Recital showcases songwriters at USAO

James Harper playing guitar and singing
James Harper, a music senior from Comanche, performs an original song for his songwriting class at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Harper will be one of fourteen students to perform in an upcoming recital for the class. The recital is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Thursday in room 124 of Davis Hall on USAO’s campus.

James Harper has thoughtfully listened through this class lecture but now, it’s time for the class to share their homework and he is eager to go first.

He walks to the front of the room, making certain his guitar doesn’t bang against a desk along the way, and takes his spot at the front of the class.

Without another word, Harper, a music senior from Comanche, leans over his guitar and begins presenting his assignment. It’s a jaunty blues riff accompanied by lyrics tinged with surrealism.

Three minutes and some change later, the song is over and Harper’s smile beams out at the class as he is quizzed about the inspiration for his lyrics and some of the specifics of his chord choices.

No one complains about homework in songwriting class.

The class is the brainchild of Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, who teaches it once every two years.

Hanson, who has been on faculty at the university since 1985, is adamant about songwriting as an exciting and vital part of being a musician.

“There’s something unique about being inside the moment of a song,” Hanson said. “For about three minutes, you are in a different world. You can be somebody else, anybody else.

To me, that’s just magic and I love teaching and sharing that with my students.”

A recital showcasing the songwriting class is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday in room 124 of Davis Hall at USAO.

Hanson’s approach to teaching songwriting is, at once, methodical and playful.

The class begins in a textbook. On this day, the class is learning about the ten songs that every songwriter should know and understand. The material presented ranges from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and each new song is an opportunity for Hanson to share an arcane fact that he’s collected about the song, its composer or one of its performers.

Chad Pelton, a computer science junior also from Comanche, feels Hanson’s enthusiasm for songwriting is infectious.

“He makes the class feel really comfortable to share ideas in whatever form,” Pelton said. “Sharing creative work can be kind of nerve wracking and so I’ve been grateful to have a safe place to do that.”

Each student is expected to present at least one song at the recital as part of his or her final assignment.

Harper tells the class that he is ready to present as many as three and, by his own admission, has written more than seven in the course of the summer class.

“I write songs,” Harper said. “That’s what I do but to have all these new tools at my disposal has been great. This class has been an amazing asset for me as a songwriter.”

More information about the recital or USAO’s music department can be obtained by calling 574-1298.