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UI faculty, staff making sweet music

You might notice a coworker tapping out a 4/4 rock beat on his computer keyboard. Perhaps one of your colleagues is constantly humming a catchy tune while going about her daily routine. Or maybe your officemate, when he thinks no one is looking, displays his air-guitar skills that brim with surprising tenacity. (The last circumstance might be unique to the fyi office.)

It seems a certain subset of University of Iowa employee is running rampant throughout campus: musician.

Oh sure, they might be masquerading as faculty members in such prestigious departments as internal medicine, or perhaps they provide valuable services at places such as the Women's Resource and Action Center, but underneath these day-job personae lie souls that long to sing, strum, and slam the skins.

fyi managed to track down five of these musically inclined souls—to be more accurate, they responded to a survey—to discuss their tuneful talents, how they got involved in music, and their fondest memories of the stage.

Daniel Berkowitz, professor of journalism and Graduate College associate dean

Blue Midnight Trio
Dan Berkowitz (center) jams with fellow Blue Midnight Trio members Jim Rossen (left) and Bob Goffstein. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
   

Band name: Blue Midnight Trio

Style of music: blues, jump, swing

Role in band: upright bass player, singer

How the band formed: All are members of The Tornadoes, which has played together for nearly 14 years. A couple of years ago, some band members decided to take the same music to a more intimate setting, performing at smaller venues.

Musical influences: “The blues artists of the 1950s and ‘60s, as well as some of the contemporary retro blues, jump, and swing artists. There are too many to name, but Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Otis Rush, and Little Walter rise to the top.”

What he enjoys most about performing: “It’s a chance to get away from work life and everything else and just focus on the moment. In a way, playing music is like meditation that cleanses the mind.”

How his colleagues/students react to the band:  “Most are surprised that I’m still playing, especially in public venues. I also recently played free-form improvisational bass behind three Middle Eastern poets, and some in the audience were surprised that a Graduate College dean would be doing that.”

The most interesting place he’s played: “Probably the Secrest Octagonal Barn near West Liberty. Despite the old cliché, ‘it sounds like a barn,’ the acoustics were actually pretty good and the setting was really cool.”

Web site: www.myspace.com/bluemidnite3

 

Dale Bieber, clinical associate professor, internal medicine

Barbershop quartet singers
The members of Power Supply—(from left) Sean Smith (tenor), Bill Phelps (lead), Dale Bieber (bass), and Dave Scott (baritone)—rehearse for their holiday concert. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
   

Band name: Power Supply, composed of members of the Twenty First Century Vocals, a chorus of 35 or so members composed of singers from Dubuque, the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and the Iowa City area

Style of music: barbershop quartet

Role in band: vocals

Why he began singing: “I was one of those kids who caught on to singing in kindergarten and Sunday school. I sang in high school chorus and musicals, and in college I did district regional and state honors choirs. I sang in community choruses through med school, and started singing barbershop while in residency in Rochester, N.Y.” 

What he enjoys most about performing: “The fun of barbershop is that it is live, unaccompanied vocal music sung to create an emotion in the listener—joy, remembered sadness, hope, wistful memories, laughter—all the while creating thrills for the ears with harmony and overtones. It has some links to gospel quartet music, to vaudeville, and more distantly to popular music primarily of the 1900-1950s and country music. It is designed to be entertaining as well as beautiful in sound.”

His fond memories from performing: “In early November I was in Indianapolis at a convention that collected a 120-voice male chorus on stage for a concert—participating in that was an absolute delight. There have been many high points in the 20-plus years I have been doing choruses and quartets in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and now Iowa.

Do his colleagues know about the band?: “My coworkers know I sing because of Singing Valentines. Every year the local Barbershop Harmony Society chapter offers Singing Valentines to the public where a musical tribute (and a rose) can be ordered for a friend, coworker, spouse, parent, sick relative—you name it! The quartet I was with last year sang to the office staff and a waiting room of patients, and I suspect we’ll be asked back every year to sing to the staff just for fun.”

Web sites: www.barbershop.org and www.oldcapitolchorus.com.

 

Kevin Kelley, writer/director, Video Center

Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelley is the man behind the "band" called The Raves. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
   

Band name: The Raves

Style of music: alternative

Role in band: he’s a one-man show—vocals and instrumentation

Musical influences: a wide range of pop and rock artists from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s

How The Raves began: “I grew up in a musical family. I watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Once I discovered the software program Garage Band and iTunes, I had to create an imaginary band.”

How he feels about performing his music in a live setting: “Well, the most interesting place I’ve played is my basement. I enjoy the laughs I get from the crowd and my friends.”

If he could have written one song in history, it would be: “’Happy Birthday’—royalties on that would have been sweet.

Do his colleagues know about the band?: “Well, they do now.”

Web site: search for “The Raves” at iTunes Music Store

 

Aleta Porcella, clinical nurse specialist, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Blue grass band
The Burlington Street Bluegrass Band poses before a gig at the Mill. Aleta Porcella (second from right) plays bass in the band. Members are (from left) Joe Peterson (mandolin), Bob Black (banjo), Mark Wilson (guitar), Alan Murphy (fiddle), Porcella, and Dale Thomas (dobro). Photo by Trisha Stiles.
   

Band name: Burlington Street Bluegrass Band

Style of music: bluegrass

Role in band: bass player, singer

How she got interested in music: “It’s in my DNA.”

Musical influences: Alan Murphy, Bob Black

What she enjoys most about performing: “Total concentration.”

If she could have written one song in history, it would be: “'You Are My Sunshine' because everyone knows it and sings it, and the royalties would be fabulous.”

Web site: www.myspace.com/theburlingtonstreetbluegrassband

 

Laurie Haag, program developer, Women's Resource and Action Center

Laurie Haag plays drums
Laurie Haag plays drums during a chorus rehearsal at Zion Lutheran Church. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
   

Band name: BeJae Fleming Band

Style of music: blues-influenced roots music

Role in band: drums

How the band formed: “The BeJae Fleming Band is really two duos combined. BeJae and Jackie Blount, who plays bass, live in Ames (where Jackie is an Iowa State University faculty member) and play together regularly. Mary Pat Reasoner and I play regularly as a duo in Iowa City. For the past several years I have joined BeJae for some of her Iowa City gigs and other shows here and there. This spring Mary Pat and I joined BeJae at a coffeehouse in Des Moines and we all had so much fun that we wanted to get Jackie in on it and do some band shows.”

Musical influences: “When I was learning to play drums the only female drummer role model around was Karen Carpenter, who was actually a very accomplished drummer, so I’d have to put her at the top of the list. Later I got into more interesting genres and I would count Keith Moon and Mitch Mitchell as influences, and then later Joe Morello and Steve Gadd.”

What she enjoys most about creating music: “Creating something out of thin air and energy. I most appreciate playing with people who like to go with the flow and see where it takes us.”

Favorite performance moment: “I had the good fortune to play a lot of political rallies with Kristin Lems during the Equal Rights Amendment campaign in the early 1980s. We played to a crowd of something like 25,000 people at one of them. She’d written a new song for the event, a kind of sing-along anthem, which she taught me in the car on the way to the rally…We were playing the song (for the first time ever) and I finally felt comfortable enough with the song to look up at the crowd. They had their hands clasped in the air, rocking back and forth, singing the chantlike chorus enthusiastically. It was an incredible scene, a real testament to power of music to join people together.”

The most interesting place she’s played: “I played with a band at a bar once that had a huge collection of stuffed dead animals. It was a huge place and there were literally hundreds of them, from snakes to grizzly bears. There was a live tree inside the bar, right in front of the stage, with bears, raccoons, bobcats, and all kinds of things, posed in ‘natural’ positions in the tree, as well as several deer cut off at mid-body leaping out of the wall behind us, with a painted landscape as the backdrop. It was probably the creepiest place I’ve ever had to play, and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. I kind of wish I had a picture of us there though.”

Web site: www.bejaefleming.com

by Madelaine Jerousek-Smith and Christopher Clair

 

Office of University Relations. Copyright The University of Iowa 2006. All rights reserved.