The Heart of Rock and Roll – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Heart of Rock and Roll

The heart of rock and roll is alive – and beating – in the class of Assistant Professor of History and Hobart Associate Dean Chip Capraro. Recently, his first-year seminar course “Rock Music and American Masculinities,” a learning community tied with Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer’s “Introduction to Media and Society,” took their show on the road, and headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

“The course is more about the people who make the music than the music itself,” explains Capraro, who led the trip with Shafer.

Although Capraro and his class discussed museums as mere representations of a field of knowledge, the trip proved to be invaluable. “A trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is an immersion in the totality of rock, in all its sound, its musicians, its images, and its stories, and a mirror of portions of the personal lives and perspectives of all of us who have been engaged in the music.”

Amidst the guitars played by Hendrix, Elvis and Jagger, students such as Ben Carr ’16 found deeper meaning in the class work. “It brought all of these musicians to life, it made me realize that they were doing things and creating things of real substance,” says Carr. “It helps to put them in their time periods; it forced me to see how they were really going against social norms.”

Reality was a powerful force for classmate Alex Oliveira ’16, who found the experience paradoxically surreal and grounding. “After discussing and reading about the lives of so many of these musicians, just seeing the artifacts, clothes and guitars made everything we have been learning about that much more real,” Oliveira explains.

Not only was it an educationally enriching adventure, but the trip proved to have strong emotional ties as well. “It was especially poignant for me because rock and roll has always been central to the relationship with me, my father and brother,” says Oliveira. “The experience was a mixture of emotions: from amusement to nostalgia to awe.”

Capraro, who has taught the favorite seminar many times, isn’t immune to the nostalgic and emotional impact of the Rock and Roll – even with multiple trips to the museum.

“For all its rebelliousness, there is a certain sentimentality to it all-a feeling that we have come through something powerful together, something that no one fully understands but everyone can appreciate,” says Capraro. “With the trip, students appreciate the power of theory which helps to explain and bring some order to a dizzying field.  The trip, like most road trips that go well, helps students form a bond and make all sorts of connections, and you can feel the difference in the weeks which follow.”