School of Rock
Many young people declare that when they grow up, they’ll perform music in front of millions of people. Dr. Peter Pollack did, and now he’s helping make that dream come true for others.
Pollack is the Director of Academic Operations for [email protected] – the new Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. The innovative facility, located in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district, is getting its finishing touches. The “school of rock” will be ready to teach students the business of music making this fall.
For Pollack – whose performance credits include 10 years as drummer for the Blue Man Group – the ACM offers a perfect way to blend his talents of performing, teaching and leading.
“This position ties together my diverse passions,” Pollack says. “I’m a rock drummer who is studied in contemporary and classical music. This position incorporates administrative facets as well. Many of us used to sit in the back of class and work on the music we wanted to play, and hope that we didn’t get in trouble. Now we have a school for that. It’s a delicious irony.”
[email protected] will offer students the opportunities to pursue an Associates of Applied Science in either Performance (guitar, drums, bass and vocals) or Music Production. It’s a well-rounded approach to teaching the music business – giving students the tools they need to make a living, whether on stage, behind the curtains or in the recording studio.
Pollack says he’s excited about such a unique curriculum. [email protected] is based on a music school in London – complete with a career placement program so graduates aren’t just handed a diploma.
“We want to teach them a real way to make a living so they’re not just left hanging when they leave the school,” Pollack says. “We’ll have an aggressive placement program. People are coming to us with the passion and the talent, and our goal is to give them what they deserve.”
Pollack comes to [email protected] after fulfilling many of his dreams. Most recently, he spent 10 years playing drums for the Las Vegas production of Blue Man Group. He previously recorded with numerous artists and producers, including Steve Albini and Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys. Pollack also holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Illinois.
As a member of Blue Man Group, Pollack was a rock drummer in a show that combines music with theatrics, comedy and multimedia. Pollack was among seven musicians in the percussion-heavy show. The three all-blue lead performers played PVC pipes and orchestrated the entertainment.
“It’s unusual to play one show for so many years, but no other show than Blue Man Group could do that,” Pollack says. “The show had a freshness and energy that never made the experience stale. There was also a lot of humor in the show.”
Pollack and his fellow musicians dressed in pink, yellow and blue fluorescent – colors that make up the DNA strand. When they stepped into a black light, they appeared as two-dimensional skeletal figures. Combined with a tribal-sounding rock soundtrack, the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the spotlight.
“We played a lot of unconventional instruments. It wasn’t your typical rock band,” Pollack says. “You really got connected to the characters. There was more going on than the music.”
The nation’s poor economy took its toll on Blue Man Group, and Pollack lost his position. That’s when the [email protected] opportunity serendipitously arrived. Pollack says he previously taught music classes – including rock history – so being at the school offers the best of both performing and teaching.
Several people have been confirmed to offer master classes during the academy’s first year, including members of Oklahoma’s own The Flaming Lips; Lilly Allen, producer and member of The Bird and the Bee; Greg Kurstin; and Tom Biery of Warner Bros.
Pollack is overseeing the performance side of [email protected], while Chris Hicks will head the production side. The CEO is Scott Booker, manager of The Flaming Lips.
Pollack says the school will focus initially on classic and indie rock, but with the leeway to branch out into other forms of music. Everyone from Blue Oyster Cult to The Eagles to The Who is featured in the curriculum, but the curriculum’s music will develop along with students’ tastes.
“We’ll be meeting with students one-on-one to get a sense of their individual tastes,” he says. “The song lists will be shaped by what they’re interested in.”
For the performance side of the school, Pollack says students will recreate classic songs faithfully so they can experience the original intent of the music. But they’ll also be performing for instructors each week for a critique.