DSC Inspires College Course on Detroit Music

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I am currently the Head of Education at the Detroit Institute of Education (DIME) but also a Lecturer at Oakland University. It was in that latter capacity that this past Fall I created, curated, and taught a class called “Detroit Music Heritage: Sounds of the City” in the Oakland University Honors College.

The syllabus for the class is available here.

The work of the DSC not only inspired the creation of the class, but this course truly would not have been possible without the generous support and research of its board members and advisers, several of whom gave guest lectures throughout the class. DSC President Carleton Gholz gave guest lectures on E. Azalia Hackley as well as Detroit radio, disco culture, and hip-hop. Vice President Denise Dalphond gave a guest lecture on Detroit techno and musical migration. DSC advisers Walter Wasacz and Chris Handyside shared their vast knowledge of Detroit rock and roll, psychedelia, punk, garage bands, and the White Stripes.

The class also benefited from guest lectures by DSC allies Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert; Susan Whitall, Craig Maki, and K. Natasha Foreman as well as other local Detroit music experts Deborah Smith-Pollard and Drew Schultz.

The class was designed to give students a real-world experience in music preservation and original research. After learning the foundational narratives of Detroit music history, for their final project, each student was asked to choose an underrepresented topic related to Detroit music. Students conducted a range of primary and secondary research to produce a plethora of 1500-word wiki-style encyclopedia entries on topics such as: saxophonist George Benson, Thomas “Beans” Bowles, Cass Tech, Funky D Records, Zoot’s Cafe, Maxine Powell, Death, Ruth Ellis, Marcus Belgrave, Terry Pollard, PJ’s Lager House, The Electrifying Mojo, and the Grande Ballroom.

Students conducted new interviews with artists, club owners, school teachers, and record label executives while digging deep into the Detroit Public Library, Oakland’s Kresge library, and the DSC online oral history archive, transcribing and integrating several of these interviews into their own work. Currently, these student projects are being edited by DSC members in preparation for online publications that will make important contributions to the story of Detroit’s music heritage.

This class was such a pleasure to teach, and I am grateful to the DSC and for all those who helped make the semester a success. I can’t wait to do it all again!

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