Music Man Brings Industry Experience to New Position

Paul Friedlander

Walking by Paul Friedlander's office in the Performing Arts Center, you might take note of some familiar, yet unexpected, music escaping out into the hallway and kicking a few chords as far as the Music Department office next door. If the music piqued your curiosity enough, a glance through Friedlander's open door would probably reveal nothing more than a standard cramped faculty office occupied by a faculty member, apparently of Baby Boom vintage.

Unless you stopped to talk to Friedlander, you might never know that in that office sits a man who grooved in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, jammed with Jerry Garcia, worked on staff at Woodstock, and spent several years on the road and in the studio with his bands.

Music students, though, will undoubtedly be hearing about Friedlander and finding out that his presence in the Music Department is causing vibrations far more powerful than the occasional beat thumping out of his office.

Friedlander is a pop music historian who has joined the faculty of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts this semester as the director of the music industry program. This brand new program, Friedlander said, is a vital component, or a missing piece, in a department that already boasts some excellent programs.

After teaching music and the music business at the University of Oregon in Eugene and at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Friedlander and his wife and young son moved to Chico. He has also brought Chico State a program that will train students in the various facets of the music business, including management, promotion, production, booking, and all that it takes to deliver the music from the performer to the listener. Friedlander marvels at the paucity of such training on the West Coast, especially considering the size and importance of the music industry in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Asked about how he landed in Chico, Friedlander joked in his best Godfather voice, "They made me an offer I couldn't refuse." Turning serious, though, he explained, "My colleagues in Chico are all rowing in the same direction, and the vision of this department is pioneering."

By its nature, the music industry program invites students who love and play music, but are not interested in performance. Friedlander accepts the demystifica-tion of music as part of the teaching process. "Music is just another language," he said. "If you are a student, you can learn the language of music. Some students will simply learn the language at a more elementary level."

Friedlander sees the music industry as full of opportunities. "All you have to be is good," Friedlander said, "and the job market is wide open."

Friedlander recognizes that the study of music is a vehicle that will take his well-prepared students in many different directions. Of the students of his program, he said, "Some will go on to law school. Some will be educators, philosophers or performers, and some will even go into the music industry."

The best example of using music to lead a multi-directional life is Friedlander himself. His upbringing explains a lot. He believes the safe New York of the 1950s provided him the best of all worlds in which to grow up. He related that, as a teen, he was faced with wonderful dilemmas, like whether to spend a day at a gallery, a concert hall, or a museum: "I might have to make a choice between Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall or maybe spending the day playing my banjo in Washington Park. Then I could ride the subway home at night without a worry."

By the end of the 1960s, he had attended a summer camp -- with Pete Seeger as his music counselor -- sung in a children's chorus at Carnegie Hall, strummed his banjo in the cafes of Greenwich Village, ridden the Marrakesh Express, and awakened to the wail of Jimi's guitar on a Woodstock Monday morning. He summed it all up with an understatement: "The Sixties was a wonderful time of learning and music."

And Friedlander had been experiencing both. He was training social workers at a New Jersey community college and performing his music part time. When his father, a big band musician, admitted that if he had only been a singer, he probably would have made it big, the younger Friedlander vowed never to have his own such regrets.

In 1971, he resigned his teaching position and headed west to immerse himself in his music on a full-time basis. His first stop was Colorado, from where he began a two-year, two-album stint with Balderdash, a band that toured nationwide. From there, he moved his home base further west to Oregon, and founded Turkey Run. Before the close of the 70s, he had spent three years as president of Musical Designs, a booking and talent agency. Somewhere along the way, he took a breath and touched his doo wop roots by performing in the Whitetones, who would later become the Tones. These two bands survive, to some degree, to the present day.

With another decade coming to a close, the musician-businessman knew it was time for a change. "Life in the fast lane was exciting and provided a decent living, but somehow I didn't get my mansion on the hill. My brain wasn't functioning the way I wanted it to, either. I wanted to be whole again, he remembered. Friedlander returned to teaching, this time in the music field at the University of Oregon. "I took the two things that I loved most and integrated the experiential and the intellectual to develop courses in popular music, history and the industry," he said. "All it means is that I'm not perfuming full time."

By not performing full time, Friedlander found the time to put his passion into Rock and Roll: A Social History. Published in 1996, the book is now in its second printing. Which is the real Paul Friedlander? Is it the musician, the teacher, the business man, or the writer? "It's all me," he insisted. "It's all fascinating, alive and ever-changing."

Barely unpacked in Chico, Friedlander already has big plans for his program. He is excited about a conference planned for the spring of 1998. The locally unprecedented event will bring some of the music industry's major players to the Chico State campus. Music Industry 2000 is one possibility for the name, but Friedlander admitted it's still too early for any specifics.

The curious passerby who decides to follow the music into Dr. Friedlander's office and have a chat may be treated beyond any expectation to stories about the strange and wonderful times of the generation that shook the world, theories about the evolution of music, or perhaps a bit of educational philosophy. Even those who pass on by won't get by without at least hearing the music. And if they spend much time around the Music Department, they'll be hearing about Paul Friedlander.


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