Twisting his face into a variety of dramatic poses and adding a British accent to his deepened voice, Brian Jackson-Fetzer dramatically changes from a quiet individual to a boisterous dramatist in just a matter of minutes as he launches into one of his favorite stories.
Fetzer is a storytelling spell-binder in the spirit of the oldtime troubadour who was the walking, talking TV of another age."Keeping students in their chairs and enthusiastically attentive for three hours in a hot room with no break is utterly remarkable," a student wrote about Fetzer. "But you did it!"
Fetzer doesn't tell stories just for fun and entertainment. He sees the skill as a way to teach effectively through a student-teacher communication above the ordinary. It's a time-honored method, in fact, that harks back to the adult with a child at his knee, using story and song to relay a message.
Fetzer loves stories and songs. And with his fall class "Stories and Songs for Stage and Classroom" at the University of Utah, he hopes to bring a positive influence to his students' hearts and minds through some of his favorites.
"There are many social and moral truths passed on through songs and stories," Fetzer said. "The value of those makes this world what it is."
Fetzer has a degree in math and elementary and secondary education, and he has studied music and stories for the past 20 years and written over 4,000 songs and radio and television commercials.
His class studies all the great storytellers, including Peter Ustinov, Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone - even some of his own works like his story "The Lonely Pumpkin" and his song "Bethlehem Merchant."
Formatting a class like this has been a dream come true for Fetzer. He said he believes human minds are fed by the stories and songs surrounding them so if that material is reviewed, the world can be changed.
"If anything is bright, hopeful, interesting, profound, that builds people up instead of tearing them down, those are the things I'm interested in."
He wrote a story of his own, "The Lonely Pumpkin/Fetzer/History" in which a pumpkin fails to become a Halloween jack-o'-lantern. But the next spring, the seeds of the overlooked pumpkin generate a new field of happy pumpkins, and the lesson of finding happiness in supposed failure is manifest.
The class will be taught every Saturday in October, beginning Oct. 6 from 8:50 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. Interested students may register for Music 300-R30 for two credit hours.