News Column

Season-long music series explores the origins of America's music traditions

September 5, 2013


Sept. 05--A large swath of 20th-century American popular music is about to be explored in a multimedia series beginning this weekend and continuing through the fall at various Twin Cities locations.

"America's Music," coordinated by Illinois State University's Milner Library, is poised to present a six-week series of musical performances, free documentary films, lectures, exhibits and other related activities.

The nationwide event was created by the Tribeca Film Institute in New York, in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Arts, and in consultation with the Society for American Music.

"The sessions will focus on uniquely American musical genres: blues and gospel, Broadway, jazz, bluegrass and country, rock 'n' roll, and mambo and hip hop," according to Tribeca's mission statement.

Local support is coming from Milner, along with the Bloomington and Normal public libraries, the Normal Theater, WGLT-FM and ISU's College of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences.

Says Anne Shelley, music/multimedia librarian at Milner, "We are thrilled to participate in this exciting program that will explore different genres of music and offer participants the opportunity to better understand how 20th-century American music has influenced our culture today."

The kickoff event is at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Normal Public Library Community Room, where WGLT's Bruce Bergethon will host a reunion of ISU's late, lamented New Friends of Old Time Music.

From 1970 through 1987, the student group hosted around six music festivals and brought more than 300 performers, including a young Champaign music prodigy named Alison Krauss, performing with her family.

As part of the free reunion, Bergethon and his roots string band, The Old Men Boys, will perform.

The eclectic offerings then continue at a voluminous clip, into November. Following are highlights from the remaining schedule (the full slate can be found at

-- Tuesday, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music," which explores the music through the story of bluegrass godfather Bill Monroe.

-- Sept. 17, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "The History of Rock and Roll: Plugging In," a look at the seismic shifts in rock music that forever altered '60s American culture. The evening includes a live presentation by musicologist Joseph Matson on album cover art.

-- Sept. 26, 6 p.m., Bloomington Public Library: A discussion of the book, "World On a String: A Musical Memoir," by jazz musician and "Radio Deluxe" co-host John Pizzarelli.

-- Sept. 27, 8 p.m., ISU Center for the Performing Arts: A concert of big band classics by ISU's Jazz Ensembles I and II.

-- Oct. 6, 2 p.m., Bloomington Public Library: A screening of "Ken Burns Jazz: The Velocity of Celebration," which covers a century of jazz styles. It will be followed by a live performance from local jazz favorites Glenn Wilson & Friends.

-- Oct. 8, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale," a look at the genre's evolution from one music form to another.

-- Oct. 12, 2 p.m., Normal Public Library: A screening of "Latin Music USA: Bridges," a look at the history of stateside Latin sounds.

-- Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "International Sweethearts of Rhythm," an award-winning chronicle of the first big multi-racial, all-female swing band. Former Ray Charles trumpeter David Hoffman will be interviewed in person by musicologist Tom Faux.

-- Oct. 29, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "Broadway, the American Musical: Syncopated City," an episode of the award-winning series on Broadway history. Local musicians will be on hand to perform Broadway favorites.

-- Nov. 4, 6:30 p.m., Normal Public Library: A screening of "Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Feels Like Going Home," an episode from Scorsese's acclaimed series, followed by a discussion led by musicologist Joseph Matson.

-- Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Normal Theater: A screening of "Say Amen, Somebody," the award-winning profile of the three key architects of gospel music's golden age.

-- Nov. 8, 8 p.m., ISU Center for the Performing Arts: A concert of big band standards by the ISU Jazz Ensembles I and II.

-- Nov. 16, 7 p.m., New Lafayette Club, Bloomington: The annual Veterans Day big band dance feature ISU's jazz ensembles.


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