“Correspondent” John Lawhorne reports a wonderful story in this week’s Arcadian about a family that hired musician Joel Raney to score an anthem in honor of their mother’s half century as a church musical director.
Lawhorne's page-10 opus lumbers along in his unmistakable style, freighted with passive voice (“... was taken up and promoted...,” “a fee was agreed on...,” “.... anthem was recorded...,” “anthem was presented...” “Raney was invited...” “March 21 was agreed ...” “the anthem will be heard...”) and regimented to insure almost every paragraph marches onstage to the uniform beat of article-noun, article-noun, article-noun (“The concert ...” , “The presentation ...” “The concert ...,” “The family...” “The project...,” “The score...,” “The family...,” “The idea...,” The anthem...” “The surprise,...” “The family...” “The anthem ...”).
And so when Lawhorne's flat-footed shuffle through the language suddenly bumps into a bright spot, the reader alerts: Whence cometh this refreshing, vigorous prose? And so suddenly, in the midst of the obligatory bio?
In Lawhorne’s case, the brightest prose seems to have come directly from a brochure that he copied -- not quite word for word, but almost -- almost enough to be charged with plagiarism.
Last August, a Pittsburgh, Pa., company called "Volkwein's Music" left a pretty green brochure lying around the Internet. Volkwein's brochure may not be the source of Lawhorne's plagiarism; more likely both Lawhorne and the nice folks at Volkwein had a bio sheet from Raney's publicist. Volkwein used the curriculum vitae to create a brochure; Lawhorne used it as his own by-lined work. One is publicity and promotion; the other is plagiarism.
Lawhorne: After receving his master of music degree in piano performance from The Julliard School in New York, Raney went on to work as a musical director and conductor for numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions.
Volkwein: .... went on to receive his master of music degree in piano performance from the Julliard School in New York. After graduation, he worked as a musical director and conductor for numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
Lawhorne: He owns Catfish Music, a music production company in Chicago that produces music for televsion and radio commercials for major companies.
Volkwein: ... Joel currently owns a music production company in Chicago, Catfish Music, where he and a team of composers create music for televison and radio commercials.
Lawhorne: Raney is an editor for Hope Publishing Company in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Volkwein: Joel is an editor at Hope Publishing Company in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Lawhorne: He serves as artist-in residence at the first Presbyterian Church in River Forest, Illinois where he plays regularly for the services and composes for the choirs and ensembles.
Volkwein: He currently serves as artist-in-residence at the First Presbyterian Church in River Forest, Illinois, where he plays regularly for the services and composes for the choirs and ensembles.
The final give-away that Lawhorne copied someone else's paragraphs into the middle of his story is those ideas appear in exactly the same order as his source materials.