By Christopher Nuzzo, Staff Writer
If you were around the Manhattan College campus last spring, you might have noticed countless flyers hung around campus, bearing just the simple phrase, “Because…” Later, it was revealed that these posters were advertising the “Abbey Road” class performance being put on by Andrew Bauer, the Director of Performing Arts.
In this class, students went in depth, studying the history of The Beatles, musical form, and music theory, later getting to perform it in a free show for the student body.
Bauer’s passion for The Beatles is deep seeded in his childhood. He explained, “My first memory of hearing their music was when I was three years old, and my sisters came home from college with ‘Rubber Soul,’ and ‘Sergeant Pepper’s.’ I remember sitting on my sister’s lap, listening to the songs, and hearing her sing them to me. She would point to the album cover saying: ‘there’s John, and that’s Paul…’ etc. Now, when I hear the music, I’m immediately transported back to that time, with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia that makes my heart ache.”
This class was a thrill not only for Bauer, but the students who were able to participate in the class as well. George Schlinck who graduated this past Spring said that the “Abbey Road” class “was the most fun [he had] ever had in class—ever,” continuing, “As a musician, it was one of, if not the best, most immersive, fun musical environments I have ever been a part of.”
This year, Bauer decided to allow this experience to live on through another Beatles class, this time focusing on the album “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
He was inspired to hold another Beatles class because of two reasons: “the first being that we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the album’s release this year, and second, senior David Cartolano, would surely kill me if I offered the class after he graduated! Seriously though, I think this idea of analyzing and performing an entire album is quite innovative, and I’m not sure it’s being done quite this way at other schools. I’m proud to offer it, and hope it distinguishes Manhattan College and our music department’s unique and highly effective position as a division of Student Engagement.”
Similar to the “Abbey Road” class, the “Sgt. Pepper’s” class will feature three performances at the end of the semester that will be open to all Manhattan College students for free.
If you’re interested in taking the class, however, be ready for a lot of hard work, explained H.G. Siewert, another 2017 graduate: “This is a class that demands a lot. Anyone who is interested in the course will have to be prepared to put in the time to learn ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ which is no small feat. However, that is exactly what made the class so rewarding; the sense of accomplishment and the people’s reactions when they hear it made all of the work worth it.” While difficult, taking the class is ultimately an extremely rewarding experience as well. Another alumni from the previous class, Erica Rebussini shared that “the small class size (or band size, if you will) fostered a really supportive and tight-knit atmosphere that made conceptualizing some of what The Beatles experienced really poignant and realistic for us. Additionally, playing music in a band-setting without music in front of you is probably one of the most comprehensive ways to learn and perform — you actually hear what’s happening as you’re making the music. Experiencing that under lights around some of my best friends from my college years at the culmination of our senior year gave me this compound feeling of nostalgia and growth.”
Contrarily to last spring, the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” emphasizes different techniques than last year’s class. “In addition to the class’s core academic purpose of studying the formal musical structure, I envision an extensive visual and theatrical realization. While the performance of ‘Abbey Road,’ lent itself to a concert like presentation, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ will have a more staged aspect, with lighting, backgrounds and colorful attire. We will also be performing [the songs] ‘Penny Lane,’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’ Although those two songs did not appear on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ they were recorded during the same period, and hold the same distinctive character as the album tracks,” Bauer shared.
The Beatles continue to be listened by millions of people, and could be disputed as one of the best boy-bands of our history. Bauer continues to immerse students in the culture and history of his classes, focusing on the importance of knowing the story behind each note sung. With the help of the talented students of the Jasper community, the class becomes not only a learning experience, but a burst of life and culture shared with all who witness their performance.