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Jake Cassman has a dream. "I want more than anything to be in a professional rock band, although I could also see myself as a producer if I learn how to record properly." A rising sophomore and prospective music and political science major, he plays the keyboard, sings and idolizes Matt Bellamy (the frontman of the band Muse) and is currently in the late writing process of his first rock opera. Most importantly, he has the ambition to reach his goal. We have been playing in a band together since the beginning of last year, and I have yet to see a musician his age with as much drive. The only thing standing in his way is Penn.

It seems that the music department has decided to shun modern musical genres, such as rock and hip-hop, in order to appear more "sophisticated." Even jazz, the supposed "American art form," is underrepresented with only one class and one music studio held on the subject.

And while there is a Jazz and Popular Music minor, the music taught seems to give a broader definition to the term, "popular." Really, does anyone really think that "Beginning Tabla" or "Caribbean Music and Diaspora," cornerstones of the minor, are going to get young musical minds to show up in droves?

While Penn desperately needs to rethink the way it attracts prospective musicians, nobody wants the program to completely abandon classical and world music. In other words, the experience of a music major should fall somewhere between VH1's I Love the 80's and only learning about composers who sported powdered wigs.

Nobody is saying that Penn should start teaching classes about Rihanna or Fall Out Boy; but, choosing to ignore songwriters like Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, and David Byrne - people whose contributions to music have been immeasurable - is foolishly elitist.

As a fine arts major who will invariably study 20th century artists like Andy Warhol and Picasso, I find it preposterous that the music curriculum excludes talents like Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry - figures who have been just as influential in their field as art's modern masters.

Though they are limited, alternative outlets exist for student musicians. One group, Up On Stage, organizes performance nights for Penn-related acts at Platt Student Performing Arts House. Wharton professor Nick Gonedes, who plays lead guitar in a band called Rail 3, started the organization with Penn graduate Matt Russack in order to give people a chance to play and find other musicians.

In spite of Up On Stage's success, Penn's administration has remained stubborn in the way it delivers its music curriculum. Penn has ignored Gonedes' offers to organize shows to help music students fulfill their performance requirement. When one of the members of Rail 3 asked to fulfill his requirement with shows from his band, he was rejected. Gonedes explained, "They told him that 'that's not the type of music we're talking about."

"The way to see how narrow our music program is, is to compare [it] with Drexel," said Gonedes. And it's true. In addition to traditional music classes, Drexel has created a program which includes practical classes on the music industry and even has its own recording studio and student-run record label, MAD Dragon UNLTD.

This comparison was enough to turn Jake Cassman's head. "Where Penn provides a liberal arts major that focuses on history and theory," he explains, "Drexel's program is pre-professional and focuses on introducing students to the music industry." When he tried to see if he could take music classes at the neighboring school for Penn credit, the response was predictable: "Penn has no professional relationship with Drexel, so if I took classes at Drexel I would have to count them as transfer credits," said Cassman

Maybe it's asking too much for the music program at Penn to be more pre-professional - after all, this is a liberal arts school. But when many music majors are determined to enter an extremely competitive industry, a little preparation seems logical. Furthermore, by keeping the music program "Ivy League," the program risks losing some of its most talented students. Jake Cassman, for one, is considering leaving Penn for Berklee College of Music, "I am an ambitious and impatient guy - I know what I want to do with my life, and I don't like waiting for the necessary ingredients to fall into my lap."

It's time for Penn to get with the times, and give modern music the credit it deserves. Rock music has its own theory and rules - its own masters, a vibrant past and a promising future. Most importantly, it's what people listen to. After all, we're the "social Ivy;" we're already heavy into sex and drugs; what's the harm in a little rock and roll?

Alex Remnick is a rising College sophomore from Manhattan. He is a photo editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is

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