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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Poet, teacher, musician and historian Martin Jack Rosenblum will direct the new UWM rock 'n' roll studies certificate program. (PHOTO: Daniel De Lone)

Rocking the theater column


This space has been devoted to theater since my column first appeared here nearly a year ago, so you may be surprised to see there will be no discussion of Shakespeare, Sondheim or season tickets today. We are deep in the middle of Summerfest, and I'm writing about rock 'n' roll.

Summerfest = rock music, and I believe theater and rock have been intertwined since Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin, once removed. How could Little Richard not be considered theater? And what about Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire at the climax of his performance?

Alice Cooper and David Bowie went androgynous in the '70s to great theatrical effect. Lou Reed's 1973 appearance at the Marquette University Brooks Memorial Union, of all places, was a kinky fever dream of a show that remains emblazoned in my memory for its comedic and dramatic outrageousness. You get my point.

I am leading up to the acknowledgment of a new certificate program in rock 'n' roll studies that has just been established at the UWM Peck School of the Arts. Participants in the program will take a core curriculum of 15 credits that includes classes in American popular music and the literary aspects of rock 'n' roll.

An additional nine credits of electives will be required. A long list of those classes includes rock 'n' roll criticism, rock 'n' roll cinema, and the history and culture of the blues.

Martin Jack Rosenblum, a senior lecturer in music history and literature at UWM, has designed and will direct the certificate program, which he believes is the only one of its kind in the U.S. Rosenblum first taught music courses for UWM 30 years ago, and he has been teaching highly popular classes about American popular music since 1992.

The Appleton native is a fascinating fellow. He received his doctorate in English from UWM in 1980, and Rosenblum has been a frequently published poet, a recording artist, songwriter and live performer, and from 1993 to 2007 he was the official historian for Harley-Davidson.

An expert on the Objectivist poets of the 1930s -- think Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams -- Rosenblum has written about 30 books on subjects that range from Harley and music to his own poetry. He has recorded with the Violent Femmes, and his 1980 release "Free Hand," an American rock roots album, charted as high as No. 4 in France. Rosenblum has opened for Leo Kottke, and counts Little Steven Van Zandt among his friends.

The academic study of rock music is not always respected across American campuses, but Rosenblum says UWM has embraced his teaching of what he calls American vernacular music. Scott Emmons, the associate dean of UWM's Peck School of the Arts, provided the impetus behind the establishment of the rock 'n' roll certificate program.

"The program will allow students to explore the origin, evolution, and literary and cultural significance of this unique form of 20th century music," Emmons said in a statement. "The influence of this musical and cultural style can be seen and heard everywhere around the world -- it's like Coca Cola."

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Talkbacks

ronger | July 9, 2010 at 10:34 p.m. (report)

Despite the oft-proven dangers of arguing with fools, Bob Dylan and I must respond to milwackos ill-informed rant against UW-Milwaukee's new Rock and Roll Certificate Program. Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don't criticize you can't understand Bob Dylan The study of music and popular culture, as pioneered by Dr. Martin Jack Rosenblum, is -- in fact -- the most practical and inspiring brand of education, learning about ourselves and our world through a rigorous and joyful examination of the most meaningful art of our times. No the classes in this groundbreaking program are not the how to succeed in the real world, training that milwacko so obviously requires, they are something much more meaningful challenging seminars that break new ground, inspire student/scholars, and expand our collective knowledge. Ive been in these classrooms and I know their incalculable value. Should milwacko ever share my good fortune and experience Dr. Rosenblums trailblazing program for himself, I can assure you his bitterness would fade and he would soon understand it as well.

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milwacko | July 5, 2010 at 4:26 p.m. (report)

Good God, I hope tuition is free and he's doing this without pay. I could see this being a class, but a certificate? What's the ROI on a career in R&R versus a career in basket weaving? After 10+ years in music as a sound man and musician the answer is: not much, surely negative if you have to factor in the cost of an education. Unless you've got some spare cash (and who does right now?) and don't care about the ROI, why would you do this? This is "old normal" thinking on UWM's part. People need jobs not break-even (or losing) hobbies.

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