By ELIZABETH SCHAFER
“I may be growing old, but I am not growing up.”
After meeting Chuck Bowden, the Peter Pan-ish quote above is brilliant (several people had told me to do a Professors who Rock on him). I immediately knew why everyone digs him.
Yes, he played in a band back in the late ‘70s, drumming mostly for The Moonlighters and Pure Country. Bowden, however, didn’t want to become a barfly and eventually leaned toward academia, which is where you will find him today. Putting himself through grad school with his gig money, it’s a story straight out of the pages of a book.
“Music was a form of R&R for me, and really fun to play,” Bowden recalls, “but the last time I drummed my head moved faster than my hands.”
Now the head of the Sociology Department and Professor of Sociology at MMCC, I can say that Bowden “rocks” for several different reasons. The main reason is his connections with students and colleagues. Bowden voiced his love for music, which is clear and exciting, but he also voiced his love for education, which I found even more inspiring than his past with drumming.
“Music helps me stay young and connected me with my students early on,” he says. For example, one of his favorite bands right now is “The Ragbirds.” The group has played in Mt. Pleasant multiple times, but Bowden also follows them wherever he can. I also happen to enjoy this band and can connect with Bowden’s love for them.
“Your generation gives me confidence, you are encouraging and creative,” Bowden says.
A dedicated “parrot head,” he claims to have a master’s in being a “parrot head.” I believe him. Now his musical tastes have shifted to world folk music and new age. Hence his love for “The Ragbirds.”
You know how when you hear a song, it can take you back to the place in time when you have first heard it or when you played that particular song over and over again. For example, The Killers’ first album, Mr. Brightside, if I hear this album I am automatically catapulted back to that summer of 2003, driving around with my older sister in her car. That is how Bowden feels about music all the time, connecting it with people and places.
“There is an intimacy that comes along with music that you won’t find anywhere else,” he says.
Finally, the topic that Bowden and I discussed at the end of the interview proved to be the most profound, much like my conversation with one of my favorite Profs who Rock and professors at MMCC, Barry Alford. As it turns out, Alford and Bowden went to college together. They both highlighted the fact that music is not as important in education anymore as it once was. Bowden suggested that students should not look at college as “job training” but as a place where they are “encouraged to do nothing but THINK.” That is how I viewed my college experience without even knowing it. Bowden said that phrase, “encouraged to do nothing but THINK.” I found myself nodding in agreement and thinking, “yes, yes that is what I want.”
Bowden also said he thinks there should be more music at MMCC, and in education in general. We as students need to rise up and beg for it. Without the influence of music we wouldn’t have amazing professors like Bowden and past Professors who Rock.
I will be taking as many of his classes as I can before I graduate just to get into Bowden’s head. Inspiring, encouraging, thoughtful and eccentric are only a few of the adjectives that come to mind after having met this man for only an hour.
(“Professors who Rock” is an ongoing series about MMCC professors, adjunct faculty, administrators and staff who spend their free time as a part of the local music scene.)