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College of Continuing Education News

High Notes

For students, the University's diverse curriculum means they can aim for the stars in astronomy or stay well grounded with agriculture...and that's just the "A's." Whatever their ambitions, it is likely the University can help them achieve their goals, just as it did for alumni.

Through the College of Continuing Education, in addition to full degrees, adults also have access to that same University-wide breadth of insight through short courses and events.

This fall will see two new interesting time-traveling twists. One suite of offerings introduces citizens to a Witness to History as local innovators share their firsthand perspectives on decisive moments and movements that have shaped our history. The second lets us turn back the clock in another way. 101 overviews let us revel in those topics we wish we'd explored "the first time around."

Two November events focused on music illustrate the distinction, notably.

Witness to History


"I played in a band and then some stuff happened, then some other stuff. I still play in a band. That pretty much sums it up," says Chris Osgood (shown).

Sure it does.

If by "a band" you mean a group that helped shape the American punk rock genre. And by "some other stuff" you mean working as a record producer, a college instructor and administrator, a director for a nonprofit arts agency, a wine importer, a...

Yeah. Those simple lines do pretty much sum up Osgood, headliner at the November LearningLife "Witness to History" Forum. But there's an awful lot of reading between them you can do to get the full story.

Best known as "the godfather of the Minneapolis music scene," Osgood (along with Dave Ahl and Steve Almaas) founded the punk band The Suicide Commandos in 1975. The band is credited as being one of the first U.S. bands outside of New York to play in the Ramones-style, harder-louder-faster mode that would define the punk genre. He then went on to become a label manager and producer at Twin/Tone Records in Minneapolis (home to bands such as The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Ween, and The Jayhawks).

Osgood's musical career began when he was a preteen. Osgood got turned on to the guitar, teaching himself to play rock and roll and eventually forming a band. "I was playing professionally by the time I was 14. It just clicked for me."

After finishing his college degree (double majoring in psychology and music) in only three years, Osgood, Ahl, and Almaas formed the Commandos. Thirty-five years later, the trio not only continues to play together--they actually still even like each other. "We still jack around like kids when we get together. It also helps that we're a democracy--we all come up with ideas, and we all vote. No one person is in sole control. With three guys, you can never deadlock, never get into a stalemate that breaks up the band," Osgood smiles.

Being in a pioneering band like The Suicide Commandos allowed Osgood to perform with some of the biggest names in music history, including Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and the Ramones. "We did a show with them [the Ramones] at Kelly's pub in Saint Paul, and when we were done, I was like 'wow, you can just kill me now--it doesn't get any better than this.'"

But in many ways, it has. Osgood has also been a tireless advocate for new and emerging artists, having worked at Springboard for the Arts (a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping artists earn a living by pursuing their craft) for nearly two decades, and now serving as the vice president of external affairs for McNally Smith College of Music.

"I'm a helper," he says. "My main role has always been helping people do better, do their best; helping them achieve more. I get a thrill out of seeing people succeed, whether that's working with a band to get them to put out a record that they look back at and say 'yeah, we really did that one right,' or whether it's sitting down with an artist and figuring out how to get them health insurance."

In recognition for his work in the arts community, Springboard created the Osgood Dogood award for transformational leadership in the arts, an honor that touched Osgood deeply. "That was cool. It was definitely a high point for me."

"I'm lucky that I got a little taste of 'the rock star life,' but not so much that it overwhelmed me or consumed everything else. It opened a lot of doors, created opportunities. But I can still go to the grocery store without being mobbed or something crazy like that. I think I've been able to answer that age-old question 'how do I do what I want to do?' I've been really, really fortunate in that way."

Western Music 101: Daniel Freeman


For Western Music 101 instructor Daniel Freeman, music is second nature. "As far back as I can remember, even to early childhood, I loved classical music. I always had a natural affinity for it, and couldn't understand why the other kids didn't like it."

Initially, Freeman wanted to become a concert pianist, and he earned a bachelor's degree in piano performance. He soon realized, however, his interests were multifaceted.

He became interested in the history and culture surrounding the music, as well as the languages of the periods and places that gave birth to it. He quickly realized that music history, or musicology, allowed him the freedom to combine all of his interests.

Freeman specializes in 18th and 19th century music, and has also gained renown as a Czech music scholar. "I had to live in Prague to do my research while it was still communist. It was an extraordinary experience. My dissertation ended up published as a book, and then I published another book, a biography of a neglected Czech composer who was a friend of Mozart."

He has also published numerous articles on the topic, and been interviewed by The New York Times about his work, and is finishing his third book, Mozart in Prague.

Freeman is excited to bring his knowledge to Western Music 101, a one-day, intensive format covering a lot of ground. Participants will receive "an overview of the history of Western music by defining the succession of style periods and introducing the greatest composers."

The course also will highlight some of the unique achievements of Western music, "for example the invention of a notation that has made it possible to preserve its heritage  it's not possible for any other culture to reconstruct the music of past centuries," Freeman continues.

The course is open to individuals with all types of musical backgrounds--and to those with none whatsoever. All that is required is a curiosity about music, and an interest in learning. Western music "is made up of examples of ravishingly beautiful sounds. All that's needed to appreciate them is exposure - which all too few people ever get. I'm happy to do [teach] it. It's a great opportunity."

Upcoming LearningLife Events

LearningLIfe Forum (2010 Theme: "Witness to History")
-November 18: Chris Osgood, "Godfather of the Minneapolis Music Scene"
-December 16: John and Sage Cowles, Twin Cities arts patrons
-January 20: Walter Mondale, Former U.S. vice president
-February 17: Josie Johnson, Civil rights activist
-April 21: George and Sally Pillsbury, with Star Tribune writer Lori Sturdevant
Time: 7 p.m. Cost: $15 per event.

-November 6: Western Music 101 with Daniel Freeman
-December 4: American Politics 101 with Paul Goren, Timothy Johnson, Kathryn Pearson
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cost: $101 per event.

Location: Continuing Education and Conference Center on the St. Paul campus.
Registration and complete information, availabe online, or call 612 624 4000.

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