Drums, 1995-2000

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Photograph by Barbara Kubey

Robert Kubey was one of the three founding fathers of The Professors and had a distinguished career on drums from 1995-2000. Professor James Katz remarked that Kubey "had an impressive command of the skins."

Bob passed away on September 20, 2017

Our video tribute to Bob Kubey's seminal and immeasurable contribution to The Professors
Compliled and Edited by Dan Elghossain and Gary Radford, November 2017


Tomasz Imielinski
Professor of Computer Science
Rutgers University

I met Bob sometime in 1994, right after taking some guitar lessons, when I shared my dream of being a lead guitarist with Nick Belkin. Nick told me that I need to form or join a band – and he offered to introduce me to a “pretty good drummer” who was his colleague. This is how I met Bob, and just a bit later, Gary and we founded The Professors in 1995.

I liked Bob from the beginning – just a cool guy, full of crazy ideas – a lot of joy to be around. We had a lot fun, three of us plotting and planning and playing music. This was one of the most creative musically times I have ever experienced. We could not believe it was happening to us – concerts, where people actually applauded and enjoyed our music, recording new songs, creative disagreements and moments when all was coming together. It broke the usual work week (sometimes, monotone) of a professor with this incredible novelty of rehearsals (in Big Noize studios) and gigs.

Even though, Bob and I were already in early forties, it felt like we knew each way back, from high school. Rarely one develops this kind of close personal friendships in middle age. Playing music does it to you.

We kept in touch over the years, last time when it was discovered that he was sick. But he was not the type to dwell on his sickness. We would still have fun sharing incredible stories and joking around. Bob was a warm person, a good guy. Bob always had plans.

No matter what, Bob was young in spirit. I will greatly miss him.

Dennis Mumby
Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor, Department of Communication
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

My friendship with Bob goes back over 30 years; we were Assistant Professors together in the Department of Communication. I began my position in the Fall of 1984, while Bob arrived on campus a semester later. We quickly became firm friends, even though we were quite different people—me the reserved Brit, Bob the gregarious and loquacious Californian. It was an exciting time to be at Rutgers, and Bob and I spent many hours together talking about shared research interests (even though he was a media scholar and I was an organizational communication scholar), politics (he was a political junkie), and “palace intrigue” (what junior faculty don’t bond around department politics?) But it wasn’t just a department friendship. Bob would regularly invite me over for dinner, and I got to know Barbara and Ben well (Daniel wasn’t around back then). Indeed, I spent many happy hours “chez Kubey” just hanging out with my surrogate family. Bob and I also had friendly rivalries on the tennis court and the golf course and, of course, drank a lot of beers together. In many ways my friendship with Bob was a defining part of my time at Rutgers.

Although I left Rutgers in 1989, Bob and I remained firm friends. We regularly roomed together at conferences, and I even took him to meet my family in the UK when ICA was in Dublin in 1990. Bob was big hearted, funny, and one of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met. He was a good friend and colleague who left us much too soon. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. Rest in peace, my friend.

Nick Romanenko
University Photographer, Creative Services
Rutgers University

For the longest time he's always been "The Kubester" to me. Kinda old school hipster bandmate stuff. See I was his last bass player and accomplice in rhythm.  I first really met Bob when The Professors were already formed and had made a small name for themselves. As the Rutgers University Photographer, I was dispatched to Bob's Highland Park home to photograph the band in rehearsal for an article that was running in our newsletter Rutgers Today. Shot some nice black and whites inside and out behind a nearby school that day. Being an amateur bass player, I was able to relate to the whole music approach and I guess some connections formed. Pretty soon I was playing a tune or two with the band on occasion and was asked to join as a permanent member after founding bassist Steve Cooper went on to pursue his career at the University of West Virginia.

I remember trading wacky comments with the Kubester. He had a clever, twisted sence of humor, which perfectly explained his fondness for playing a version of the Fugs tune "Nothing". Kubester ALWAYS had an opinion and something to say on ANY topic. He was also a great promoter of the band and kept us busy playing out as I recall. It could be an underground cafe in New York City one week or someone's basement show the next. I think he actually played one of those basement gigs on a set of boxes (not sure what the drum situation was that led to that). And I'll never forget him gathering the strength to sit in  to "play the skins" one more time with us at Desmond's in NYC while he was quite ill. That rendition of Untenured Blues in 2014 was his last live performance I believe. I'll miss him.

Gary Radford
Professor and Chairperson, Department of Communication Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University

I stepped off the plane at Newark in August 1986, a green, star-struck Brit from Nottinghamshire, England, about to begin a Ph.D. program at SCILS. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I spent my first culture-shocked days sleeping on the couch at Dennis Mumby’s place. My first contact with SCILS faculty was Bob Kubey, through his friendship with Dennis. He was the most wonderful host and I spent many evenings at Bob and Barbara’s apartment in those first few days and weeks. He must have taken pity on me, or perhaps he was fascinated by my British background and sense of humor. We were watching a live band at the Court Tavern when I mentioned that I played guitar. Bob stored that nugget away for nine years and in 1995 he dug it up again and invited me to jam with him and Tomasz Imielinski. Bob banged his drums and Tomasz and I turned up the distortion in Bob’s living room in Highland Park. I am sure Barbara and young Ben were thrilled! Bob’s love for the band was total. He recruited other Rutgers-SCILS students to play, in particular John Barrows, Steve Cooper, and Jennifer Lehr. Within a very short space of time, The Professors had performed in Chicago and New York and had entered the recording studio to lay down 4 tracks of original music. The band was even the subject of a short article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, along with a photo and a quote from Bob. He was so proud of that. The Professors is still playing today, with every performance being a reflection of and tribute to Bob’s joy, love, and endless enthusiasm.

Marie Radford
Professor of Library and Information Science
Rutgers University

One memory I have of Bob is his enthusiastic leadership of the annual ‘SCILS Bowl’ an academic trivia competition that pitted teams of faculty, students, and alumni against one another to vie for the coveted ‘SCILS Bowl Trophy.’ Bob was the guiding force who organized the event. He wrangled first Professor/Interim Dean Todd Hunt, who had previously hosted the Rutgers Bowl, a quiz show that tested the knowledge of N.J. High School students that was taped at the Continuous Education studio. We had up to 8 teams, with three rounds of play. Bob bought a large supply of various noise makers to ‘ring in’ to answer questions and provided gag gifts for all teams placing in the top 3 slots. Gag gifts included rubber duckies, fake medals, and the like. Bob (very vocally) made sure that the competition was fair and teams kept in line with the rules. Questions ranged from SCILS trivia, to current events, to how to spell ‘millennial.’ It was great fun for all and Bob was ever at the center, often jumping up to match wits with any hecklers in the audience. Only Bob could pull this off with such good spirits, competitive joy, and lots of laughter.

Jonathan Millen
Dean and Professor of Communication
Rider University

If it weren't for Bob, I would probably still be playing drums in my basement.  When the Professors played at Rider University in 2001 following that year's meeting of the New Jersey Communication Association, Bob invited me to sit in and play a few songs on his kit.  Bob's generosity and support paved the way for my four-year stint with the band.  I think back on those days - the practices and gigs - with a deep sense of appreciation for the music and friendships that were formed.  It was an honor to sit on his throne. 

Brent Ruben
Distinguished Professor of Communication
Rutgers University

As a colleague in the Department of Communication, and later as a member of the School faculty, Bob was dedicated and influential in a great many ways. He was one of a select group of notable scholars whose work extended research on media “uses and gratifications” to probe more deeply into the psychological dynamics associated with the creation, interpretation and use of mass mediated messages. He was one of the few scholars who looked at these dynamics from the perspective of audience members, and also message producers. His interest in media-use led also to his important work on media literacy. For those of us who remember Bob during these years, we of course, appreciated the impact of his writings. But, beyond his contributions as a scholar-of-record, he was also truly, a scholar-in-residence, and a significant intellectual force among his colleagues and students. He was enthusiastic member of departmental committees, always willing to take time to engage with colleagues about topics of mutual interest, and never too busy to encourage students and younger faculty to vigorously pursue their intellectual passions, as he so clearly did himself. Those who worked closely with him during those years remember him with fondness, and will long remember and appreciate the significant role he played within the history of the school.

Gina Marcello
Assistant Professor & Program Director, Digital Communication
Georgian Court University

During my time as a graduate student at SCILS (MCIS and Ph.D.), I worked with Bob Kubey on many initiatives. The highlights include: legislation for establishment of the Center for Media Literacy (Senator Diane Allen was the sponsor of the bill), a grant for the Discovery Channel measuring the effectiveness of media literacy education in the Maryland public school system, the development of language arts standard 3.5 for the NJ Department of Education, and we facilitated numerous workshops. He was my dissertation advisor, my mentor, and a good friend. I’m very heavy hearted he’s gone.

John Pavlik
Professor of Journalism and Media Studies
Rutgers University

Bob Kubey was an exceptional scholar, teacher and friend. As a scholar, his research frequently pushed the boundaries of the field. His pioneering research on television addiction as more than a mere metaphor stands out in this regard. Not only did he provide new insights for the scholarly community in the communication and media fields. But through his publication in Scientific American he enriched understanding in a much wider audience. Collaborating with Bob was also an extraordinary opportunity. Drawing upon his training in psychology, Bob and I worked together on a study examining the role of Freud and psycho-analysis in television program narratives. We presented this research in Vienna, Austria, in the Freud Museum, once Freud’s home and office. Our joint presentation there is a very special memory indeed.

Bob was also a great friend whose interests enriched the entire SC&I community. His band, The Professors, more than once provided exceptional musical entertainment for school gatherings. His skill on the drums was impressive. And having lost to him on more than one occasion at ping pong, I know well the breadth, depth and quality of his athletic ability. We will all miss Bob’s leadership, vision for the field, and gift as an engaged teacher. I will miss especially his friendship, dedication to and passion for the study of journalism, media and communication. Play on, Bob!


From Radford, G. P., Cooper, S. D., Kubey, R. W., McCurry, D. S., Millen, J., and Barrows, J. R. (2002). Collaborative Musical Expression and Creativity Among Academics: When Intellectualism Meets Twelve Bar Blues. American Communication Journal [Online] Volume 6, Issue 1, Fall 2002.

Merge the two stereotypes of a fractious faculty meeting and prima donnas in a rock band fighting over status issues and you will gain a glimpse, but just briefly, of the worst moments of the first five years of The Professors. In reality, the great percentage of the time, it was a terrific creative experience of exciting performances, camaraderie, and regular escape and tension release from the daily conflicts and minutiae of academe.

Only rarely has a musical band sent and received more email messages to one another, both about the band’s creative direction and always over the play list prior to each gig. Email helped most in quickly communicating when and where we would next practice. But being verbal and critical folk by training, if not by nature, there were all too many attempts in The Professors to also work through creativity issues by email.

One lesson from The Professors’ efforts to manage collective creativity is that too much email time and too little face time does not a happy band make. And I rather suspect the same goes for many academic departments, although the adage that familiarity breeds contempt may also be one of the reasons that academics gravitate to email, i.e., interaction without really interacting. The Professors never tired of one another’s physical company. Things were much better in person than in cyberspace. Sometimes email did give us a way to deftly deal with a conflict that couldn’t be dealt with in person. Private phone time sometimes seemed conspiratorial.

We too often incorrectly assumed that we could apply our critical minds and verbal abilities through email to resolve our creative differences when over and over we learned that things were better worked out in session and through the music itself. When in doubt, play! Having worked and written a good deal with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I, for one, should have known this, realizing that the band needed to spend more time deeply involved in session obtaining the “flow state” that Csikszentmihalyi describes in Beyond Boredom and Anxiety (1975) and Creativity (1997) than trying to work things out via email.

Flow is the state of enormous engagement that each of us experiences when intensely involved in an activity where challenges and skills are equally matched and where positive feedback comes regularly and quickly. “In flow experiences, people report very high concentration but ease of concentration - they feel active, strong, and in control. Concentration is so focused during flow activities that people typically report a diminished awareness of their surroundings and they lose track of time (‘time flies’)” (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 141).

Musical performance is one of the prime activities that will engender flow. In a band, when a group is improvising and “in the groove” and the music just keeps getting better there is nearly nothing better in life. The Professors were often in flow, especially when we would abandon the playlist and just jam, or improvise within a well structured blues progression. We found that one of the hardest things to do is to be in flow and feel free and creative when recording in the studio. We learned a lot from that experience. Trying to capture our best, live funky garage-band sound when layering tracks in the studio was nearly impossible.

One of the great advantages that well funded musicians have is vast amounts of time in the recording studio so that they can become familiar enough with the surroundings that their creativity is no longer constrained by the $50+ an hour fee of renting someone else’s space and the precious time of a sound engineer and producer. As audience members we all learned this from the Beatles creation of Apple Records and even more so from The Band’s Big Pink album. As older readers will recall, The Band rented a large pink house in the Catskills, moved in together, and recorded many classics that would never have been produced in someone else’s alien studio.

Studio recording, we found, was an enormous challenge that we never had the time or money to even begin to master. The drummer (me) is cordoned off in a separate glassed-in room, and so too are the singers. Everything that makes a band a band is broken down (deconstructed?) and interfered with in the recording studio. One is separated from others. One could not even see all of one’s fellow musicians in the studio we used. Everyone wears earphones to hear the track and the other musicians. All the chances for the interpersonal contact needed to creatively collaborate and work off of each other are muted or removed. And layering the tracks means that you aren’t even playing together any more in real time. No wonder the sound seemed more synthetic and less live. It was the biggest mistake we made, trying to layer tracks rather than simply recording live; although we did have a great professional producer who did his best with us and our limited resources (all profits from gigs were plowed back into recording and the purchase of our own PA system).

Over analysis also impedes flow. For most of the years of the band’s existence there was jostling over our oeuvre and in the definition of our sound and image. Some members wanted to play more identifiable cover songs that audiences could readily dance to, while members on the other extreme wanted to do originals only. Unless you really hit a groove, unless they are already warmed up, audiences are reluctant to dance to material they’ve never heard before.

Art and creativity can be a struggle and collaborative art involves particularly complicated interpersonal struggles. While managing creativity in a five person band may not be as complicated as what television and film producers do routinely (Ettema & Whitney, 1982), a lot of good communication, whatever that is, is necessary to maintain a band’s creative edge.

This page last updated January 25, 2018 by Gary Radford.
Many thanks to Kurt Wagner, Marie Radford, and Jon Oliver.