It was a no-brainer. Given the option of doing a research paper or writing an original song—students in Dr. Bradley Koch’s sociology class chose the latter.
Little did they know how complex songwriting can be or how much good their music could do. Proceeds will help provide a free laundromat for families at a local elementary school.
“When you start talking about topics and verse, it’s hard to formulate the words to fit the beat and say what you need to say in rhyme,” said senior sociology major Tamara May of Milledgeville.
“It’s intense. It’s pressure. But it’s a good pressure,” she said. “For me, I feel my organization skills have gotten sharper, and my creative skills are through the roof!”
The 3 minute song will be finished and recorded by early December. Its somber jazzy/blues melody is backed by electric guitar, bass and vocals, as well as piano and drums.
Lyrics explore socio-economic issues, race and gender. The chorus currently goes: “We’re stuck; we’re stuck. We’re down on our luck. We can’t get back up.”
Students in Koch’s class split into two groups: one composing and recording the social justice song; the other marketing it to campus and the local community. The song’s not completed yet, but students plan to donate sales to Lakeview Academy in Baldwin County. Proceeds will help buy a washer and dryer, hampers and laundry detergent.
May hopes the music will also change outlooks and personal opinions about the underprivileged and minorities. As an African-American woman, she has firsthand experience of issues being raised. She hopes the sociology song will help break barriers.
“If you don’t know my problem,” May said, “then you can’t sympathize with me. That’s what the song is about. Just be accepting of others. It’s OK for you not to believe what I believe—that’s totally fine.”
“But when you have hatred or negative actions behind those views, instead of understanding and compassion and sympathy,” she said, “it affects your actions.”
The recording will be featured on YouTube, streamed on Spotify and available through iTunes with an original artistic cover. Sophomore Abigail Giordano of Peachtree City has double majors in sociology and English. Part of the marketing group, she’s setting up radio interviews and getting articles into student and local newspapers. Her group will also put promotional fliers around campus and downtown Milledgeville.
Giordano’s impressed with the song so far.
“The main purpose of the song is to talk about sociological issues,” she said. “In order to create social change, you have to understand society and societal interactions.”
“But the extended reason is we want money from this to go to a good cause,” Giordano said. “It’s important that the issues we’re singing about directly influence the Millegeville area. Music’s an integral part of life, and it can make a real difference.”
Her classmate, Mya McCoy of Milledgeville, is a junior with double majors in sociology and philosophy. It was McCoy’s idea for the class to donate sales for Lakeview’s laundromat. Many working class families can’t afford a washer or dryer or money for a laundromat, she said.
“Instead of just learning about something—this is the first class I’ve taken where we’ve taken an active step to do something about it. It makes me feel really good,” McCoy said.
“When the rest of my class goes home,” she said. “I’ll still be here, and I’ll be able to see the difference it makes in my community.”
This is the second year Koch has offered “Sociology of Music.” He wanted to offer nontraditional activities that would excite students. Last year, his class chose to host a concert about social justice, featuring local bands. This is the first time proceeds will be raised to help a local cause.
Koch wanted students to learn complexities of the music business, along with social structures and how environmental influences keep people in poverty for generations. The class analyzed genres of music, learning how songs bring people together but also how they divide. Sometimes people use music to distinguish themselves from groups they don’t like, he said.
This song, however, is about bringing people together.
“It makes me happy when they get energized about learning,” Koch said. “We started by basic clapping and stomping, but they’re come way beyond that. They’ve brought together a song that’s going to be really interesting.”