Rick Straub was not your ordinary teenager.
He picked up his guitar and played the halftime show during a New York Jets game. Straub also serenaded sellout crowds at renowned venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City and Royal Albert Hall in London.
As part of the international music group Up With People, Straub toured Canada, Europe and Mexico all before his 18th birthday.
“I actually planned to be a professional musician,” said Straub, psychology professor at University of Michigan-Dearborn. “I never even planned to go to college or dreamed of a lifestyle in academics at all, so it’s kind of funny how things have worked out.”
The rigorous rock and roll lifestyle slowly took its toll on Straub, as he worked around the clock to rehearse, write new music and perform.
“We were playing a different city every two or three days, typically doing three shows in each city,” he said. “It was a great experience to be a part of, but also kind of a grind. It was an ego trip for sure, but after awhile, I had enough of it.”
Today, Straub focuses his efforts on researching endurance sports and exercise psychology, but still plays shows on the weekends. Straub is among a talented crop of College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) faculty who moonlight as musicians.
“The many talents of the CASL faculty never cease to amaze and inspire me,” said CASL Dean Martin Hershock. “Then again, what to many might seem like unusual pairings of interests are actually testimonials to the power and creativity of a broad-ranging academic background. This synergy of varied disciplinary perspectives and outlooks, and the ability to deftly navigate with comfort vastly different worlds, is precisely why the liberal arts are so important.”
Among the college’s musician-hobbyists is Camron Amin. During the day, Amin plays the role of history professor who focuses his research on Iranian studies.
But for a few hours on Tuesday evenings, Amin leaves academia behind and picks up his guitar. Amin rehearses with his student band, Relic, every Tuesday and they recently performed at Detroit’s Hard Rock Cafe.
He also played with Detroit Leanin’, which appeared on Fox 2 News. The student bands are organized by the Detroit School of Rock and Pop in Royal Oak.
“Part of the fun in doing this is that you get to escape everything for a little while,” he said.
Influenced by Rush, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, Amin, like Straub, began playing guitar at an early age, mastering the E major chord by repeatedly playing the introduction to Heart’s “Barracuda.”
“I knew I couldn’t sing and I didn’t learn to play the recorder adequately in music class, so I figured I’d try guitar,” said Amin, who often finds similarities between his role in the classroom and on stage. “Whether I’m in the classroom behind a podium, or on stage behind my guitar, there’s always that sense of learning.”