No Song Left Behind – Muhlenberg First Year Seminar – Roland Kushner, professor
Last month I did a seminar with Muhlenberg students on ‘folk’ music. Here are some abbreviated thoughts from the students. It was a lively conversation.
Besides the fact that Fry was revolutionary in our classes understanding of how songs last and what makes them high quality, he was someone we wanted to be around. He wasn’t there to lecture. He was there to get us deeply engaged in a conversation so we could better understand the art of music. He was caring, charismatic, and a wonderful musician himself who showed great passion for his craft. He literally took the time to ask each and every one of us what our favorite musical artists were and why we liked their music. Frank
Dave Fry’s presentation was just what our class needed. After a week of chaos in the aftermath of the election, it was a real treat to hear him play his guitar and sing to us all. Scratch that – it was a real treat to sing with him. Mr. Fry is more than just an educator, he’s a mentor. He didn’t want us to be a passive audience, he encouraged us to all sing along – no voice was to be unheard. His carefree demeanor gave us all the confidence to join in wherever we could, and because of that, there was a smile stretched across every one of our faces. Then Mr. Fry changed the tone of the presentation by performing Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” As someone who doesn’t typically listen to a lot of Dylan’s work, I think this song was the perfect introduction. When I looked at the lyrics of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” I was stunned by the profundity of the songwriting. I’m the type of person that craves a complex, intricate instrumentation in a song, but in this particular composition, the lyrics absorbed every drop of my attention. In this instance, it wasn’t just the musical content that made the song work, it was the social discourse it spoke to. I am so grateful to have heard this song at the time that I did. In the aftermath of this election, I’ve viewed our nation with complete disdain, disgusted by what we’ve done to ourselves. But when I read through the lyrics of this song, I saw myself as the “man who was wounded in hatred.” Through my arrogance, I was contributing to the growing divide. I was projecting the “us vs. them” phenomenon that always leads us to further trouble. It’s important to search for the young girl to give me the rainbow, as she did to the narrator of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” to remember that there’s always hope. Lily
Dave was a phenomenal performer due to the emotion that he exuded. It was undeniable that Dave was emotionally invested as he played the guitar as if it was a part of his body. He often encouraged us to sing along with him creating a welcoming environment. I felt as if I was a part of his performance. Ryan.
The next song he played was Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. Something I had never noticed until I heard it played right in front of me was what the guitar reminded me of. Aside from the title it reminded of sunshine. The opening melody is very light and playful and I feel does a good job of just audibly getting the listener to think and feel sunshine when they hear it. It is a creative and stylistic choice the artist can make to have the melody try to embody the message of the song. Dave Fry did a wonderful job as a performer in sparking a conversation in the room. He wasn’t afraid to put us on the spot and get us involved in what was going on. As a listener I felt very much engaged and I truly did enjoy listening to him play. He also seemed to truly enjoy being there talking with us which made the music all that more fun. And of course thanks to him, I finally know what a true folk song really is. Melissa
Dave Fry is also a very energetic entertainer. When he sings his songs, he usually closed his eyes, as if he was fully engulfed in the song and the only important thing to him at that very moment was the singing of that song. This is similar to the way Bruce Springsteen performs, as he usually never has his eyes open during a performance of one of his songs. Garrett
In Dave’s performances of his music, it was clear that he did not simply play the music. Dave became the music, as I and any other good musician does. He was able to express his emotions wonderfully through his guitar and the various vocal tones that he exemplified. Dario
I am very fortunate to have gotten the unique opportunity to listen to and discuss music with Dave Fry. At first, I had no idea what to expect; I came into class and saw a man with a pony tail and bare feet. I knew it would be a different experience than many of the other guests and activities we had done in class. Dave Fry shared his love for music with the class through singing and discussing what makes a song durable and high quality. I enjoyed his visit because he wasn’t simply in the classroom to talk at us, but rather to get the entire class involved in the discussion. We focused on certain songs that he was very knowledgeable about, in addition to sharing songs that are special to each person in the group. His approach to analyzing songs was different than what we have done in the past, in that he insisted on looking at very specific elements and lines of the songs as his basis for figuring out why that particular portion made it successful. Prior to meeting Dave Fry, I never actually analyzed songs in any intricate way; I had always thought of songs in a holistic manner. In contrast, Fry taught us to “unpack” the song and evaluate how its specific elements affect its quality and durability. Dave Fry’s visit, while only about an hour long, packed a huge punch and truly inspired me to not only widen my range of music to listen to, but to also uncover the true meaning of each song and why it attracts me as a listener. Mimi
I am pleased that our class had the opportunity to listen and discuss music with Dave Fry. As soon as he came into our class, he sat down, kicked off his shoes and started playing for the class. He made the whole class feel at ease with his comfortable vibe. This is the first time I’ve seen the class let loose and have fun and Dave Fry was responsible for this. Next, Mr. Fry passed out papers to the class with the lyrics from “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan. He asked us to underline our favorite line from the song as he was playing it. This song touched on the fear that America had about a nuclear war in the 1960s, so the song was clearly not as bright and happy as the other two he addressed. My favorite line was “I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow.” This was my favorite since every other line in the song was somber. This resonated with me especially since it showed a glimpse of hope and innocence in a time when the country needed it the most. A significant quality that this song had was that it told a meaningful story. It’s lyrics are critical and harder to understand so it makes the listener think. Also, the lyrics don’t rhyme so instead of the listener anticipating the rhyming words (like in “My Girl”), the listener must stay in the present and think about each lyric as it comes. Shoshanna.
Overall, I really enjoyed everything Dave Fry had to say. I liked the Pete Seeger song he played for us. It was interesting to hear a song spoken instead of sung. It was different, but the song was still a song that had a point and a message to it, which is all that matters. I think it’s really interesting that he can bring a group of people together, whether it be preschoolers or senior citizens. I honestly don’t know how he does it, but it’s amazing. He definitely enjoyed talking to us, that’s for sure. I wish I had his kind of spark when performing. What was also really cool was that he was interested in what me and my classmates like to listen to, so it was really cool to educate him as well. I love getting to tell anyone my love for Pentatonix. It’s as if I’m friends with the artists themselves and we can connect on a level through music. Their music has always been there for me, and they always know how to lift me up when I’m down, or just change the bad mood that I’m in into a good one. I hope that Dave Fry can take what he learned from us and spread that information on to other students he gets to talk to. Maybe he’ll learn even more information than we offered him, who knows. Danielle.
Folk music is not something I listen to a lot, and he definitely is influenced by that genre. A unique characteristic to his song was that he spoke the lyrics, and that they told a story. Personally I found this to make the lyrics more meaningful because as we talked about with him, the lyrics do hold a great deal of significance in most songs. With the absence of a melody, I found that I was paying more attention to what they lyrics were saying, and I was able to clearly follow along to the story he was setting. The guitar behind him set a foundation that kept the groove of the song going and gave it that drive that made it intriguing throughout. Zach
Dave Fry came to our class dressed simply and comfortably. His shoes, or rather lack of shoes, caught me off guard but gave me the immediate feeling that he is a person comfortable in his own skin, which is a character trait necessary for his line of work. Personally, I get stage fright when strumming my ukulele in front of two friends, so his ability to play his guitar for a room full of teenaged strangers impressed me. Overall, Dave Frye’s visit to our class was a great experience. They never told us in high school that college classes would occasionally take the form of a campfire kumbaya. The class’ conclusion to the question of why songs remain popular showed that the answer is just as various as the reasons for why people like different genres altogether. Moshe
After listening to Dave Fry’s presentation, I came to the realization that he did not simply enjoy performing folk music, but that it is merely a bonus to his overall goal. It dawned on me that he receives a far greater fulfillment by positively impacting his audience through the messages that encompass folk music. The main objective of Dave Fry is to take old songs and make them new again. He feels obligated to disseminate the positive ideology that many folk songs have echoed for many years. Fry utilized the power of three influential songs and an original piece to identify many factors that makes a song durable and quality. “My Girl” by Smokey Robinson, “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beetles, and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan are three songs in Dave Fry’s opinion that can be used as a tool to confront the question of what makes a song great and memorable.
As stated before, I knew Dave Fry would be an enlightened musical resource due to his influence throughout the Lehigh Valley. However, his reputation as an entertainer, children’s performer, musician, and philosopher do not even come close to his ability to connect with people. Dave Fry was able use folk music as a means to relate to me as college student of Muhlenberg without really spending a substantial amount of time. Dave Fry’s ability to emphasize and trigger a human connect between his audience is what I admire the most. Dave Fry is able to break down age, social, racial, and gender differences through the media of folk music. It is important to note that a quality and durable song can bring a large spectrum of contrasting beliefs and ideas together. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Fry’s presentation and hope that I will have the chance to visit Godfrey Daniels on one of my free weekends up here at Muhlenberg. Mickey.