Students ‘Come Together’ for Beatles Class

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – The newly released film Yesterday imagines a world in which the Beatles never existed, except to a struggling singer-songwriter who becomes an overnight sensation performing the band’s back catalog. The premise demonstrates the enduring legacy of what many consider the most influential group of all time for its impact on culture and recording techniques. Fifty years after it disbanded, the fab foursome continues to captivate a new generation, as evidenced by the 170 Northern Michigan University students registered for a fall course titled “The Beatles: Their Music, Their Times.”

NMU music professor Erin Colwitz has been a loyal fan since she discovered The White Album at age 12. Fascinated with the Beatles’ story, she voraciously read material written about them and listened to all of their recorded music. When the University of Southern California offered a wildly popular course on the group while she was a teaching assistant there, Colwitz was determined to put her own stamp on the subject when she joined the full-time faculty ranks. Her first course on the Beatles at NMU last fall received an enthusiastic response from students.

“My approach is to intersperse cultural perspectives with the songs and the meanings behind them,” said Colwitz, who recently attended Paul McCartney’s concert at Lambeau Field. “I explore why the Beatles became a worldwide phenomenon and moved people in such a way, and why they were so important to British and American culture. It had a lot to do with the time period of the ‘60s. Art imitates life at some point, and they really played off what was happening in the world.

“At the beginning of their career, the songs were very much love letters to their fans. But starting with Help, there was a shift and much of their writing served as commentary. There were some exceptions of songs written just for fun, like Here Comes the Sun. George Harrison wrote that after walking around in Eric Clapton’s garden.”

According to Colwitz, examples of commentary seeping into the Beatles’ music include Get Back, a song inspired by past efforts to restrict immigration to Britain that carries contemporary relevance for students, and Blackbird, which addresses racial issues. She said You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away was written for manager Brian Epstein, who had to conceal his homosexuality because he would have faced imprisonment or chemical castration in the United Kingdom, where it was a criminal offense.

Colwitz addresses all of the Beatles’ albums in the NMU course and plays most of their hit songs. In addition to sharing quotes from band members on their thought process when they wrote particular pieces, she also delves into their trailblazing production techniques, which paved the way for what would become standard practice.

She said the Beatles relied heavily on overdubs, or layering new recordings of song passages over previously recorded tracks, to achieve a bigger vocal sound. They also overdubbed individual instruments, including “fuzz bass,” which ran through another amp to give it a unique timbre that resembled a funk instrument.

“The concept that you didn’t always have to be together in the same room to lay down tracks was relatively new,” she said. “The Beatles were extremely experimental when it came to instrumentation and recording techniques. They started using headphones in recording sessions and they were the first to use feedback in a song. John accidentally hit the D string when he was setting his guitar against an amp and that sound became part of I Feel Fine. He also got the idea in his head once that he wanted to sound like a Tibetan monk standing on a hill and the recording engineers were able to make that happen. They were extremely creative, but didn’t realize that so much of what they did in the studio would influence music to the degree it has.”

The course also explores the band members’ personalities and relationships with each other. Colwitz polls students every couple of weeks on their favorite Beatle. She said opinions change over the course of the semester.

“Paul was the perfectionist. John could hold his own and came up with extremely inventive chord structure that altered the time signature between duple and triple in many songs. George was a talented guitar player and came into his own as a songwriter, but was quiet and always intimidated by John and Paul. Ringo was cheeky with a good sense of humor. A lot of students love him, but feel bad he didn’t seem to get as much respect, especially when Paul would send Ringo to get donuts and lay down the drum track while he was gone.”

Modern films such as Yesterday and Across the Universe, both of which feature covers of several Beatles hits, have helped to keep the music alive for a new generation. So has the course Colwitz teaches. She enjoys supplementing original recordings, including those of lesser-known early material, with an in-depth exploration of the inspiration for the songs and the cultural context at the time.

“There are so many reasons it’s important to bring something new to the table like this course and give students another option that might serve as an opening into music, even if they’re not Beatles fans. Just as the Beatles were influenced by Baroque-period classical music, perhaps their music might influence some of our students to explore alternative forms of music.”

Rail Service Forums in Upper Peninsula, Northern Wisconsin

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – Michigan state Sen. Ed McBroom and Wisconsin state Sen. Tom Tiffany announced they are hosting two public meetings in Michigan and Wisconsin on the state of rail service in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin.

The public forums will allow residents to voice their concerns about rail service in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Event details are as follows:

Monday, Aug. 26

9 am – 3 pm EDT
Marquette Township Hall
1000 Commerce Drive
Marquette, MI 49855

Tuesday, Aug. 27

9 am – 3 pm CDT
Rhinelander High School Auditorium
665 Coolidge Ave.
Rhinelander, WI 54501

Individuals wishing to testify or who have questions about the events should contact the senators’ offices.

For Sen. McBroom, please call 517-373-7840 or email SenEMcBroom@senate.michigan.gov. For Sen. Tiffany, please call 608-266-2509 or email Sen.Tiffany@legis.wi.gov.

NMU Fall Fest August 26

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – Northern Michigan University’s Fall Fest is scheduled from 11 am to 3 pm on Monday, August 26th, the first day of classes. The event will take place on the academic mall bordered by West Science, Weston Hall and Harden Hall.

Fall Fest is an “opportunity fair” where students can learn about opportunities to become involved in student organizations or volunteering for area non-profit agencies. They will also be introduced to local businesses and the products or services they offer. The event includes free ice cream and business giveaways.

For more information, contact the NMU Center for Student Enrichment at 227-2439.

MAPS After School Services Extended

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – Marquette Area Public Schools is pleased to announce the continuation of before and after school child services for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. MAPS longtime partner Child and Family Services announced in June they weren’t able to continue this program, which left a large void. It was important to MAPS to find partners who would offer services that best met the needs of students and families which meant providing care in each elementary building. Thankfully, four local providers have stepped in to fill this need:

Graveraet Elementary – Kids Club- kidsclubcdcmqt@gmail.com
Cherry Creek Elementary – Grove-R Day Care- groverdaycare@gmail.com
Superior Hills Elementary – Megan’s Family Day Care- meganjosimmons@gmail.com
Sandy Knoll Elementary – Child Central Station- amyahola@gmail.com

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Jr. Duck Stamp Exhibit in August

August 8, 2019

Seney, MI – The Seney National Wildlife Refuge will house a Jr. Duck Stamp Exhibit from August 9th to 25th at the Visitor Center. The exhibit features the top entries as judged in the Jr. Duck Stamp Art Contest.

Reading Space Station #3 at PWPL August 9th and 10th

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – Reading Space Station #3 is Friday, August 9th from 11 am-7 pm and Saturday August, 10th from 10 am-5 pm. in the Peter White Public Library Community Room. Have you completed reading, or being read to, for at least 20 minutes a day for at least 10 days? If so, bring your reading log and come choose your first free book! Participants who have completed the challenge for the first time will also be entered into the drawing for a chance to win the Grand Prize: a bike from Down Wind Sports, sponsored by the NMU Forest Roberts Theatre. Don’t forget your reading log!

Books are NOT available for purchase. This is the last Reading Space Station of the summer, and the deadline to be entered to win the grand prize. A small selection of books will be available until school begins if you missed one or all of the Reading Space Stations. No admission charge. For more information call 226-4323, visit www.pwpl.info, or find Peter White Public Library Youth Services on Facebook.

Chess for Kids at PWPL August 9th

August 8, 2019

Marquette, MI – Chess for Kids at PWPL is Friday, August 9th from 2:00 pm- 4:00 pm in the Peter White Public Library Great Room. Chess for intermediate & above. We will match skill levels between opponents as best as possible. This program is for ages 6 and up.

Feel free to bring a friend! Boards provided, but you are welcome to bring your own as well. For more information, call 226-4323, visit pwpl.info, or check out the Peter White Public Library Youth Services page on Facebook.