Instructor strikes a chord at Popular Culture event

Reporter and Reporter

Distorted guitar sounds from one popular culture instructor were the last thing to be heard and seen at the end of the inaugural Dr. Ray Browne Conference in the Union this weekend.

Matthew Donahue performed a 30 minute setlist with his band Mad 45 after giving a lecture on the importance of the Fender Guitar in popular culture.

“The rock and roll instrumental is really a lost art these days, so I guess you could say that I am trying to bring a reminder of what that is in a contemporary way,” Donahue said. “I really enjoy performing in a conference atmosphere as it allows for more focus on the music and what is being played.”

The conference was meant to honor Dr. Ray Browne, who founded the Department of Popular Culture in the early 1970’s and passed away in 2009, said Brian Kelien, co-chair of the Popular Culture Scholars Association and host of the conference.

“We wanted to organize a conference to honor him and just talk about the study of pop culture, and that’s how it got started,” Kelien said. “This year we thought we would hold a conference and talk about how the department has evolved in the last few decades.”

The theme of the conference, “Popular Culture in the 21st century,” included many panels that showcased the evolution of popular culture throughout the past 40 years with topics on comic books, movies, science fiction, masculinity, video games and many more.

As part of his performance, Donahue showcased acoustic and electric guitars.

Donahue is an alumnus of the University and graduated from the American Culture Studies program with a masters and doctorate. He has been playing in and out of bands in the Northwest Ohio area for more than 30 years.

Myc Wiatrowski, graduate chair of the Popular Culture Scholar Association, said he hopes people don’t assume popular culture is an unimportant study. It’s the study of our everyday lives, and that is extremely important, Wiatrowski said.

“By focusing on something simple, such as the guitar, that has significance in the musical world but we intend to ignore in our everyday lives even though its sound and its image is prevalent, people can understand that its super important culturally speaking and super important musically speaking,” Wiatrowski said. “That’s why we integrated a performance as well because the sound of the guitar is equally as important as its image and its cultural weight.”

Junior Anthony McGill attended the Guitar Stories event and said the reason he came was to support his musical instructor Matt Donahue.

“I just wanted to come because I like his teaching style and I like the material,” McGill said. “I knew that he’s been in a band before and I just wanted to see what his playing was like.”

With more than 40 people in attendance at the Guitar Stories event, the first annual Ray Browne Conference had come to an end as Matt Donahue strung his last chord.

“The late Dr. Ray Browne who founded the Department of Popular Culture was a teacher, mentor and a friend and someone who has been an inspiration for much of my academic and creative efforts,” Donahue said.