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Faculty using Rock Music to Reach Beyond the Classroom

The Quadrivium Project, a rock ensemble comprised of NC State faculty members, shares their passion for music with the Wolfpack community since its inception in 2015.

Presently, the band consists of vocalist and associate professor of fashion and textiles, Kate Annett-Hitchcock; guitarist and director of Entrepreneurial Studies in the Arts, Gary Beckman; bassist Tommy Holden and professor in the Health and Exercise Studies department; executive director of Arts NC State, Rich Holly on drums and percussion; and Tom Koch professor and associate director of the Music department on keyboards. The band performs a range of rock covers, but likes to focus on “the retro stuff” according to Annett-Hitchcock, including hits from big names like Led Zeppelin and tributes to early FM radio.

With a mutual interest and training in music, the Quadrivium Project grew from the members’ desire to use this repertoire as a platform to create campus partnerships with faculty and students. Holly, Beckman, Koch, and Holden shared not only their music tastes but wished to collaborate with other faculty members from across the university. In the Fall of 2016, Beckman recruited Annett-Hitchcock after participating in the university’s Arts Entrepreneurship minor capstone course as a member of local folk and bluegrass duet The Barred Owls. Annett-Hitchcock explained her approach to music as both a discipline and a creative outlet, noting its importance to her ability to create a healthy work-life balance. As for potential creative tensions, she explained as colleagues and professionals first, the band members understand how to effectively collaborate with one another, thus minimizing any potential creative conflicts.

So what is the Quadrivium Project, and where did that name come from? The band members explained the name refers to the primary curricula in Medieval higher education which consisted of four studies in the areas of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Annette-Hitchcock notes,  “music was seen as equally important as subjects like math,” and members felt that idea was particularly relevant at a school like NC State, where STEM-based learning is the focus. “Even at a school with so much emphasis on math and sciences, there are other talents,” says Annett-Hitchcock. This perspective allows students to connect to faculty as people with other passions similar to their own.   

Each band member explores their own personal gains and connections while performing. Holly states “It’s [music] not what I do, it’s who I am.” Having played a great deal of rock and jazz music throughout his tenure as a musician, Holly sees the band as an expression of what he knows. Furthermore, members like Beckman find there is a certain freedom when playing, performing, and learning about rock music. He explained music can be incorporated into any academic field of study. As a leading professor in the Arts Entrepreneurship field, Beckman notes “the Arts are a subset of the entrepreneurial community,” and that introducing music into the classroom allows for certain freedoms and connections in teaching. “Many students still listen to older music and bring forward new ideas,” says Beckman.

Furthermore, Koch believes rock music can be brought to the classroom at a sophisticated level.  Music has the ability to bring students and faculty together while pushing them to create something that requires technique and dedication.

“Many students still listen to older music and bring forward new ideas,” says Beckman.

Koch hopes the study of rock music also encourages students to see the importance and sophistication of music beyond classical artists like Bach and Beethoven. In the future, Koch is hoping to incorporate more rock music into his classroom experience.  Koch is working to develop a rock music course which will push students’ curiosity of music as a discipline and their levels of creativity.

The Arts are for everyone, faculty and students alike. The Quadrivium Project use their skills in music, their passion for what they play, and their ability to practice as professionals to show faculty have other impressive abilities outside of teaching. For more information on The Quadrivium Project and their upcoming performances and projects, check out Arts NC State and find the band on Facebook. For students interested in incorporating more music into their studies, make sure to check out all the intriguing opportunities offered through the Department of Music.