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If you’re taking a class called “American Pop, Rockabilly, and Soul, 1954–64,” you might as well go straight to the source. Or at least that’s what music professor and class instructor Mark Mazullo thought.
That’s how he and 16 students ended up in Memphis for three days over fall break, visiting the Gibson guitar factory, Sun Records Studio, Stax Museum of American Soul, and other icons of the musical period. They also hit Beale Street, where many musical clubs are located, and enjoyed a dinner at Fourway Grill, a legendary soul food restaurant near Stax Records, where many soul musicians used to eat.
“Being there teaches you in a way you can’t get from reading a book or watching a movie,” says Carol Brod, a junior majoring in history and minoring in music and American studies. “It made everything we’ve been studying in class much more tangible. We stood in the same studio space that has held greats like B. B. King, Elvis, and Johnny Cash.”
Brod and her classmates were also moved by their visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. “Seeing that made the racial tensions that we’ve studied in class seem all the more real,” Brod says.
Each student wrote a paper about the experience of visiting Memphis, according to Mazullo. Topics ranged from analyzing the role of nostalgia in presenting the city’s past to discussing the actual studio spaces the group visited.