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Mike Curb Fellows

A year ago none of us could tell you what a Curb Fellow is. Now we can because we are among the first Curb Fellows at Rhodes College. It’s a big deal.

Mike Curb is an award-winning music producer and songwriter (think “Candy Man,” “You Light Up My Life” and “Leaving it All Up to You”) who created the Mike Curb Institute at Rhodes. His idea was to foster awareness and understanding of the distinct musical traditions of the South and to study the impact of music on the region’s culture, history and economy.

We have different majors, interests and lifestyles. In fact, we don’t have much in common except we’re all Rhodes students who love music and we established a bond as a “group within a group.” As part of the Curb Institute and the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies we and two other students spent the summer researching fascinating musical topics and meeting legends from that world such as Professor Paul T. Kwami, musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. We studied very different genres, styles and periods but we were all looking at the social context of how music fit into the life of the time.

Cord McLean ‘09
Chapel Hill, TN

I’m an anthropology/sociology major and a Bonner Scholar. I’m president of the Black Student Association and have been very involved with the Rhodes Hollywood Springdale Partnership as a mentor to young men. I participated in the Summer Service Fellowship program in 2006, and worked during orientation as a peer assistant. I also sing in a gospel jazz group off-campus. Because I’m not a music major some people may be surprised that I was chosen as a Curb Fellow, but music feeds my soul. There’s not enough research on the subject of gospel quartets, and this was a great opportunity to shed some light on an area that is very important to me. My research was both primary—interviewing gospel singers—and secondary—digging out often-forgotten information such as a dissertation at the University of Memphis. I learned a lot through this experience and it reinforced my passion for music.

Lindsey Cloud ‘08
Grandview, TX

I’m a music major and I sing for the jazz band and Rhodes Singers. I spend a lot of time making music! This research project gave me a new outlook on music, and how it fit into the lives of previous Memphis musicians. It also improved my writing skills and has made writing papers easier and school more enjoyable. My research was on the WPA band in Memphis during the Depression. I dug through archives that no one has really looked at and I learned that the Federal Music Project actually kept live musicians employed when they were out of work during the Depression. It’s an approach that was funded by the government that was never tried before and hasn’t been since.

Sarah Eldridge ‘09
Lexington, KY

I lived in Memphis until I was six years old and after we moved away I always wanted to come back. No doubt that influenced my college search, but I also wanted a small liberal arts college and Rhodes has turned out to be perfect. I took piano lessons for 13 years and when I came to school here decided to take a break. Memphis is such a music Mecca, though, I found that I wanted to be more involved so I took a music theory course. That, and my selection as a Curb Fellow helped me decide to double major in music to complement my psychology major. My research project was on Burnet Tuthill who could aptly be called the father of classical music in Memphis. He founded the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Memphis Conservatory of Music which was the forerunner of the Rhodes music department. It was delightful to learn about someone who meant so much to music and Memphis.

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