IU pop culture 101 for parents



Your students have years of classes and studying ahead of them. After you drop them off, here’s a little (fun) homework you can do in your own living room to brush up on some IU pop culture.

MUSIC

What? “Basically Baker”

Who/when? This jazz CD was released in 2007 — the same year David Baker was awarded the “Living Jazz Legend Award” for lifetime achievement from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Why listen? Baker is a prolific and world-renowned composer and arranger who has more than 65 recordings to his credit. 

He is a distinguished professor of music and chair emeritus of the jazz department at the Jacobs School of Music, as well as conductor and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

Extra credit. In 2006, Baker debuted his, “Concertino for Cellular Phones and Symphony Orchestra,” where audience members turned on their cell phones and participated in the piece with their ringtones.

What? “Stardust Melody: Hoagy Carmichael and Friends”

Who/when? There is no shortage of CDs featuring the IU songwriter’s work. This 2009 mix showcases some of his signature songs, done by such luminaries as Benny Goodman and Ethel Waters.

Why listen? Carmichael, a Bloomington native and IU law student, wrote some of the great standards of the 20th century, including “Georgia on My Mind,”  “Lazy River,”  “Heart and Soul” and “Stardust.”

Extra credit. Carmichael was also a scene-stealing actor in a number of classic films, including the 1946 Academy Award-winning “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

BOOKS

What? “Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections”

Who/when? Published in 1980, this is the autobiography of IU’s legendary former president, Herman B Wells.

Why read? Wells is a beloved figure at IU. His book is a mix of advice, humor and history that will tell you a lot about the man who, more than anyone, shaped and set the tone for the University.

Extra credit. Maybe you have already met Wells. It’s a tradition for students and parents to shake hands with the statue of him for good luck when they come to campus. 

Extra, extra credit.  Want more Wells? You’re lucky. In 2012, IU’s James Capshew wrote a thick biography, “Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University.”

What? “A Season on the Brink”

Who/when? The Washington Post’s John Feinstein documented Bob Knight and the 1985-86 men’s basketball team for this insightful, influential book.

Why read? You might have noticed that culture-wise, basketball is to IU what football is to Notre Dame — very important. Feinstein spent six months following the team, and his account will help you understand the hoops mania on campus.

 Extra credit. This book has sold more than 2 million copies and was made into an ESPN TV movie in 2002.

MOVIES

What? “Kinsey”

Who/when? Liam Neeson stars as the pioneering, controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in this 2004 biopic.

Why watch? In 1948, Alfred Kinsey published the ground-breaking book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.” A report on the human female followed in 1953. 

This film covers some of the IU researcher’s formative years. The Kinsey Institute continues its work today and is housed in Morrison Hall. Visitors are welcome to view exhibits in the art gallery.

Extra credit. Unlike “Breaking Away,” this movie was not filmed in Bloomington. How accurate is it otherwise? The Kinsey Institute has a page on its site to answer questions that came up after the release.

What? “Breaking Away”

Who/when? IU alumnus Steve Tesich wrote this 1979 movie, starring Dennis Quaid among others. Tesich won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Why watch? “Breaking Away” is the definitive IU film about its most iconic event — the annual Little 500 cycling race. It’s a story of scrappy underdogs, the Cutters.

Extra credit. Some things will look familiar in the movie because it was filmed in Bloomington. 

Inspired by the movie, riders formed a team called the Cutters. That team has gone on to win 12 titles, more than any other team in the history of the race.

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