Lit fest celebrates Bob Dylan

Jeanette Fournier, Staff writer

The first event in Mercyhurst’s 15th annual Literary Fest is the Dylan Fest, coming up this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Taylor Little Theatre.
Come enjoy the music of Bob Dylan, performed by faculty, students, staff and alumni of Mercyhurst, followed by a showing of the groundbreaking Bob Dylan documentary “Don’t Look Back” with a panel discussion of the film to follow.
Both events are free and open to the public.
“The idea for the Dylan Fest came from Dr. Kevin Sullivan,” said Jeffrey Roessner, Ph.D., associate professor of English.
“Kevin thought Dylan should be celebrated for his winning of the Nobel Prize. Kevin looked for other academic recognitions, and no other school had done anything.”
The musical tribute portion of the Dylan Fest will feature covers including some of Dylan’s most popular work, such as “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
The instrumentation is mostly acoustic, with no drums.
“It will be in the spirit of the early folk music jams,” Roessner said.
All of the musicians are associated with Mercyhurst University in some way, whether they are faculty, staff, alumni or students.
Jim Tometsko, the head of Human Resources, will be performing with his folk band, Jim Tometsko & Friends.
Jimmy Cuneo, a local keyboardist and singer whose styles include a range from R&B to jazz, and Janelle Newman, Ph.D., instructor of Intensive English, will be performing, along with Josh Travis, a local folk artist, who will perform selections with an emphasis on Dylan’s protest music.
Also performing is the folk/Americana band, The Barret Brothers, who include as one of their members Sullivan, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, on bass guitar. Sullivan’s brother, the spoken word artist J.P. Sullivan, will perform as well.
Sarah Whitaker, a senior Music Therapy major, will be performing on vocals, piano and guitar.
Following the concert at 7:30 p.m., a screening of “Don’t Look Back,” a documentary charting Dylan’s tour of England in the spring of 1965 will take place in Taylor Little Theatre.
“The documentary consists only of what the camera has filmed without a commentary or voiceover; it’s as if the camera is just the viewpoint another person observing the action,” Roessner said.
After the documentary finishes, Roessner and Chris Magoc, Ph.D., department chair and professor of History, will host a panel discussion of the film focusing on the film and Dylan’s career as a whole.
“Dylan remains a cultural force,” Roessner said.
“Some of his songs are major works of 20th century American art, and the Nobel Prize recognizes that.
“His songs are not just for the ’60s; Dylan’s songs transcend context, status and time.”
Roessner also hopes that the Dylan Fest will be a good preview for a new class he will possibly teach this upcoming fall, which will explore the music of Bob Dylan.
The class will focus on Dylan’s protest music and the iconic songs from the ’60s, as well as exploring assorted songs from the ’80s and ’90s.
Whitaker shares Roessner’s belief that Dylan is an influential artist whose work still has meaning today.
“Bob Dylan is incredibly important to the history of popular music and songwriting, Whitaker said.
“He was one of the pioneers of popularizing folk-style music in a mainstream sense in the ’60s, and his songs were also extremely important to the civil rights and antiwar movements.
“He is a brilliant poet; his use of free association, symbolism, and expression is so distinctive and poetic.”