Rocking guitars and Ph.D.s: The Professors come to FDU

By Dan Landau

A group of professors will stand in front of a group of students in one of the small auditorium rooms (125) in the Dreyfuss Building on the Florham Campus at 8 pm.m on Friday, March 6.

The professors will not deliver lectures. Instead, they will play music. That’s because The Professors are actually a band—one made up mostly of professors!

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Above: “The Professors’ Project,” a 2014 documentary made about the academic rock band, The Professors. The documentary will be screened at FDU at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 6 in Dreyfuss 125. Following the film, The Professors will play a set of original music.

Founded in 1995 by Gary Radford, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication Studies, and two other professors, The Professors are a rock/blues band with an eclectic sound and a decidedly academic bent.

“We started the band to do something that wasn’t professor-like, but still address the issues that dealt with our professional lives,” says Radford. “We wrote songs about academic topics like the peer-review process and being an untenured professor. The band started out as just a creative outlet for what we did as professors. Now, we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year.”

In those 20 years, The Professors have recorded 46 original songs and played venues like the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. and the now defunct Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street in New York City. They've also been the subject of a recent documentary called “The Professors’ Project.”

The documentary examines the band’s inspirations and history and features extensive interviews and clips of live performances. “The Professors’ Project” will be screened at FDU as part of the event on March 6.

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Above: The Professors at Desmond’s Tavern in New York City, May 2014. (Photo by Deborah Goodsite)

Besides poking fun at life in academia in their songs, The Professors have also contributed to academia by publishing a peer-reviewed article in a scholarly journal. A unique accomplishment for a band (“we’re the only band to ever do this!” says Radford), the article appeared in the American Communication Journal in 2002 with the appropriately academic-sounding title: “Collaborative Musical Expression and Creativity Among Academics: When Intellectualism Meets Twelve Bar Blues.”

“‘The American Communication Journal’ was doing a special issue on academia and creativity and we were invited to submit an article for the issue. Our article is about the relationship between scholarship, academia, and musical creativity,” says Radford.

The current lineup for The Professors, features five professors: Gary Radford (guitar/vocals); his wife, Marie Radford (keyboards) of Rutgers University; as well as other Rutgers professors Larry Katz (saxophone), Joe Sanchez (trumpet/vocals), and Mike Sukhdeo (flute/tin whistle/percussion). Despite the academic moniker, there are also non-professors in the band: Nick Romanenko (bass/vocals), Jennifer Zahorbenski (vocals), Peter VanEmburg (drums/vocals), and the Radfords’ daughter, Meg (guitar/vocals).

Past iterations of the band have included professors from Montclair State University, Rider University, as well as FDU’s own Christopher Caldiero, associate professor of communication studies.