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Cant buy love, but you can get a Fab Four master's degree

Aloha woman in first graduating class of Beatles' scholars


by: COURTESY OF SARAH KELLOGG - Sarah Kellogg, an Aloha High grad working as a financial consultant, stands at the gates of Strawberry Field outside of Liverpool, England - a place that inspired John Lennon's song. Her interest in the Beatles led to a master's degree in the Fab Four.Talk about a great conversation starter. “I’m Sarah, and I have a master’s degree in The Beatles.”

Say what?

Indeed, as the 50th anniversary of the advent of Beatlemania approaches, Sarah Kellogg of Portland can certainly boast to know more about the Beatles than most — certainly most people in her age bracket. She’s 27. After graduating from Aloha High School in 2005, Kellogg studied abroad and received her business and cultural studies undergraduate degree from a school in Lugano, Switzerland.

“But I was feeling lost and not ready to join the real world and be an adult, yet,” she says. Seeking a master’s degree, Kellogg came across information about Liverpool Hope University in England starting a unique master’s degree program focused on the Fab Four.

“When the right opportunity finds you,” she says, “you take it. ... I had always been a really big Beatles fan.”

Kellogg and 11 others became the first class immersed in the yearlong “The Beatles, Popular Music and Society,” and she graduated after completing her dissertation in January 2011. The studies focused on Liverpool as a great place for The Beatles to emerge, and then examining The Beatles as a band and as individuals. The latter part focused on musicology — how to analyze and study The Beatles’ music. Her dissertation was on how Charles Manson and his followers interpreted the band’s music.

So Kellogg, who played alto saxophone in her high school band, is one of about 25 people in the world with a master’s degree in The Beatles. The short version of what Kellogg learned:

n Liverpool, a port city with mainland Europe and U.S. visitors, served as a hotbed for rock ‘n’ roll music and was “primed to embrace new bands and nurture new talent,” she says. Thus, The Beatles sprang from Liverpool.

  • John Lennon and Paul McCartney met each other in the early 1950s. Lennon played banjo and learned guitar by watching McCartney. Then, Lennon heard George Harrison play, and walked away impressed. Drummer Ringo Starr joined later. “The Beatles really started percolating when they were pretty young, when still kids,” she says.

  • The Beatles became overnight sensations in the United States in 1964. “But in England, they were really popular as well,” she says. “In the American culture, they hit at the right place at the right time.” In an era of civil rights and women’s movements and liberation of youth, “The Beatles were unkempt British men, who were degrees of cute, and appealed to American girls who wanted to taste more of life and be part of something more,” she says.

  • Charles Manson, the famous murder mastermind, felt “The Beatles were trying to send him hidden messages about an upcoming civil war in the U.S., and it’d be a race war between the blacks and whites,” she says. “He tried to use it as leverage. I focused on the idea that with literature and music, once you create it and put it out into the world, you as author or songwriter don’t have any control over what people do with it. I actually thought that Charles Manson’s understanding and interpretation was one of a million possible and legitimate — in some ways — interpretations.”

  • The Beatles’ songwriting stood out. “Compared to modern music, (the music is) not all that complicated,” she says. “The lyrics is where they shined, where the power duo of John and Paul came together to write the majority of their songs. ... I like the lyrics and sounds they created — a lot very poppy and fun, some can be darker. It’s still appealing to listen to it.”
  • Kellogg finished her Beatles degree, then proceeded in a career as a financial consultant. She never saw the degree as something she could parlay into a career.

    “Some people in my class incorporated it into their career — one is a professor of music and musicology, another is a scholar writing books on The Beatles. It helped me personally, and I took away intellectually from it. It was worth it,” she says.



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