New music major popping up at Rider

By Jess Scanlon

Classes dedicated to the popular music of the Beatles and Radiohead, which have been offered previously, will be incorporated into a new curriculum that starts next semester.
This fall students may declare a major or minor in popular music under Westminster College of the Art’s School of Fine and Performing Arts. It is a field of study available at very few American universities, putting Rider at the forefront of a trend, according to Dr. Stephen Allen, an associate professor of music.
Allen said it is a new era both musically and academically; therefore, it is a great time to add a popular music program at Rider. He lists Georgetown University as the only school on the East Coast with a similar program.
Dr. Jerry Rife, professor of music, said he anticipates the unique topics the program will cover.
“[The program] will offer an exciting alternative to the classical music Bachelor of Arts in the Fine Arts department and at Westminster Choir College,” he said. “It will focus on popular music topics and the relationship of music to philosophy, race, gender issues and courses dealing with cultural and popular media like film, television, radio, anime and animation, and histories of jazz music, world music, pop and rock musics.”
These two professors have reached out to other departments to make the interdisciplinary approach to popular music possible.
“We’ve already been consulting American Studies and the Communication [and Journalism] Department,” Allen said. “We’ve been very involved in all the discussions in terms of putting this degree together.”
Dan Natter, a senior music major, said the new Bachelor in popular music will be attractive to current and future students.
“If I was a sophomore, I would be pursuing popular music,” he said.
Rife says he currently has students ready to start the program and is optimistic about the incoming freshman class.
“Currently, it is a feeding frenzy,” Rife said. “I have nine students ready to sign into the major now and there has been a great deal of interest from the incoming freshman class. I think students are choosing Rider because of this new degree and that is very exciting.”
Dr. Joel Phillips, a professor of composition and music theory at Westminster Choir College, said that the popular music program will be benefical to the University.
“If my colleagues at Lawrenceville wish to develop a popular music degree, it would be a terrific addition to the university offerings,” Phillips said. “The United States, since its inception, has lived in the cultural shadow of Western Europe despite the fact that it has developed some of the most influential music in the world.”

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