Pictured Above: OLLI students at Drake Airfield, Fayetteville, AR By: Shelby Dye Feb. 2018

“You feel the music even if you can’t understand the words.”– Olli Instructor Dr. Gary Barrow

OLLI students would indulge in more than King Cake alone this Fat Tuesday, February 13, 2018. OLLI members were in for a treat as they listened in on Dr. Gary Barrow’s course, A Blues Journey: From the Delta to Mainstream America. The dynamic Dr. Barrow led the group in song, group activities and critical thinking exercises to relay the history and evolution of Rhythm and Blues in the United States.

A favored OLLI instructor, Dr. Barrow’s lecture was riddled with analogy, enticing video footage, musical recordings and quick-wit. Students learned that Rhythm and Blues has a history of oral tradition. “To demonstrate how songs passed down orally are often misinterpreted, transformed and evolve from generation to generation, students were given familiar sounding musical phrases and were asked to guess which song had been misinterpreted. Students quickly discovered that “My Country has Iced-Tea,” was a misinterpretation of the popular American anthem, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” With thought provoking examples, Dr. Barrow inspired free-flowing and passionate group discussion among students. This open-forum discussion style learning environment is one of the many reasons students enjoy Dr. Barrow’s courses.

Long-time OLLI student Sandra White said “I knew the class would fill up fast because everyone loves this instructor. (Dr. Barrow) so I made sure to sign up as soon as registration opened.” She explained that her husband was a longtime fan of Jazz music and The Blues. “I always thought he liked it because it soothed a sadness. It wasn’t until last year, after 53-years of marriage that I found out he liked it for the predictability.” The class came to a general consensus about The Blues summed up in the words of Dr. Barrow, “You feel the music even if you can’t understand the words.”