GWU Professors Achieve Long-Term Goal Through Honors Seminar

Story by Chelsea Sydnor

Two Gardner-Webb professors are accomplishing a long-term goal this semester. Dr. Don Olive of the Department of Natural Sciences and Dr. David Parker of the English Department are co-teaching an Honors Seminar: Rock and Roll and American Culture.

According to the syllabus, the course will focus on the history and evolution of rock and roll, but also its social influence.

“We’ve been around to see the connectivity of political and musical movements,” said Olive. “Students may not feel as connected to that history, so we want to share that experience.”

Image courtesy of David Parker

Meanwhile, Olive and Parker are also looking forward to getting to know their students throughout the semester, and perhaps even expanding their own knowledge of new music genres.

“We’re thankful to the Honors program and committee for allowing us to teach the course, and would love to see if it may happen again someday,” said Parker.

The idea for the course first came together when Olive’s daughter took a similar class at another university.

“I knew I would love to take a class like that,” said Olive. “I figured since I couldn’t take it, might as well teach it.”

Meanwhile, former Gardner-Webb English professor, Dr. Matt Theado, had a similar concept in mind. According to Parker, Theado now teaches a similar course at the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in Japan.

“We exchanged notes with him, but we’ve had it in the works for a while,” said Parker.

Parker and Olive share an early appreciation for music.

Olive likens his love of music to the “electricity” described in the musical “Billy Elliot.”

“There’s something scientific about the way the brain processes rhythmic information,” said Olive. “It’s a physiological response, and early on I knew it was different than anything I’d ever experienced.”

“We’re evolved to want patterns and organized rhythm,” added Parker.

Olive and Parker are each involved with music in the local community. Olive has been running the weekly open mic night at Broad River Coffee House for 11 years.

“It’s provided a space for a musical culture of rock and roll to exist in Boiling Springs where there wasn’t before,” said Olive. “We have friendships that form from that, but also a continuous flux of students from year to year.”

Based on his connections from open mic night, Olive has had the opportunity to join several bands that perform in the local area.

While Parker has been playing guitar since childhood, advancing technology has allowed innovation in his music.

“I have electronic guitar pedals that will generate a bass drum based on the tune,” said Parker. “I end up playing a one-man band. I call it my solo-guitar trio.”

For more information about Parker’s music, visit For more information about the Honors Student Association, contact director Dr. Tom Jones at



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