I am Jonathan (Jon) Cannon. But there are many Jonathan (Jon) Cannons who I am not. With a little help from Google, I am happy to point out that
- I am not a distinguished professor of law in Virginia
- I am not the former head of a Jewish day school in Maryland
- I am not a recently retired Orange County Judge
- I am not an outdoorsy Coloradan practicing law in Nebraska (what’s up with all these lawyers I’m not?)
- I am not a football coach down on his luck
- I am not a part-time art history professor in Bristol obsessed with medieval churches
- I am not a 6’3″ left-handed minor league pitcher
- I am DEFINITELY not a champion water-skier in Hong Kong.
I wish all of these people the best and hope that some day our paths shall cross. All at the same time. THAT would be silly.
Jonathan Cannon was born in Washington DC, and moved to St. Louis Missouri seven years later. In his eleventh year (his lucky number before and since), two events occurred which would shape the rest of his life. They were both second-bests: he placed second in a statewide math competition, and, failing his audition to play the drums in the school band, he fell back on his second choice, violin.
Since then, he has been navigating the far-reaching consequences of his eleventh year. The two mostly-separate chains of cause and effect are separated by alignment.
He began to focus on mathematics, first by pushing forward a year in his classes, then by taking a series of mathematically-oriented summer lab jobs.
He played first chair of the school orchestra’s second violin section through the majority of middle and high school, enrolled in private violin lessons, and played his way into various all-suburban orchestras and solo/ensemble competitions.
He developed a strong enthusiasm for particle physics, and eagerly devoured pop-physics books and Feynman biographies, awaiting the opportunity to delve into the field more seriously.
He took a summer of jazz violin lessons, and then joined his High School jazz band playing on the orchestra teacher’s sparkly electric violin. He learned to ignore what the rest of the band was doing and focus on looking cool.
Arriving at Brown University, he found that actual physics was not nearly as romantic as it seemed in the Tao of Physics. Math, on the other hand, was awesome, and computer science was so well-taught at Brown that it was impossible not to major in it.
He auditioned for the Brown orchestra. Then he saw a poster on a telephone pole: “Audition for the Brown klezmer band, Yarmulkazi!” He did, and dropped orchestra two days later. This began his life-long love affair with Jewish music.
He took “Introduction to Chaos” with an extremely charismatic German named Bernold Fiedler. This began his life-long love affair with the terribly-named field of Dynamical Systems. For the next three semesters, he took graduate courses in dynamics with Fiedler and others.
He took a year “off” after Brown, during which he played violin (henceforth referred to as “fiddle) with total musical promiscuity, and took a series of beginning and intermediate students. He also conceived and spearheaded the first annual Brown Folk Festival as he began to sink into the delicious quicksand of traditional American/Celtic fiddle.
He also spent his year “off” working with Professor Elie Bienenstock on a highly stylized model of natural language parsing and researching graduate schools. The more he read about research in “pure math,” the more evident it became that he was an applied mathematician.
Impatient with Providence’s small (but very welcoming) traditional music scene, he took lessons with a several fiddlers in Boston, and co-founded (and named) the Boston-based klezmer band Ezekiel’s Wheels.
After a grueling application process, he found that his best opportunity to study dynamics hand-in-hand with its most exciting application, neuroscience, would be at Boston University with celebrated math/neuro crossover Professor Nancy Kopell.
Arriving in Boston, he began to build himself a network of local musicians by hosting jam sessions, attending festivals, and being friendly. This network collectively directed him towards Maine Fiddle Camp and KlezKanada (see Music Links), immersing him suddenly in two lively music communities that would come to play major roles in his life.
He took a full complement of math courses at BU while reading up on cognitive rhythms (the 1-100Hz electrical oscillations observable from scalp electrodes) and their putative causes and functions.
He joined a full complement of local bands and played farmers’ markets, contra dances, bars, festivals, weddings, private parties, and subway stations. Upon realizing that this was actually not very much fun, he left most of the bands and pruned his gig schedule down to farmers’ markets, contra dances, and other stress-free, musically enriching experiences.
After embarking on a number of smaller projects modeling brain structures and processes, Jonathan found himself completely immersed in an effort to develop a partial mathematical theory of “forced oscillatory networks,” starting with the networks that produce the ubiquitous gamma rhythm (30-100Hz).
He got increasingly (and decreasingly, and increasingly) serious about his Klezmer band Ezekiel’s Wheels and his Romanian quartet Mierlita, who were extremely patient with him. He developed his guitar playing until it became his preferred instrument for contra dances.
He graduated Boston University with a PhD in Mathematics and started a postdoc position in Computational Neuroscience with professor Paul Miller.
He started running ear-training workshops for local public school orchestras. This was really, really fun, and got him thinking about how he could incorporate that kind of activity into his already confusing career plans.
He finished his postdoc and took a break from academia to teach math and science at the project-based independent Boston school Meridian Academy.