Class Lets Students Rock to History

Ka Leo Staff Writer
Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii, Honolulu

A compilation of Destiny’s Child’s “Bootilicious” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” streams through the surrounding speakers in the Music Building room 36 as University of Hawai’i at Manoa students tap their pens to the eclectic beats.

These students are not listening to the radio or MTV during their downtime. Instead they are earning three upper-division credits through the Music 477 course titled “A History of Rock and Roll.”

Professor Jay Junker has taught “A History of Rock and Roll” at UHM since 1991. The class is now offered in the traditional classroom setting as well as online. He first developed the course for the department under the condition that the class be structured at the 400-level.

“A 400-level course allows you to address a lot of issues of substance,” Junker said.

While some associate rock ‘n’ roll history specifically with the late ’50s and early ’60s, Junker’s students soon find out that rock extends farther than the hip-swaying Elvis era. From Jay-Z to Shakira, Junker teaches that rock has found its place in several musical genres.

Like the collaborations heard on today’s radio airwaves, Junker has also worked with various types of music. Through Junker’s experience as a musician, he shares different aspects of rock ‘n’ roll as well as the music industry itself.

“I like to work in a variety of styles and a variety of media but always do something of value,” Junker said. “Playing music is more a mission and a pleasurable hobby put together.”

Having come from a musical family, music has been an integral part of his life from the beginning. During junior high school, Junker was the youngest performer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“Talk about easy money,” Junker said of his rock gig. “It never felt like work, even when we’d practice for hours.”

Junker also worked with other bands, experiencing different styles of music to gain a broader musical spectrum. Having established a comfort with music and musicians at an early age, Junker would go to concerts many hours in advance and offer to help with preparation.

“I got to meet Bill Graham and other later famous music promoters and famous engineers like Bob Matthews and lots of now legendary musicians,” Junker said, explaining his pre-concert experiences.

Mari Murakami, a first-year student in the bachelor of arts and music program, expected a chronological overview of the history of rock and roll. To her surprise, a lot of new tracks have been incorporated in Junker’s lectures.

“It makes you realize how a lot of contemporary music is connected to the past,” Murakami said.

Murakami chose the Music 477 class after her advisor recommended that she take an upper-division course that did not have pre-requisites. She began the music program this fall and has not fulfilled some of the requirements to take other music courses.

Like some other ethnomusicology courses, students do not have to be music majors to enroll in Music 477. However, students are required to have upper-division class standing or consent to register for the course.

Senior Jean Mukai, who is majoring in psychology, first discovered the class in the course catalogue. According to Mukai, not only was the 400-level classification appealing, but she also was drawn to the subject, which was an area she was familiar with.

“I never thought I could actually enroll in a college course about rock and roll,” Mukai said.

As a listener of rock ‘n’ roll, Mukai said she was pleased to discover that she would have the opportunity to explore rock and roll inside the classroom.

“I chose this class because I enjoy rock and roll,” Mukai said, “I listen to it and I collect memorabilia.”

Mukai said she has learned more about the business as well as the music itself during the first two weeks of class. In addition to the exposure to different forms of rock, Junker’s students are introduced to the hierarchy of the music industry. Through the lectures and music samples, Mukai and over 70 classmates have discovered a new perspective of rock ‘n’ roll.

“I thought I knew a lot [about rock ‘n’ roll], but a lot of the things are new to me,” Mukai said.

In the classroom, Junker offers his students a chance to experience rock to its fullest potential.

“One of the things that make good rock is that it is played at a volume that will give a physical impact to its audience,” Junker said.

Hearing the music at a high volume allows the audience to engage fully in the music, Junker said. With the traffic and the University Lab School bell muffled, the song excerpts are “accurately represented.”