College classrooms replace stages for rock stars


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They may fall off the pop charts, some might even lose the muse. But these days old rock stars need not worry about fading away, not when there's a college classroom nearby.

Rock's gangster of love himself, Steve Miller, created some buzz recently when he became an artist-in-residence at the prestigious University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music. But it turns out the guy who famously proclaimed, "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker" wasn't nearly the first guitar-slinger to move from the stage to the classroom.

Mark Volman, who co-founded the Turtles and later played with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, runs the entertainment studies department at Nashville's Belmont University these days when he isn't out on the road singing "Happy Together." Lamont Dozier, one third of the legendary songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, which created hits for everyone from Phil Collins to the Supremes, lectures on his craft at USC. Around the country, everyone from punk rockers to doo-wop harmonizers are holding down teaching positions at big-name universities.

"It brings the subject matter to life for the students in a way that a professor, no matter how well intentioned, just can't do," Chris Sampson, dean of USC's music school, says of turning the classroom over to people like Miller. "It makes all the learning go beyond just theory."