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Bonnaroo U.? Belmont Students Prep for Second Year of Unconventional Study Away Program

Students pursuing 6-credit hours in research methods, sociology of music courses while living backstage on a tour bus at the ‘Roo

Following a successful pilot program last summer of a new Belmont Abroad experience, Belmont students will depart this week for nearby Manchester, Tennessee to attend one of the world’s best music festivals… and earn college credit. The “Belmont at Bonnaroo” program delivers a unique and innovative academic immersion into festival culture while providing students hands-on experience in timely and relevant music research.

Led by faculty members Dr. Sarita Stewart (music business) and Dr. Ken Spring (sociology), this program consists of two co-curricular classes “Research Methods and Festival Culture” and “Sociology of Music.” Enrolled students spend time in the classroom studying the role of music in society and the various attributes surrounding its meaning. They also learn about various quantitative and qualitative methodologies used in research study designs.

Spring has studied music festivals since the first Bonnaroo in 2002. “While I have taken students to see music scenes and subcultures in the UK, I think that Bonnaroo offers a unique opportunity for our students because it is in our backyard. By combining two established Belmont courses, it offers our students a collaborative learning community focusing on music festivals from a holistic approach. They dig deep into understanding the production and consumption models that are necessary when delivering a festival of this magnitude.”

Belmont at Bonnaroo 2019 Class Photo

This week the students will apply what they’ve been learning by attending and conducting a research study at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival from June 13-16 in partnership with Bonnaroo leadership.

Stewart said, “The students will be conducting research with patrons throughout the duration of the festival. The Bonnaroo team has sent us two main questions to explore around the festival experience. Since the overall class content is dovetailed together, Dr. Spring and I are working with the students to determine questions related to issues of Symbolic Identity, Production of Culture, Authenticity and Consumption of Culture at the festival. This research builds upon the themes of Community, Design, Branding, and Consumption that our first group of participants studied last year.”

Beyond the research, students will also attend guest lectures each day of the festival from various “visiting professors.” Last year’s guest lectures included visits with Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps, Khalid manager Courtney Stewart and C3 promoter Amy Corbin, among others as part of the “Artist/Executives in Residence” series.   

Participants in the 2018 pilot of “Belmont at Bonnaroo” found the experience and the courses to be pivotal to their understanding of the magnitude and impact of the festival.

Sociology major Alex Logan, who had attended Bonnaroo three times before taking the “Belmont at Bonnaroo” courses last summer, said, “As a General Admission patron it’s easy to take everything, both inside Centeroo and in the campgrounds, for granted. But our behind-the-scenes access and privilege to speak with executives and artists allowed me to focus on the details of the festival. The amount of people involved in the production of a festival is mind boggling. Having access to the staff, press and backstage area showed me that Bonnaroo is the true city that never sleeps.”

Music business major Amanda Thilo added, “My biggest takeaway from Bonnaroo was reassurance in my belief that music can truly bring everyone together. It didn’t matter what differences attendees may have had from each other. In those moments of listening to artists perform or participating in any of the various experiences offered, complete strangers became like family.”

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