Mathematics professor by day, bass guitarist by night.
This is the dual life of Hilary Spriggs, administrative professional and undergraduate facilitator in the department of mathematics.
“It’s basically like having two full-time jobs,” Spriggs said. “And they are definitely extremes, but they do a good job balancing.”
In her Weber Building office, only hints of Spriggs’ musical life are visible as concert posters from her bands peek out from underneath wall cabinets. Her casual yet professional attire provides no implication of a woman who will sometimes wear her hair in a Mohawk or simply “dress crazy” for shows.
Even as she teaches class, students can only infer that the professor explaining mathematical problems in such a structured fashion only acts in a seemingly conservative and professional manner outside of class as well.
But once in a while, a student will notice a pair of leopard print pants, and Spriggs’ more funky side shines through.
Mia Haugen, sophomore family and consumer science major, said she would not have expected Spriggs to be in a band.
“It doesn’t seem like she would be wearing a Mohawk and playing bass on weekends and then teaching the next week,” Haugen said. “You really don’t see that type of mix as a professor, but I guess never say never.”
Spriggs has devoted a considerable part of her life to music; she has been the bassist for the local ska/reggae/rock band 12 Cents for Marvin for about 10 years, and is also in an all-female band called Glass Ceiling. Spriggs said doing both jobs can be difficult at times, and she doesn’t get to do as much practicing as she would like to.
Spriggs recalled a time when she played in a distant mountain town in Colorado and did not return to Fort Collins until 5 a.m., but still managed to teach a class at 8 a.m.
However, the “late nights in smoky bars” that Spriggs describes do not seem to curtail her ability to do her job at CSU.
“Every time I see her in the math department she seems professionally appropriate for that environment, and when I see her on stage she seems professionally appropriate for that environment, but they are very different environments,” said Rick Miranda, professor of mathematics and Dean of the College of Natural Sciences.
Miranda has known Spriggs since she was an undergraduate student at CSU, and was her thesis adviser during her time as a graduate student. He said he tries to see her bands perform as often as possible, which he claims “is never enough.”
“You don’t have too many people who live that kind of double life,” Miranda said. “There a lot of connections between math and music, and Hilary is a great example of that, and she is doing both at a high level.”
Spriggs said she does not completely agree with the similarity between math and music that she is so frequently asked about.
“There’s an order and logic to how things fit together mathematically, and there’s an order and logic to how things fit together musically.” Spriggs said. “But there is more of a feel with music, you can throw away the rules and do something for the sake of what it feels like.”
Being on stage and playing music also provides an outlet for stress relief and freedom for Spriggs because she does not need to worry about how people perceive her, which is not necessarily true when she is teaching a class.
“When you’re teaching you want to get the students’ attention, but not by jumping up and down and head banging and making faces, but I do get to do that on stage,” Spriggs said.
However, Haugen said she wishes Spriggs would talk about her musical side, and that she would love to see her in concert.
This seems to be just the thing Spriggs wonders about.
“I never know the first day whether they are going to recognize me or if they will care,” Spriggs said.
Spriggs calls her passion for bass an “addiction” and said that seems to be a view shared by many others. She decided to attend college because it was the “thing to do,” but knew she wanted to play bass and said music will always be a part of her life. Nevertheless, she didn’t plan her future to go in a certain direction.
“I have never been one of those people who sits down and says this is what I’m going to do, this is where I’m gonna be and this is how I’m going to get there,” Spriggs said.
Currently Spriggs is living in Fort Collins with her husband of six years, Aaron, who she met in CSU’s entomology club. He is also a member of 12 Cents for Marvin and plays the theremin, an electronic musical instrument.
She said she loves the college atmosphere in Fort Collins and enjoys riding her bike to work. It seems as though she may remain in town for quite some time, considering it has been more than 10 years since she left her home in Montrose, and began as a student at CSU. However, Spriggs said “the right record contract” could possibly pull her away from the university, although she seems to be content where she is.
“As long as I can keep playing bass locally, I’m happy,” Spriggs said.
Staff writer Elena Ulyanova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.