Penn State in Chicago!

I just blew in from the Windy City where we had a very successful Research on the Road event with the good folks from the Greater Chicago Chapter of our Alumni Association.

Research on the Road is the University’s new speaker series that brings Penn State faculty to alumni chapters around the country for lively conversations on a wide assortment of research topics. And lively it was! We were so fortunate to have Jerry Zolten, “roots music” historian and associate professor of communication arts and sciences, as our speaker, and to have more than fifty enthusiastic Penn State alumni and friends in attendance at one of Chicago’s most famous blues clubs, Buddy Guy’s Legends.


Before the talk there was time for mingling and networking, with refreshments and fond Penn State memories shared.

Then the talk began and Jerry Zolten took us all on a memorable exploration of Chicago’s celebrated sound: the blues. Through his vast knowledge, anecdotes and humor—and through audio and video recordings, including some rare footage—Jerry traced for us the diverse roots and evolution of the blues as the music traveled up the Mississippi from the rural south to its new urban home in the Windy City.

Jerry Zolten describing Charlie Patton’s role in early Delta Blues. He played the song “Spoonful” as an example of this era.

Toes were tapping and hands were drumming the tables as we listened to clips from Chicago blues, legends such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf, as well as the club’s namesake impressario Buddy Guy.

After the talk, people lingered to chat some more, meet Jerry and ask some follow-up questions, and some stayed to hear some live blues on the stage downstairs.

Thanks to a terrific group of Penn Staters (with special thanks to Jodi, Becky and Bob) it was a blue and white—or shall I say, blues and white—event to remember!

Stay tuned as Research on the Road heads to Santa Monica in late October, when Penn State’s renowned Beatles scholar Ken Womack will lead our Los Angeles area alumni on a magical mystery tour, with insights into the musical innovations of The Beatles during this 50th anniversary celebration of the band’s first single. Anyone remember what that single was?!

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