TTU Bonnaroo volunteers kick off The Academy with on-campus event

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (June 2, 2009) – Tennessee Tech University volunteers have proven that learning and leisure can go together at the popular Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Manchester, Tenn.
Next week marks the group’s third consecutive year working on a feature called The Academy, which provides a schedule of workshop topics that blend art and awareness.
“The tests and trials of the first two years will be the successes of this year,” said Andy Smith, an English instructor at TTU who collaborated with festival organizers on The Academy. “The project has evolved over three years so that it’s more integrated into the festival’s Planet Roo than ever before.”
And this year, the university volunteers will be celebrating Bonnaroo’s theme of art and awareness with a kick-off celebration that brings cellist and singer Ben Sollee in concert at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, to TTU’s Backdoor Playhouse, located in the rear of the Jere Whitson Building on the Main Quad of campus.
“Ben Sollee is a musician and an activist who’s traveling by bicycle to Bonnaroo, where he will be a featured performer,” Smith explained. “We’re fortunate to be able to welcome him to campus for a show because his example is one that takes the green initiative to the next level. Many musician activists still travel by car, bus, plane, train, but his form of transportation literally is pedal powered.”
The four-day festival, which runs June 11-14, is likely to attract more than 80,000 attendees, many of whom are between the ages of 18 and 24, making the event an excellent opportunity to interact with young adults outside of a formal classroom setting, Smith says.
“I consider this to be an outreach service to the community,” Smith said. “Bonnaroo as a corporation has a mission for community service, and that’s something it has in common with public education.”
That commonality is part of what makes The Academy such a successful feature of the festival, Smith said.
Jokingly called ‘Dean of the Academy’ by other TTU volunteers, he has compiled a workshop schedule that ranges from light-hearted learning to serious academics. Participants can learn about topics that range from dancing, drumming and theatrical performance to sustainable food and energy sources, and new to this year’s offerings are composting and gardening workshops.
Each day of The Academy will begin with a Welcome to The Academy session, or what Smith light-heartedly refers to as ‘office hours’ — an open house that introduces participants to the curricula and instructors — and will end with Open Nights at The Academy, termed ‘study hall’ by Smith — a more casual approach to the workshop material.
Other TTU volunteers include theater director Mark H. Creter, administrator Cale Koester, student Miles Koester, and alumni Matt Bassett and Laurel Smith.
“My philosophy as a college instructor is that learning doesn’t have to be exclusive of playing, and playing doesn’t have to be exclusive of learning. Learning and playing can both go hand-in-hand; in fact, each seems to enhance the other when they do go together,” Smith said.
By offering their expertise at The Academy workshops, TTU volunteers are offering the community creative, innovative and original approaches to education that are fun and also multi-dimensional, holistic and well rounded, Smith said.