Program Details

Music Americana: The Gift of Popular Music

Rod MacDonald

Course Description

What makes a song beloved, a performer celebrated? While popularity often comes from the right song and sound of the moment, artists seek the gift of expression, making music that lasts over time. From the deep groove of Fats Domino to the hypnotic soundscapes of Philip Glass, from the gripping Bernard Hermann soundtracks such as Psycho to the hip veneer of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret and Chicago, from the urbane soul of Dinah Washington to the heartfelt belting of Linda Ronstadt, great musical artists create, orchestrate, play and sing the moods, the histories, and the memories of our lives, one song at a time. This course will examine the work, biographies and enduring importance of these musical artists, and attempt to sort myth from reality, using updated videos and excerpts from feature films, live performances and a few surprises.


  1. At the Keys: Fats Domino, Dave Brubeck
  2. The Singers: Gene Kelly, Dinah Washington
  3. Blow that Horn: John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Thelonius Monk
  4. At the Podium: Bernard Hermann, T-Bone Burnett
  5. The Golden Voices: Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt
  6. The New Broadway Musical: Kander and Ebb, Dear Evan Hansen
  7. Keepers of the Flame: Billy Joel, Tom Petty
  8. The Cutting Edge: Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson

About the Instructor

  • Rod MacDonald began his career as a singer/songwriter in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1973. He has 21 songs in the Smithsonian Folkways collection and has released 15 C.D.s, including the 2018 release Beginning Again, and recently published his first novel, The Open Mike. He performs in festivals, concerts, and clubs locally and throughout North America, Europe, solo and with the bands Big Brass Bed and Rod MacDonald & The Humdingers. He was named Best Local Acoustic Performer in Broward and Palm Beach counties by the New Times and one of the "10 Magnificent Musicians" of Palm Beach County by The Palm Beach Post. Previous Music Americana courses include, "The Birth of Rock & Roll," "The Great American Songbook," and "Mastery of the Art."

    Recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Faculty Award

Upcoming programs presented by Rod MacDonald.

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