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More Notes From the Rock Hall of Fame

Posted June 29, 2008 4:21 am (about 4034 days ago)

Today’s workshop definitely went better. Yesterday’s was by no means bad, but I made some tweaks and things went smoother. Today the focus was how I’ve incorporated country music into my classes. Part of the twist was that I used these examples at an “inner city” school with nearly all Latino and African-American youth.

Today’s workshop definitely went better. Yesterday’s was by no means bad, but I made some tweaks and things went smoother. Today the focus was how I’ve incorporated country music into my classes. Part of the twist was that I used these examples at an “inner city” school with nearly all Latino and African-American youth. I think some reasons for the improvement were 1)I created slides that clearly spelled out the context of how and why I used the samples that I used. Yesterday I kept mentioning names and making references, but I didn’t always have it written out. For example, I used dance footage, without explaining the roots. 2)I focused more on lyrics, which gave people something tangible to latch on to. 3)More people were familiar with country music so there was more interaction and I learned some new things about the genre. I also did something on reggaeton, but about ¼ into that presentation we simply ran out of time. It was fine though. Afterward, I spoke for a while with the woman who was most interested, but the others seemed content, based on their comments while they were leaving. These may have been workshops, but like any teaching, once I got a feel for the audience I was able to make changes and it worked it. Being flexible is key.

I did have time to wander around the museum for about an hour and it’s really something any music lover should see. They had a special exhibit on baseball and music, including tributes to players, baseball’s connections to people like MC Hammer, and how music reflected changes in the game. There was a video clip on various players’ favorite songs and it literally sent a chill down my spine when I heard some of the Latino players describing Latin music they loved, while it played in the background. I can say whatever I want about not needing validation for our culture, etc, but for some reason it felt good to see us represented. Similarly, in the section about the Negro Leagues, there was mention of Latino players who made valuable contributions to the leagues development, something that often gets forgotten. Too often people still associate being “Black” with the United States. Nonetheless, I would like to see the museum explore more global music scenes beyond the U.S. and U.K. I imagine there could be all kinds of exhibits on the influence of Indian music on groups like the Rolling Stones or Mexican music in the southwest, not to mention reggae. The allusions are sprinkled in and I know space is limited, but it’s something that would make the museum even more engaging for me.

Having said that, I could’ve spent hours in there (they closed,
which is why I didn’t). The roots of rock or so diverse and I feel like  there’s so much to learn. For some reasons I’m drawn to the sounds of bluegrass, blues, gospel, and other sounds preceding guys like Elvis. Just some of the song titles alone are great conversation starters. Have you ever heard of a better title than “Gimme me a Pig Foot and a Bottle of Beer” by Bessie Smith?

Part of the appeal is that I think after living down South for critical years of my life, plus having the blue collar background of my parents I’m drawn to music of the working class. Layering the story are my White relatives, which has helped me feel some kinship with working class White folks. I may love California, but coming back to these industrial towns still feels like home.

I met some super friendly people at the bar next door and I got to catch up with writer and lecturer Bakari Kitwana, who, all of his professional accolades aside, I definitely feel is a kindred spirit. We spoke about hip hop and his work for a bit, but more so in the context of our personal lives, including family and developing global perspectives. He’s a good guy and definitely looking to make positive change in the world. The drivers who transported me to and from the airport were pretty talkative as well, although the theme for both was how bad the local economy was. After watching the news and hearing all the crime stories, I definitely wasn’t going to argue. But all in all, Cleveland continues to leave a great impression on me.

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