This semester I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Rhetoric of Country Music class where we were challenged to take the learning beyond the classroom and actually participate in the country music world. I didn’t have to travel far to experience a live performance in west campus by Turnpike Troubadours, go two-stepping at the world’s largest Honky-Tonk, watch the movie Country Strong, and finally watch the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Country Music Awards. By participating in all of these things, my eyes were opened to how dominant country music is in Austin in particular and all over the country.
I grew up in a very small town in northeast Texas, so country music has always been familiar to me, even though I didn’t know much about it. I enjoyed the way it sounded on the radio, but I never knew the names of artists or how interesting the country music industry really is. I wanted to take the Rhetoric of Country Music class so I could learn more about the genre of music I’m always surrounded by, but I had no idea how much I would actually get out of this class. When I moved to Austin I had no idea that I was moving to one of the most historic cities for music, especially country music. It’s not just about the history, though, because Austin still has live country performances going on around almost every corner. There was even a live performance around the corner from my dorm in west campus, where Turnpike Troubadours was playing at a fraternity house. I loved the simplistic style of the band and how playing for just a bunch of college kids didn’t bother them. I also got the chance to go two-stepping at Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest Honky-Tonk located at the Fort Worth Stockyards. In addition to experiencing the performance side of country music, I also saw the huge role country music has played in movies like Country Strong. I also watched the Academy of Country Music Awards on television, which proved that there are numerous fans of country and the artists are among the most talented in music history.
However, the things that I mentioned are not where my country music adventure ends. I am constantly noticing the influence this project has had on my view of music in general. I always figured that music was divided into genres that acted as hard lines between different sounds. But now I realize that country music can blend into other genres as well and the hard lines do not exist. When I watch a country performance on television or even live, I notice all aspects of the performance instead of just the song. I look at the outfits, the instruments, the props, the delivery, and the audience. So much goes into making a song or performer successful that I did not realize before. I have also learned that the history of music is just as important as history you’d read about in a textbook in school. Music reflects the political, social, and economical aspects of the time it was created. Many country music artists have created songs about gay rights, feminism, poor vs. rich, etc. Country music speaks about real life situations and challenges people to think about the issues around them. I am lucky to be in Austin where the country music history is rich and still thriving. When I walk by a live performance in a bar, I wonder if that performer will one day be famous because many artists had humble beginnings that began right here in Austin. This project has taught me how to think critically about how music reflects real people and real issues in a creative way. Instead of accepting a song at face value, I notice all aspects and wonder what the artist is trying to accomplish as a performer. This project has also made me proud that I have grown up around the rich and diverse genre of country music, where the boundaries never cease to be pushed.