Sean Holloran '07 talked to students about songwriting.
Randolph-Macon College’s First-Year Experience (FYE)
program immerses freshmen in a cross-disciplinary study that is challenging, thought-provoking—and
Small cohorts join professors from two different disciplines for a year-long exploration
of a topic in a challenging set of classes. Outside the classroom, students participate
in co-curricular events designed to deepen their understanding of the topic. The
students’ work culminates in an interdisciplinary analysis that might take the form
of a written report, a video production or a work of art.
Shakespeare and Music
This year, R-MC Professors Marisa Cull (English)
and Chris Ryder (music) are teaching
“If Music Be the Food: Shakespeare and Music.” The course brings together
musical and literary interpretation to show how our experiences with texts and performances
can be altered through music.
“The course isn’t just about reading Shakespeare plays where music appears – it’s
about getting students to understand some of the thematic connections between Shakespeare
and some of the music that has been inspired by his work,” explains Cull. “This
means that we often look at more modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s work, including
film soundtracks and pop songs that reference his work.”
In addition, students are learning the fundamentals of music and songwriting. “We
are using examples of music with Shakespearean references or music by prominent
songwriters to illustrate basic elements of music such as rhythm, melody, harmony
and form,” says Ryder.
Beyond the Classroom
On September 25, students enrolled in “If Music Be the Food” attended Songwriters
in the Round, a workshop and concert at Ashland Coffee and Tea. R-MC alumnus Sean
Holloran ’07 and three other musicians talked to students about the process
of songwriting and discussed the inspiration and thought behind the songs that they
performed. Holloran also visited the class earlier in the day. The other songwriters
(Clay Mottley, along with husband-and-wife team Peter Mealy and Laurie Rose Griffith)
will visit the class during the spring semester.
In February 2011, Cull and Ryder plan on taking their students to see Richmond Shakespeare’s
performance of Romeo and Juliet, a play that students read earlier this year.
Learning Along the Way
“I think Chris and I both had always been interested in teaching a First-Year Experience
course,” says Cull. “For some time, we brainstormed about how we could make Shakespeare
and music work together for a great course. I think we were both surprised to find
some overlaps, and so it’s been fun to learn along the way as well.”
Cull joined the faculty in 2008. She earned her B.A. from Capital University and
her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
Ryder joined the faculty in 2005. He earned his B.A. from Mary Washington College,
his M.A. from George Mason University and his D.M.A. from Shenandoah Conservatory
of Shenandoah University.