job is exactly to avoid rushing. The two passions go together very well.
Other than at JSM, where else have you performed together?
BC: I mentioned the MCMSki gigs. We actually got to perform with the Crash Test Dummies’ guitarist at MCMSki 3 in Park City, Utah (that band was staying at our conference hotel that night and saw us in the ballroom). After the JSM dance party this August in Seattle, we’re doing a gig at the ICHPS meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, in October, and also at MCMSki V in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in January 2016. The next World ISBA meeting will be June 13–17, 2016, in Sardinia. So we don’t gig that often, but when we do, the venues are sensational!
DH: The other members have a long history, but I just joined last summer, so the aforementioned JSM talent show was it for me. But beyond JSM 2015, there are plans for us to also play at ICHPS 2015 next October in Providence, Rhode Island. So, who knows? Maybe we’ll eventually be on the stat-rock road to stardom!
Do you moonlight without the band?
BC: Yes, I’m in two other bands that get a fair amount of work. I grew up playing and singing in Methodist churches, so when I got to Minnesota, I added leadership of the house band for a left-wing Methodist church. That band has also gotten pretty good and now plays non-church coffee shop and bar gigs around the Twin Cities. Then, because my undergrad degree is from Nebraska, I also lead a Minnesotans for Nebraska pep band that plays at a local Husker bar every football Saturday. We have a lot of work when the Huskers play the Gophers, including driving down to Lincoln for 3–4 gigs when the game is there. So I’m lucky to be in three pretty good bands right now, all of which get work (though the Husker band only gigs in the fall!).
MG: Right now, The Imposteriors has my full loyalty. Who has time to be in another band when you’re in The Imposteriors?
DH: Yes, I am the leader of a punk rock polka band in Chicago called The Polkaholics. We recently celebrated our 17-year anniversary of playing people-pleasing polka! Those interested can check us out on YouTube or our website. In the 1980s and early 1990s, I was the musical half of the poetry/music collaboration Algebra Suicide.
MJ: I play in a number of bands in the Bay Area, currently two: one that focuses on Latin music and another that focuses on rhythm and blues. It’s one of the great features of the Bay Area that there’s a plethora of all kinds of music.
What is your day job?
BC: I’m professor and head of the division of biostatistics at the University of Minnesota. I spend about half my time on divisional stuff and the other half doing everything else: teaching a little, advising PhD students, traveling, and writing grants. My plate is pretty full, but my boys are 22, 20, and 16 now, so two are out of the house and I no longer have to spend all my weekends driving them to soccer games and Scouts and so on anymore.
MG: I am research professor of health policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health; senior statistician at the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research, a Veterans Administration Center of Innovation; and visiting professor at the department of statistics at Harvard University. I am everywhere and nowhere.
DH: I am a professor of biostatistics in the department of public health sciences at The University of Chicago.
MJ: I’m a professor in both the statistics and computer science departments at the University of California at Berkeley.
Where can we send requests for songs at JSM?
BC: Hah! I guess you can send them to me, but as I said, we’re already maybe three-fourths done assembling the show, so get them in quickly!
MG: Please send requests to Brad, or to the “I Love The Imposteriors” fan club address … if you can find it.