Music Americana:

In Search of Greatness

Rod MacDonald
Music / Arts & Letters

Course Description

From sheer talent, pioneering a new direction, or outselling all their rivals, few artists are widely regarded as foremost practitioners of their art. Their songs are legendary through the years, their styles imitated but never surpassed, and their triumphs and losses are brilliantly conveyed through their music. From the exuberance of Sammy Davis to the glamour of Bette Midler, from the power of Pavarotti to the poetry of John Lennon, from the September 11th shock of Come From Away to George Martin’s quiet work of recording historic music, great musical artists inspire us in our time, and set the standard for future generations of musical performers. This series 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. Song and Dance Men: Al Jolson, Sammy Davis, Jr.
2. Unforgettable Voices: Judy Garland, Miriam Makeba
3. The New Classical Music: Luciano Pavarotti, Yo Yo Ma
4. The Art of Rock & Roll Guitar: Chuck Berry, Keith Richards
5. The New Broadway Musical: Hello Dolly, Come From Away
6. Truth To Power: Pete Seeger, John Lennon
7. Dueling Divas: Bette Midler, Renee Fleming
8. The Producers: Phil Spector, George Martin

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 CDs, 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 & 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