April 28, 2014
By Barbara Baker - NJC Director of Marketing
There are big rewards for academic excellence at Northeastern Junior College. One of them is participation in the college’s Honors Program. When a student makes a commitment to this prestigious program on campus, they also receive some opportunities not afforded others with less rigorous academic schedules. A big reward this year was an educational trip to the Nashville area during March.
Twenty students accompanied by two chaperones spent five days in Tennessee, taking in some historical sites and experiencing the country music industry at its very heart. The trip also included a tour at Vanderbilt University, allowing students to see and learn about one of the oldest, private universities in that area of the country.
An independent, privately supported university, Vanderbilt is the largest private employer in Middle Tennessee and the second largest private employer based in the state. Students toured a newer residential living area on the campus, and were awed at how the architects had matched the new construction to the old charm of the other buildings on campus. The group also visited the college’s Cohen Memorial Hall’s exhibit entitled History’s Shadow: German Art and the Formation of National Identity
A tour of The Hermitage, a historical plantation and museum, home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, provided some excellent insight as to what life was like during that period. Jackson owned The Hermitage from 1804 until his death in 1845. He only lived at the property occasionally until he retired from public life in 1837. Now a national historic landmark. NJC students enjoyed hearing the history of Jackson, his family, and the slaves that served the family. Tour guides dressed in costume brilliantly brought the experience to life. A story about Jackson’s horse Plow Bow coming up lame just before a scheduled race, ended with Jackson being in a gun fight where he shot and killed the other horse’s owner. He was saved, only by extra padding he had asked his house slaves to help him put under his clothing. Students heard how Jackson was a most law-defying yet law-obeying citizen who lived a very famous, yet bittersweet life plagued with financial burdens and marital scandal.
Among other stops on the trip was a tour of the historic Belle Meade Plantation. Students were intrigued to learn that this “beautiful meadow” was home to the start of thoroughbred horse racing in this nation. John Harding purchased the original 200 acres in 1806 using money he’d earned as a younger man helping his father, Giles, farm. Harding had no formal education but he was a skilled farmer and businessman. Just like his father before him, Harding needed labor and he began to purchase enslaved people in the Deep South and move them to his new farm.
Harding became one of the largest slave holders in Nashville. His passion would become thoroughbred horses. He started out boarding stallions and as early as 1816, placed advertisements in Nashville newspapers listing thoroughbreds standing stud at his farm. He quickly became interested in purchasing his own thoroughbreds and he began to race them on local racetracks. He registered his own racing silks with the Nashville Jockey Club in 1823. With this new business enterprise, a new set of labor was needed and he soon also enslaved Jockeys, trainers, and grooms.
The Civil War interrupted breeding and racing in the southern United States. Then General Harding, petitioned the U.S. government to allow him to keep all of his thoroughbred horses, even while other farms were having their horses requisitioned by both armies. Students learned how Harding instructed slaves to take his prize horses out into the forest and hide them from the soldiers when they came through the area during the war. Costumes guides told how virtually every visitor to Harding’s home, after having been served large portions of alcohol in the foyer of his home during long dialogue about all his exceptional horses, would either purchase a horse, or agree to pay a stud fee before they left the premises. He was quite a salesman in more ways than one. “I was really impressed that the mansion at Belle Meade had more than 5,000 original artifacts inside it,” said Anna Kindvall. “It was amazing to me how original everything was.”
Students had an opportunity to enjoy the country music scene in Nashville. They visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and attended a show at the Grand Ole’ Opry where they saw not only some country music legends, but also some up and coming artists. On the list were Whispering Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Jean Shepherd and Craig Campbell. “I loved the fiddle player when the square dance group got on stage,” laughs Jaci Digby, admitting that seeing the show at the Grand Ole Opry was only one of several highlights for her. “It was fun to see a new artist like Craig Campbell, but I also enjoyed seeing singers that I’ve heard my parents talk about over the years. I especially enjoyed Bobby Osborne and the old guys that played with him. They were old men, but I really enjoyed their music,” she added, referring to The Rocky Top X-Press, one of the most prominent blue grass bands in this nation with more than 50 years of history performing on the Grand Ole’ Opry stage.
Among other sites seen by the group were The Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park. It is the world’s only full-scale reproduction of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Students spent time scoping out the Bicentennial Capital Mall Street Park, including Tour Tennessee via a 200-foot granite map of the state. The Park includes a walkway featuring the 95 counties, 31 fountains representing the major rivers of Tennessee and an extraordinary wall depicting the history of the state. Topping off the trip was some excellent dining experiences and a full array of live music while visiting Broadway Street. Perhaps the most popular stops were the Hard Rock Café and the Wild Horse Saloon. A trolley tour took the group through the recording studio district where the guide pointed out the Nashville home of Taylor Swift. This guide, whose first name ironically was “Otis,” upon realizing this group came from a predominantly agriculture area in Northeastern Colorado with a nearby town named Otis, had great fun with the students. Nashville, he said, was just “somewhere between culture and agriculture.”
Many of the students on the trip did not know each other prior to heading to Nashville. “Not one thing was better than the rest because the whole experience of the trip was great,” said honors student Tim Volberding. “From learning the history of Nashville to being able to listen to live music at the Grand Ole Opry and being able to come together more as an honors class was awesome,” he observed.
Students on the trip included: Tim Volberding (Anton), Anna Kindvall (Merino), Drew Carlson (Sterling), Hannah Yahn (Sterling), Luke Janes (Peetz), Troy Clevenger (Crook), Kaitlyn Hazard (Saquache), Jaci Digby (Simla), Kelsey Smith (Montrose), Hannah Schreyer (Sterling), Karina Marin (Sterling), Kelsey Hansen (Wray), Carly Reynolds (Kremmling), Nicole Fischer (Windsor), Morgan Quint (Sterling), Jeff Koester (Peetz), Jayln King (Limon), Brittney Mahnke (Haxtun), Jacob Piper (Hugo) and Trey James (Karval).
The Northeastern Honors Program has taken students on out-of-state trips in the past. Funding for these trips has come from the Northeastern Junior College Foundation. This trip, specifically, was funded using partial proceeds from the sale of the honor’s program house last year. Chaperones for the Nashville trip were NJC College President Jay Lee and Director of Marketing Services Barbara Baker.