Musicology and Royster alumnus rocks career on Motown

Andrew Flory in front of mixing board

Andrew Flory

Flory discusses the return of vinyl records: new trend or nostalgia? (transcript)

As a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill, Andrew Flory assisted John Covach in his course on the history of rock music. They collaborated on What’s That Sound? – “incubated at UNC,” Flory says – which has become the best-selling rock history textbook in the market. Now an assistant professor of music at Carleton College, Flory is an expert in rhythm and blues music. His particular focus is the music of Motown, and he has a book coming out in summer 2017 titled I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B.

We asked him to reflect on his days at Chapel Hill and on how his graduate education in musicology prepared him for a career that is hitting all the right notes.

What are the most significant aspects of your work?

My research straddles the line between academic musicology and the wing of the record industry that reissues older material. My book, I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B, is concerned with Motown as a musical agent and the company’s various forms of market crossover. I’ve also assisted with a lot of research on Motown master tapes, co-produced reissues and written liner notes for boxed sets. I’ve given academic lectures, and I’ve also given public presentations at places like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My current tape research project surrounds Marvin Gaye’s interest in standards, which should turn into an academic article and accompanying boxed set. I’m also very interested in the pedagogy of popular music. I teach at Carleton College, a liberal arts college that places high value on my work with students. I co-authored the textbook on the history of rock with my Carolina mentor John Covach (who now teaches at the University of Rochester). What’s That Sound? (W.W. Norton) developed from Covach’s large lectures in the 1990s at Carolina, for which I was a graduate teaching assistant.

In reflecting back on your years as a graduate student at Carolina, what are your favorite memories of being a student here at UNC-Chapel Hill?

Many wonderful things happened during those years. I was married and had my first child. I made a lot of incredible friends. And I absolutely fell in love with the town. I still tell prospective students to the Carolina graduate program in musicology to be careful. It is easy to fall in love with Chapel Hill and then be forced to leave for an academic appointment! Academically, I was in heaven. I took rigorous classes in the music department, participated in making rock music in town, and worked for several years as a researcher with Steve Weiss at the Southern Folklife Collection. I found the beginnings of my academic voice while I was a student at Carolina. I learned about musicology as a discipline, and also gained a ton of knowledge about how to use popular music archives. And the food was pretty good.

Are there any specific examples of support – fellowships, mentoring, other – that helped you advance your academic goals?

The music department worked very hard to keep us graduate students focused on our work, and not scrounging for money to live. I’m very thankful to Jim Ketch for assisting many of us to find teaching opportunities during the summer. Not only did this help to cover my expenses, it was also extremely valuable professional experience that made a big difference when I entered the job market. In my final year of graduate work, I was supported by a Royster Fellowship through The Graduate School. This was an amazing experience. It gave me time to finish my work and introduced me to many interesting aspects of the state of North Carolina. Most importantly, John Covach has been my professional mentor since 2001, when I arrived in Chapel Hill. He brought me into the world of popular music studies and has been a constant supporter ever since. There is no one who has had a greater impact on my career. Since graduation, Mark Katz and Annegret Fauser have been very generous with their time and support.

Do you have advice or thoughts to share with current UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students?

Savor the experience. It’s hard to do this, but well worth it. Make sure you maintain a social life and your hobbies. It’s easy to suppress these aspects of your life during the focused time of graduate school, but you’ll need these things to be a fuller person after you leave, no matter what you go on to do. Most importantly, know that you are most likely well positioned to enter your field of choice. Carolina has an immense amount of respect in a lot of fields, and this can make a huge difference when you leave and enter the work force.