Lecturer explores musical significance of Motown Studios

Gary Wenstrup, adjunct professor, answers audience questions at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St.

By Sophia Mullowney

DeKALB — Residents gathered at the DeKalb Library to learn about the music of Motown Studios and sample a variety of hits released through the 1960s and 1970s during Motown: Music that Moved the World.

The event was hosted Saturday at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St., as an audio visual presentation by Gary Wenstrup, adjunct professor at Harper College and the College of Dupage.

The presentation began with an introduction detailing the inception of Motown Records, a label operating out of 1960s Detroit. Wenstrup said the label was founded by Berry Gordy, who approached music production with an industrial methodology, much like the many auto companies operating in Detroit at the time.

Wenstrup outlined significant events in Motown Records’ history over a span of 30 years, including the signings and releases of major artists, such as the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Jackson 5.

Another facet of the presentation was a discussion concerning the social impact of Motown’s success.

Shown through a catalogue of studio recordings and public broadcast, the presentation detailed how African-Americans scored major successes in visual representation.

The lecture was accompanied by audio and video, and the event was well attended with few empty seats. Audience members engaged with the songs being played and some attendees danced in the back of the Yusunas Meeting Room.

Monica Williams, 38, of DeKalb, said her mother’s love for the music of Motown and her exposure to it as a child led her to attend the presentation, to reminisce.

“It’s for my [mother],” Williams said. “I heard about it and said, ‘Why not?’”

Brian Schafer, 60, of DeKalb, said he attends many of the library’s community activities, though his interest in the history and music of Motown garnered his support for this event in particular.

Schafer said Motown’s unique operating style was what led to his passion for its music.

“It started in Detroit and was fairly nearby,” Schafer said. “It was a different sort of company compared to out west and in California.”

Wenstrup said he has been presenting Motown: Music that Moved the World, which includes lectures on the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel at libraries throughout the northern third of Illinois. He retired from his previous job, in order to better pursue his goal of educating audiences on music from the 1960s.

Wenstrup said he gets a consistent turnout for his guest lectures, though most audiences skew older.

To diversify his audience, he said he has been considering adding a lecture on Fleetwood Mac, as the band has had a fair amount of success among millenials.

“The music’s wonderful, and there’s so much drama within that group that I think you can have fun with it,” Wenstrup said.

Wenstrup said his passion for the music and history of the subjects he lectures on are what drive him to continue lecturing.

He said he encourages NIU students to attend music history lectures whenever available.

“It’s great music,” Wenstrup said. “[People] enjoyed it 50 years ago; you can enjoy it all over again. You can learn some backstory as well and add some insight to the music.”