While country music has always been a part of my life, the Rhetoric of Country Music class pushed me to learn and experience more country music than I would have by myself. I took a road trip to San Antonio to experience the Livestock Show and Rodeo, I sang along with the Turnpike Troubadours, I ate breakfast with my parents at historic Threadgill’s, and I watched Walk the Line. All of these experiences opened my eyes and educated me in the field of country music.
Prior to enrolling in Rhetoric of Country Music, I would have considered myself an active member of the country music community. I went to concerts, discovered new artists, listened to country radio, and visited historic country music venues. However, since being a part of this class, I have engaged the country music world with a whole new perspective, which has allowed me to learn plenty of lessons along the way.
The reason my involvement in the country music community changed was not because of the things I did or the music I listened to, but rather the way in which I went about these activities. Although my first experience with the San Antonio Rodeo was this spring, it is definitely something I would have attended in the past regardless of my enrollment in a class. What made this trip different though, was how I treated the experience and truly learned from what I observed.
While in the past I probably would have casually walked past the small pop-up tent boasting the John Christopher Way Band, this class encouraged me to stop and listen. I heard the steel guitar, an instrument we had recently discussed in class, and immediately began to draw connections and build an analysis of what I was hearing.
In a similar fashion, when The Turnpike Troubadours came to perform at my fraternity’s party, it would have been natural for me to tune out the opening act. But because I was more engaged with the music itself, I was able to not only notice Shane Smith and the Saints, but also to compare and contrast their style with the main act.
When my parents took me to Threadgill’s for breakfast earlier this semester, country music was everywhere. The old me probably would have recognized the history, but the new, more engaged me was able to really appreciate the incredible moments that the building had played host to throughout it’s history. To be in the same building as some of the music world’s greatest acts, surrounded by decades of memorabilia, was a cool experience.
Finally, this past weekend I re-watched one of my favorite movies: Walk the Line. I have always known who Johnny Cash is, but this class gave me insight that allowed me to change how I watched the movie. While the movie depicts his time spent in jail and his relationship with June, listening to a portion of his album recorded in a prison in class as well as learning from fellow students helped me to understand the life of Johnny Cash even more.
Regardless of your enrollment in a class, I would encourage everyone to get out and learn more about what you are passionate about. I have always been a country music fan, but this project and class pushed me to discover new facts and experiences that surround me every day. Next time you have an open afternoon, instead of opening your computer and letting Netflix consume the rest of your day, research your favorite genre of music, hobby, or anything else and go check it out. You never know what you might learn.