David von Kampen

This story is part of a Daily Nebraskan New Student Enrollment special edition. 


David von Kampen once walked the halls of the Westbrook Music Building on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s City Campus as a student.

Now, he sits in his office as an adjunct professor.

After spending his college days studying music composition for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UNL, Kampen teaches five classes at the university while composing music on the side.

Kampen has recently written two musicals with Becky Boesen, a local playwright. One of those musicals, “Puddin’ and the Grumble,” was recently performed at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

When Kampen isn’t composing, he can be found directing the UNL Vocal Jazz Ensemble and teaching classes in ear training, music theory and history of rock and roll.

The history of rock and roll course is popular among many UNL students. According to the information about the four sections of the course available on MyRed, almost 700 students took the class this spring.

The class fulfills the Achievement Centered Education’s arts requirement.

Kampen uses his experiences as a musician to teach his students in the class.

“I try and sort of infuse my history of rock class with interesting musical tidbits,” Kampen said. “We talk about musical style a lot.”

Kampen said he discusses many things in the class that are not major parts of the textbook, especially if he feels strongly about a certain style or isn’t a big fan of it.

“I hope to give a nice, wide variety of stuff in the class period.” Kampen said. “Stuff that will reinforce what they need to know for exams, obviously, but also things that come out more from my background as a musician.”

Even though he’s a well-trained musician, he said students don’t have to be professionals to understand the class curriculum, either. According to Kampen, pop music can be appreciated at any level, especially if it’s well done.

“You don’t need to be a trained musician to appreciate ‘Pet Sounds’ by the Beach Boys,” Kampen said. “But if you are a trained musician there are a lot of layers there that peel back in cool ways.”

History of rock and roll music starts at the beginning of American popular song and continues up to modern day. The course covers early recording techniques, soul, Motown, pop, hip-hop, punk, hard rock and singer-songwriter music, along with many other genres.

The class also incorporates videos of interviews and performances from the artists discussed in the book to give students an even better look at their music.

Before Kampen was teaching at UNL in the fall, he was finishing up working on a musical. Kampen said writing his last musical took him around a year, and it is still going through the process of writing and rewriting songs. He said his musical theater songwriting style is influenced more by pop, folk and jazz.

“Musical theatre generally has a broader appeal than say, if you wrote an opera,” he said.

Kampen is also working on a cantada for a choir and string orchestra, which is liturgical work based on scripture passages, and arranging charts for the Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

While he isn’t able to organize group kickball games in the green space outside of Selleck Residence Hall anymore like he did when he attended UNL, he said that being here feels natural.

“I feel at home here,” Kampen said.

arts@dailynebraskan.com