on "sort of a pilot basis," that first class had only
35 students. This semester 350 are signed up for Music of the People,
which is held Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Recital Hall of the
Strauss Performing Arts building. Roland says the class is popular
because students can identify with the topic. "It's music that
they're familiar with and listen to, and -- whether they realize
it or not -- has had an impact on their lives."
Those who come to class
expecting to hear only their favorite style of rock are in for a
surprise. "A lot of students know a certain degree about a
certain music," he said. "For example, metal heads know
about metal. I tell them to leave their opinions of what's good
and bad at the door. We're going to listen to Sonny and Cher --
they might hate them, but too bad."
Though a new offering
at UNO, courses on rock and pop music have been taught at universities
across the country for years. "The University of Indiana has
been teaching it since '87," Roland said. "They currently
offer seven or eight different courses on rock music, including
classes that focus on The Beatles, the British Invasion and Frank
Zappa. It's not a new thing."
Rock isn't a new thing
to Roland, either, though his studies go well beyond popular music.
A distinguished percussionist, he was awarded a Fulbright grant
to study the classical drumming of Southern India , where he studied
mridangham and thavil with Sri T.H. Subashchandren and Sri K. Sekar.
Still, Roland, 35, said
he came to music through rock and roll. As a child of the '80s,
his early influences included Duran Duran, Ultravox and Berlin,
"all that New Wave stuff that isn't drum heavy," he said.
"As I got more into drums, my tastes started to shift to rock
and hard rock, to bands like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush and Kansas."
It wasn't long before
he was in a band of his own. "I started playing in 1987,"
he said. "I had the boots with weird stuff hanging off of them,
black pants, leather jacket and long hair. It was the heyday of
the hair bands."
Despite a lot of hard
work, Roland said none of his bands ever went anywhere. His longest
tour of duty was a 5-year stint with a band called Fate Positive.
"We played a mix of '80s and early '90s music. We tried to
be 'alternative,' but it's hard to give up your roots in Rush. We
did originals, but you couldn't make money unless you also played
Roland said Fate Positive
recorded twice "back when it was expensive. You could buy all
the equipment you need today for what it cost to record our CD back
He stopped playing in
a band in 1996 -- which just happens to be the last year covered
in his music class. He still follows the rock scene, but not nearly
as in depth as when he was in a band.
to say that I looked at the Billboard top-10 and knew only one song,"
he said. "I try to keep track of the trends. Right now is an
interesting time in music -- the pop thing is still going strong,
but hard rock has made a big comeback in the past few years. Rap
and hip-hop are becoming more ingrained in hard rock and pop."
So does he ever have
the urge to put those leather pants back on? "No," he
says, "but I'd love to play in a rock band again."
Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader Jan. 29, 2003. Copyright ©
2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.