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Culture Shock

Interview: Professor Andrew Hollinden - History of Rock 'n Roll

I recently got to sit down and talk with Professor Hollinden who teaches History of Rock ‘n Roll here at Indiana University- Bloomington. We discussed the details of his courses, his music experience, and his thoughts on the legacy of the History of Rock ‘n Roll courses. 


(Emily): Can you tell me about the courses that you teach? 

  • Professor Hollinden teaches the three big History of Rock ‘n Roll courses: Z-201 which covers the roots of rock ‘n roll up into the early ‘60s, Z-202 which covers the British Invasion into the early ‘70s, Z-203 which covers the ‘70s, ‘80s, and a little bit of the ‘90s, and the History of the Blues. 

  • “These are all multi-artist classes. So what I teach basically covers from the 1920s into the 1990s, which is all a part of the big continuum of the blues turning into rock ‘n roll and beyond”, says Professor Hollinden.

  •  Along with the multi-artist classes, he teaches artist-specific classes including classes on the music of the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa. 


(Emily): How much creative freedom do you have in making these classes? 

  • “Total. I have never met with any resistance from the [Jacobs] school of music when I’ve offered to develop a new course”, says Professor Hollinden. 

  • He also includes that he did not develop all of the early rock ‘n roll courses, some of them he began teaching after they had been developed courses. But, with the courses he creates, he gets the freedom of choosing what artists and songs are represented. 


(Emily): How did you pick the artists that you wanted to do specific courses on?

  •  “Well when I was growing up, when I was in high school, I became a Frank Zappa fan, and I became consumed with him. No other artist has had a bigger effect on my life than Frank Zappa.” He explained that when he became a professor here at IU they were already offering a course on The Beatles, so he asked the school of music if he could make a course on Frank Zappa and they approved. 

  • He said that is how he feels about his other artist courses too, saying; “I teach a music of The Beach Boys course because I love that music just as much. Jimi Hendrix, same story.” He says “I’ve been a fan of Jimi Hendrix since I was six or seven years old. I grew up in a household with older siblings. So they were buying cool records before I could remember. So I went into second grade as a Jimi Hendrix fan.” “So, given this opportunity to develop courses, I just got to choose who I am most excited about and who I think is most deserving.” 


(Emily): How long have you been teaching these classes?

  • He explained to me that he first started teaching on a regular basis in 1992. He was living in Indianapolis and teaching both up at the IUPUI campus and down at the Bloomington campus, and that was when he developed the third History of Rock ‘n Roll course. He loved Bloomington since he and his wife went to school at IU Bloomington. He even received a Bachelors and Masters degree in Music Composition from the Jacob’s School of Music.  He asked the school of music if he could be down in Bloomington full time and has been here since 1998. 


(Emily): What made you want to teach History of Rock ‘n Roll?

  • “One night, I was playing in a rock band, and the rock ‘n roll teacher here came in and was watching us play. I thought ‘Oh, there's that rock ‘n roll history guy’, but I didn’t really know him very well. His name was Glenn Gass. So I went to talk to him after the set was over, and I said ‘If you ever need an assistant just let me know,’ and he did need an assistant. So I became his assistant, and only then did I actually attend the rock ‘n roll history classes.” 

  • He explained that since the Jacobs School of Music is largely a classical music environment, he felt as if he had to keep his love for rock ‘n roll separate. Once he attended the rock ‘n roll classes provided, he had the idea of developing more companion courses. He said his years performing in a band helped him get rid of his stage fright, so teaching became like “performing live gigs, except as a solo artist.” 


(Emily): Can you tell me about your previous music experience? 

  • In high school, he bought an electric guitar and started forming bands with his friends to perform at school dances and have fun. In the late 80s, he was invited to join a professional band and performed for a living for a couple of years. He has co-produced all 10 records that he has released. The first two with a band he was in called “The Speakers” that he wrote and produced for. After that, the rest were released as solo artist projects.

  • “In all honesty, I got real sick of that. I was married and I would rather have stayed home with my wife than go out and play in nightclubs… I was spending way too much of my life in nightclubs, so I quit. And then not long after that, I became a teacher.” 


(Emily): Do you have any other favorite artists other than the ones you teach courses on?

  • “I think there's a cream to every crop. There's no style of music that I dismiss. There’s tons of artists that I love that lie outside of what I teach,” Professor Hollinden says. “There are too many good artists to include in what I can fit [in the courses]… I always tell people that there’s way too much good music for you to ever hear in your entire lifetime. You can spend your whole life, and never hear all the good music. What I mean by that is, there's so much good music, you’ll never have to worry about running out.” 


(Emily): Do you have a favorite course that you teach?

  • “I think the class that is the most fun for me to teach is the Frank Zappa class. Partly because the class just goes into areas that most other classes do not… His story is a pretty wild story, his music is all over the map, I love it so much. And, the people who come into the Zappa class more often than not really don't know much about him. It’s fun for me to watch them turn from total novices into huge fans and agree by the end of the semester that he's one of the greatest musical geniuses that America ever produced.” 


(Emily): Do you have any more artist courses that you want to make? 

  • Professor Hollinden explained that he doesn’t have any more specific artist courses he wants to make, but he loves the idea of taking a sub-genre and devoting a whole class to that. He mentioned the punk rock course that was made and is taught by Professor Paul Mahern. He mentioned that a course on prog rock would be exciting to make, but he doesn’t plan on making any more courses. He has seven classes that he is currently teaching, which is more than he can fit into a year. He teaches three courses in the spring, three in the fall, and one in the summer. 


(Emily): How long does it take to develop one of these courses?

  • He said it depends on the course, but the History of the Blues class took him the longest (two years) to develop. The Zappa class was the easiest to develop since he grew up listening to him, he listened to the music as it came out in chronological order. He explained that he started teaching in the CD era, so he developed his classes originally through CDs and vinyl records. He has a large collection of CDs and vinyl records from developing these courses. He says there are probably around four or five thousand albums that he owns. 


(Emily): Why do you think the History of Rock ‘n Roll courses are so loved and popular here at IU?

  • “I think the subject matter sells itself. It’s exciting for kids to come into a classroom and have the highest quality rock music blasted at them through decent speakers,” says Professor Hollinden. “I think the subject matter is infectious and exciting. I know the feeling that the music elicits, so I try to get that same feeling in the classroom.” 


(Emily): Do you have a favorite memory from teaching the History of Rock ‘n Roll?

  • He says his favorite memories are when artists visit the classroom. He mentioned specifically when four members of the Beach Boys came and spoke to the class in 2015, including Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Jeff Fosket, and Scott Totten.


At the end of the interview, he adds; “I just feel really fortunate to be able to make my living doing this. You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me how envious they are that my job is what I love. It’s exactly true. I do believe in what music brings to a person's life. If I can help people discover music and/or increase their appreciation for music as a concept, then I think I’ve done my job.” 


I am currently in my third class taught by Professor Hollinden, and every class of his that I have taken has not only taught me so much about rock music history, but also been the most enjoyable classes I’ve taken here at IU. His passion for music and rock ‘n roll history is so evident within his courses, and in my opinion, the high praise these courses get is well deserved. I would highly recommend any of the rock ‘n roll courses to IU students, and I had a blast learning more about the history and passions of Professor Hollinden. 




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