Cronkite adjunct professor tours with local band, falls in love

(Courtesy by Former Friends of Young Americans)
Amanda Crawford and Robert Tobias perform in their band Former Friends of Young Americans. The two collaborate musically as well as personally–they will soon marry. (Courtesy by Former Friends of Young Americans, photo credit to Peter Brian Klein of Klein Photographic)

It all starts with a young girl from Hagerstown, Maryland, who was told she was too small to play the tuba in school.

Amanda Crawford, a Walter Cronkite School adjunct professor and member of the local band Former Friends of Young Americans, told the story of the girl too small for the tuba in front of friends and colleagues at Music Storytellers Take over Crescent Ballroom at the Crescent Ballroom on Monday night.

Though music was her first love, Crawford eventually dove into creative writing after she became disillusioned with singing in the church and hated marching in the cold Maryland weather for band.

Crawford was the first person to go to college in her blue-collar family. As a double-major in English and journalism at the University of Maryland, she developed a passion for journalism, which led to an accomplished career. She originally wanted to work as a journalist by day and moonlight as a creative writer.

“My idea was that I could be a journalist and work full-time and write creative writing on the side,” Crawford said. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be to work full time at a newspaper and then go home and write fiction.”

Crawford worked for The Baltimore Sun after college before she moved to Arizona to shake up her marriage and rejuvenate her creative energy.

Her shaken marriage ended in divorce; However, it did help her creativity, and she jokingly suggested it to anybody struggling with their own creative muse.

Crawford covered state government for The Arizona Republic, according to her website, and worked as a full-time faculty member at Cronkite for a couple of years while earning her master’s degree at ASU. Despite what would seem like a hectic schedule, multi-tasking is something that Crawford admits keeps her energized.

“I’m in general a little bit ADD,” Crawford said. I am happiest in my life when I get to do a little bit of everything that I’m interested in, and I have been the most unhappy in life when I have only one thing do.

After completing her contract at ASU, Crawford was offered a position to work as a reporter with Bloomberg News to help open their Phoenix bureau. She covered a broad variety of topics as the Southwest correspondent, including Arizona immigration issues and gay marriage in New Mexico, according to her website.

However, the job had Crawford working and traveling at all hours of the night, and it wasn’t the right fit for her.

“It was very financial, (and) at my heart I was a magazine writer,” said Crawford.

Bloomberg’s Phoenix bureau shut downtown in November 2013, so Crawford began teaching at ASU again as an adjunct professor while doing freelance work for The Arizona Republic and others. During her second stint as a professor, she was moonlighting not as a creative writer, but as a musician. While journalism had dominated her professional life until this point, music had always remained a personal passion for Crawford.

While working at Bloomberg, Crawford met Robert Tobias, the front man for the local band Former Friends of Young Americans. She was captivated by his music and more importantly by him.

“We had met online. I was eagerly asking him about his music, and he was hesitant and kind of shy about it,” Crawford said. “And I stopped him and said, ‘I’m an investigative reporter. I have already backgrounded you. I’ve already listened to your music and visited your band website. If it wasn’t good I wouldn’t be here.’”

After some of his band mates cancelled on an upcoming tour, Tobias invited Crawford to join him on tour in their place. They played for 14 shows straight.

Eventually two of Tobias’s bandmates left and Crawford joined the group. Since then they have been writing and playing music together. Described on the band’s website as a multi-instrumentalist, she and Tobias released their first album together entitled “Dives Like A Fool, Swims Like Dead” that was lauded by several Phoenix music writers in December.

Crawford has been his favorite collaborative partner to date, Tobias said.

“It’s been the most fruitful working relationship musically I’ve had,” he said.

The two are planning on marrying in the spring. They will then move to Kentucky, where Crawford will begin teaching as a tenure track assistant professor at the Western Kentucky University.

Public relations guru and friend of Crawford and Tobias, Stacey Champion, couldn’t be happier for them.

“I’ve been along for the journey as one of her good friends, so I know the story,” Champion said. “I’ll miss her like crazy when she moves.”

Corrections and clarification: Jan. 29, 2014

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Western Kentucky University as the University of Western Kentucky. It has been updated with the proper name.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the “Former Friends of Young Americans” on the first reference. The article has been updated with the proper name.

The article was also clarified to state that, although Crawford did do freelance work for The Arizona Republic after she began teaching at ASU, her journalistic work at the time was not exclusively for that publication.

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