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Are you ready to rock and learn?

November 17, 2008

It’s not all about grading papers for PLU profs

There are a few things that tie Mark Anderson ‘71, Jon Grahe and Mike Halvorson together. One is that they are all PLU professors. But another thing is their need to jam. All play in separate rock bands and earlier this month about a hundred students, staff and whoever dared to attend were treated to them rocking out with their respective groups in the CAVE for Battle of the Faculty Bands. Well, actually it was an exhibition, all three said, because no one was looking to be declared the best.

“In truth it was just a good natured jam,” Halvorson said, whose band “American Standard” performed.

Grahe said the idea grew from chatting about music with Halvorson. For Anderson, who performed with his band “Blues Passage,” talking about music by e-mail kept the conversation growing into something more.

“It kind of just morphed into that it would be fun to get together at the CAVE and do something for the students,” he said.

Music has been a big part of their lives for as long as they can remember.

Grahe remembers how he went from playing French horn in a brass quintet, to playing trumpet at open mic nights, to learning how to play guitar and starting to record original music.

“Somewhere the guitar took over more than the French horn and more than the trumpet,” he said.

His group, “My Name Ain’t Skip,” actually formed in response to the PLU rock event.

“It’s actually refreshing being in a band,” Grahe said.

Anderson saw the night, not only as fun but a kind of a ride through the history of rock music. His band played to the sound of the blues greats like Muddy Waters, while “American Standard” covered hits from the 1960s and 70s, and “My Name Ain’t Skip” captured early alternative rock with covers and original pieces.

“It was really kind of fun to watch,” Anderson said.

For the PLU alumnus, it was also a step back in time. Anderson used to play acoustic songs on campus in the 70s.

“So that was kind of a full circle experience,” he said. For each of them, it was a great way for their students to see them outside of the lecture halls, Halvorson said.

“Students tend to think you don’t have a life away from campus,” Anderson said.

“For me it’s a good way to demonstrate I’m not the scary guy they think I am, just because I teach statistics,” Grahe said.

The energy from the crowd and the kind comments from students afterward certainly made it clear they accomplished that, Halvorson said.

He’s a professor by day and rocker by night, he said one student told him.

“Which I thought was charming,” Halvorson said. “In others words, they thought it was fun.”

But PLU students are really great, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise, he said. It’s one of the reasons they’d welcome an invite to play again, but only if the students want them back.

“When you play music and you play in bands you are always up to play for people,” Anderson said.

“You’d be hard pressed to find musicians that wouldn’t play for someone who wanted them to,” Grahe said.