Program Details

Music Americana: Old & New Favorites

Rod MacDonald
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Celebrated for their grace, humor, passion, and style—and often considered the very best at what they do--great artists provide the music and words that define their time. From the brilliant perfection of violinist Joshua Heifetz to the sophisticated rhythms of the Duke Ellington Orchestra—now in its 100th year; from the raw testimony of Ethel Waters and Josh White to the elegance of My Fair Lady; from comic-book novelty hits to the classic arias of Jose Carreras; from the drama of Fleetwood Mac to the wise counsel of Leonard Cohen, their stories live on in song. This course examines the work, biographies, and enduring importance of these musical artists, and attempts to sort myth from reality, using updated videos and excerpts from feature films, live performances, and a few surprises.


  1. Virtuosity: Joshua Heifetz, Martha Argerich
  2. Birth of The Blues: Ethel Waters, Etta James, Amy Winehouse
  3. When Swing Was King: Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw
  4. Folk Then & Now: Leadbelly, Josh White, Rhiannon Giddens
  5. Britain on Broadway: "My Fair Lady," "Six"
  6. The Art of Novelty Songs: Roger Miller, Ray Stevens, Weird Al
  7. Love, Marriage & Pop Music: Fleetwood Mac, Abba
  8. The Golden Voice: Jose Carreras, Leonard Cohen

About the Instructor

  • Rod MacDonald has 21 songs in the Smithsonian Folkways collection and 14 solo albums, including his 2023 Rants And Romance. He performs in festivals, concerts, and clubs 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 by 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