Catawba offers popular music major

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catawba College News Service
Popular music is the soundtrack of modern life, and a long list of luminary artists has proved its artistic worth.
Despite this, few institutions of higher learning have embraced it, making popular musicians a group still woefully underserved by education. In fact, only about a dozen American universities offer a curriculum specifically designed for students of popular music. Catawba College has just officially joined their ranks.
Catawba has already been addressing this paucity through its degree concentration in music business, using it since 2003 as an umbrella for popular music. However, the Catawba College faculty recently approved popular music as its own degree concentration.
According to Dr. David Lee Fish, chair of Catawba’s music department, “This a clear sign of the school’s support of popular music. We now officially stand alongside such sister institutions as Berklee, Belmont, Miami, and USC in Los Angeles.”
During recent years, Catawba has become home to a growing number of talented students interested in popular music. Five of them have placed among the top three finalists in the annual John Lennon Songwriting scholarship competition; this is a far better result than any other school in a contest that receives thousands of entries.
Such achievements have become common for Catawba students. Fish also points to the recent signing of a multi-record contract with Universal Music by 2006 Catawba graduate and now Young Artist in Residence Dennis Reed.
The school’s flagship popular ensemble, the Vernaculars, also just performed all of the Beatles’ “Abby Road” live at the Hard Rock Cafe New York in Times Square. Distinctions like these have led “In Tune Monthly” to list Catawba as a Best Music School four years running, along such institutions as Juilliard and Peabody.
Catawba’s new degree concentration in popular music brings with it several new courses. Added to classes already in the Catawba catalog, interested students can now study songwriting, audio recording and the theory of popular music.
Those majoring in popular music will continue to work closely with students in Catawba’s music business program as part of the college’s innovative Artist Development Program. This pairs student artists with managers in an environment patterned after the professional world of music.
While Catawba refers to itself as Rock U, many types of popular music are supported at the college. They include rock, urban styles and country. From this fall, the school will also embrace contemporary Christian music with the founding of a new praise band.
For more information about popular music at Catawba College, please contact David Lee Fish at