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New Exhibitions

Letritia Kandle and the Grand Letar: Hawaiian Music on Illinois’ Grand Prairie, University Library Marshall Gallery, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, November 1, 2017 – January 2, 2018.

Letritia Kandle (1915-2010), Hawaiian steel-guitarist, music teacher, creator of the first console Hawaiian guitar, and director of Chicago’s Plectrophonic Orchestra, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois as the only daughter of Charles and Alma Kandle. Like many children growing up in urban Chicago at the beginning of the twentieth century, her earliest music lessons were on the piano, but she eventually switched to Hawaiian guitar because of its growing popularity in America during the 1920s. During the late 1930s she imagined the creation of an electronic twenty-six string guitar that would use lights to provide a colorful visual display as the instrument was being played. She also wanted to be able to stand while playing it and have it produce rich mellow tones similar to the Deagan vibraharp that had been developed in Chicago in 1927. Kandle premiered her innovative Hawaiian guitar while performing with the Paul Whiteman Band at Chicago’s Drake Hotel in 1937, and the performances were broadcast by WGN Radio throughout the Midwest. This exhibit of photographs, correspondence, music, and news clippings document the creation of Kandle’s Grand Letar, her career as a leading music performer and teacher, and her influence on modern steel guitar performance practice.

Illinois’ Anti-Establishment Soundscapes: Troubled Waters in 1970, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 30, 2017 – October 29, 2018.

During the late 1960s many university campuses across America experienced significant political and social turmoil. For the University of Illinois the spring of 1970 was a time of tremendous political unrest among students and faculty regarding America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, the US Department of Defense’s construction of the Illiac IV supercomputer on campus, the Champaign-Urbana police force’s killing of an unarmed African American student on the Illinois campus, and the Ohio National Guard’s shooting of four students on the campus of Kent State University. While Illinois’ students and many of its faculty frequently came together at this time to protest the Federal government’s growing political oppression and imperialism, the campus’ activists and protestors used many different music genres to convey their messages across the Urbana-Champaign campus. Music groups like the Campus Folksong Club, the Walden String Quartet, Medicare 7, 8, or 9, and REO Speedwagon as well as many faculty members from the University’s School of Music frequently lent their musical talents to support these political and social protests. This exhibit of photographs, news clippings, advertisements, protest broadsides, concert programs, graphic illustrations, and audio recordings highlight the diverse intersections of music, art, and protest on the Illinois campus during the 1970 school year.

“From Russia with Love:” John Garvey’s Russian Folk Orchestra, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 12, 2017 – September 3, 2018.

The University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra was founded in 1974 by John Garvey, who had joined the University’s Walden String Quartet in 1948 as its violist and in 1959 established the university’s jazz band program. In 1969, the jazz band toured the Soviet Union as part of the State Department’s cultural exchange program, and Garvey developed a keen interest in Russian folk music. He later returned to the USSR to study Russian folk music traditions and purchased additional folk instruments that he used to establish the Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra. The Illinois ensemble eventually served as a model for other American universities’ Russian folk orchestras by providing open depoliticized educational spaces for students to pursue their interest in Russian folk music traditions. This exhibit of folk instruments, photographs, and music provides visitors with a general introduction to Russian folk music traditions and culture that were promoted by the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the folk musicians who immigrated to the United States after WWII. It also acknowledges many of the talented musicians who performed with the University of Illinois’ Russian Folk Orchestra under Garvey’s direction between 1974 and 1989 and reveals a forgotten part of the University of Illinois’ musical past.

Sousa and Tsar Nicholas II’s Birthday: An Unexpected Tour Adventure, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois, August 21, 2017 – August 6, 2018.

The Russian imperial capital of St. Petersburg was a major stop during John Philip Sousa’s 1903 tour of Europe. Sousa planned his St. Petersburg performances to coincide with the tsar’s birthday and the bicentennial of the city’s founding, and anticipated large audiences for these concerts because the band had never before played in Russia. What resulted, however, was a misadventure. The concerts occurred at the beginning of Russia’s annual summer vacation when most theaters and concerts halls were closed. In addition Russian music critics’ responses to his music was tepid. Sousa was intimidated by the extensive advertising throughout the city for what he initially believed to be his music rival Суза, but eventually discovered that this was the Russian spelling of his own name. While the St. Petersburg performances were not well attended, the concerts did spark deep patriotism among the American diplomats who were able to attend and the Russian aristocracy and military enthusiastically received the Sousa Band’s renditions of the Imperial Russian and American national anthems. This exhibit of photographs, music, newspaper reviews, and political cartoons document Russian perceptions of America and Sousa’s music at the beginning of the twentieth century.


November 4, 2017

For All Ages Family Programming
Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival
Community Center for the Arts
Admission: Free

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music is again sponsoring a series of free family performances as part of the 2017 Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival.  The performers include Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music teacher Ann Torralba as Little Miss Ann, Ludlow, Kentucky music teacher and folk musician Hanna Rae Mathey, and Urbana’s exceptional music teacher, fiddler, and Community Center for the Arts director, Robin Kearton.  Saturday’s programming kicks off with Early Morning Kids’ Music Time lead by the staff of the Community Center for the Arts, and will be followed by special children’s programming provided by Little Miss Ann and and Hanna Rae’s Little Folkers Puppet Party.  In addition there will be a children’s sing along, the You Can Ukulele, Too! program, and the return of the Festival’s Music Mayhem Parade. For further information either call 217-333-4577 or visit

November  10, 2017

MANDEL-FIELDSTEEL-WAHLS: Retrogression and Evolution
Featuring Nathan Mandel, Chad Wahls, and special guest performances by Eli Fieldsteel and Guido Sanchez Portuguez
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Studio Theatre
Admission: $4 to $10

Join Nathan Mandel for an special evening performance of modern pop-art electronic and saxophone music by some of Illinois’ leading contemporary composers including Philipp Blume, Sean Harold, John Nichols, and Scott Wyatt.  The concert will include To Watch Over Me, There is no Image, There is no Poetry, and Fall Silent which were written exclusively for and premiered by Mandel. Scott Wyatt’s Counterpoints, which was recently updated for modern performance by Mandel and Wahls, and Gregory Wanamaker’s Three Episodes will also be included on this exciting program.  The concert will also include the world premiere of a new musical work by Eli Fieldsteel which was composed for Mandel.  For more information about this concert visit