Music Americana: The Music of Modern Life

Rod MacDonald
Music / Arts & Letters

Course Description

As popular music travels through the 21st century, the things that stand out remain: a melody, a sound, a lyric that lasts through time. From the riverboat jazz that educated Louis Armstrong to the bright lights that launched Carol Channing; from the poetic ramblings of John Prine to the passionate lines that made Tim Rice the biggest selling lyricist on Broadway; from the ecstatic rhythms of the Gypsy Kings to the ground-breaking world music that lifted Peter Gabriel to the “Big Time," great artists create the soundtrack of our time. 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. The Big Easy: Louis Armstrong, The Neville Brothers
  2. The Fabulous: Carol Channing, Jackie Wilson
  3. The Wordsmiths: Tim Rice, John Prine
  4. The Exotics: The Gypsy Kings, Peter Gabriel

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 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