University to celebrate legacy of American music

By Vince Dixon

It’s the beginning of November and to most University students that means only two more weeks until Thanksgiving break. To others less preoccupied with the holiday, it marks the start of the University’s annual American Music Month.

In its fourth year, this year’s tribute to American music, titled “Music without Borders,” is a month that is crammed with concerts, special exhibitions and lectures on musical history.

They are events that will express the vitality of American music, said Scott Schwartz, archivist for Sousa Archives and Center of American Music and American Music Month founder.

“The gist of it is to recognize that there is a vital music scene across America,” Schwartz said. “It is a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

This year’s celebration will host more than 15 musical performances, presentations and exhibits.

The musical celebration will feature performances by the Prairie Ensemble, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony and the University Jazz Ensemble and renowned fiddler and Champaign native Andrea Zonn with her brother Brian, who will accompany her on bass.

Though the tribute features various local performers, it will include the University’s very own with lectures, discussions and presentations by students and professors.

Students belonging to the Women’s Glee Club, a Registered Student Organization, will host a special concert for and by women that draws attention to songs of female empowerment and women’s contribution to American history. The organization hopes that in addition to the awareness of music history in America, the monthlong celebration will also highlight the roles women have played in the development of American music.

“(American Music Month) is a good opportunity to showcase American female music,” said Georgann Grecco, a senior in FAA and president of the Women’s Glee Club. “American music education to the general public is important to our society.”

Guy Garnett, professor of Music’s “Battle of the Garage Bands: Tune in, Game on, Rock out,” will pinpoint how computer and video game technology carries on the legacies of late 20th century garage bands.

Garnett and a panel will also discuss the role interactive gaming technology plays in music composition and computer music games.

Fiddling and computer sounds will not be the only musical styles featured this month. The event will cover a variety of American music genres, instruments and forms of media through reenactments of classic radio shows to jazz lectures.

Schwartz said the diversity of the program of events is intended.

“The purpose of American Music Month is to highlight the beauty and diversity of music culture in this country,” he said.

David Berger, a jazz musician, will discuss the “Myths and Legends of the 1920s Harlem Jazz Scene” and early American jazz.

Whether one enjoys jazz or video game tunes, the event will entertain the public as well as educate it.

The Sousa Archives will also feature several exhibitions demonstrating the history of music and its growth in America including exhibits on antique instruments that never quite made it and the role of Civil War musicians.

University officials say that the event is a beneficial idea for those who are not familiar with the depths of American music history.

Kelly O’Malley and Jacque Kress, juniors in the School of Music, agree.

“Hopefully it will make people more open minded,” said O’Malley, who with Kress, agreed that American Music Month is something to look forward to. “And free music. That’s awesome,” she added.

Whether it’s to learn more about a peculiar instrument, enlighten oneself about the history of a particular genre of music or to enjoy concerts profuse with American rhythms, the 2007 American Music Month will offer an array of public festivities.

The events run through Dec. 4 and will take place throughout campus. Many of the festivities are free and a complete list of event prices, locations, dates and times can be found at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/sousa/?p=special.