- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2016

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Morningside College nursing junior Brett Cochran-Bray is having a problem mastering the boom-chicka-boom move.

What exactly is the boom-chicka-boom? That’s the unique rhythm guitar riff that Johnny Cash used to mimic a train sound in many of his songs, the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/1TY67k7 ) reported.

“I don’t think my fingers spread that far apart,” Cochran-Bray said, playing along to “Folsom Prison Blues,” Friday morning. “Man, that’s a workout.”

Cochran-Bray was one of more than 20 students learning to play beginning acoustic guitar in a five-week class taught by sociology professor Geoff Harkness.

“This has nothing to do with sociology,” Harkness said of the May Term class taught from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday until June 15. “It’s just for fun.”

Indeed, Harkness said he’s been an amateur musician for years and, even, participates in a “garage band” with other Morningside professors.

“You never lose your passion for music,” Harkness said.

That passion for music is something Brandon Stoll is hoping to pick up in Harkness’ class.

“I’ve never learned how to play an instrument because I never willing to take the time,” the business administrations senior said, playing Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” ”I figured it was either now or never.”

A fan of classic rock and country guitarists, Stoll admitted he’s having difficulties mastering certain chords.

“When you’re not used to moving your fingers a certain way, it’s tough,” he said. “It’s not really coming naturally for me.”

This isn’t the case with Ashley Linn, an intermediate guitar student who has already mastered vocal performance and several string instruments.

“I’ve been helping some of the other students with their fingering,” Linn, a counseling and psychology senior, said. “It can be intimidating.”

In fact, Linn was helping business administration senior Jose Cancino through a particularly tricky riff in Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

“I’ve always thought it would be cool to play a guitar,” he said. “Now, I know it’s also hard work.”

While Linn nodded her head, she added it also takes a passion for music.

“B.B. King had that passion and so does Eric Clapton,” she said, naming a few of her favorite guitarists. “You need to discover that in any song.”

That’s a quality which is lacking in some contemporary music, Linn said.

“There is a level of musicianship which isn’t always there,” she reasoned. “You don’t listen to hip-hop in order to hear the guitar.”

While his students continued to play, Harkness couldn’t help but smile.

“Long before radio or television or records, people would simply play music together in a circle,” he said. “There was no distinction between who was a professional musician and who was an amateur one.”

“People played simply because they wanted to,” Harkness added. “It was just something they enjoyed doing.”

As students tackled Johnny Cash’s infamous “boom-chicka-boom” riff, Harkness sad he’s happy to stoke their musical enthusiasm.

“These kids may never become professional musicians,” he said. “But chances are they’ll be happy mastering some really cool songs.”

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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