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Exhibits

Currently at Sousa

Banjos, Mandolins, and John Philip Sousa:  America’s Musical Paradox.  Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois (October 3, 2018 – August 2, 2019).

When we think of John Philip Sousa’s marches we immediately imagine his jaunty melodies played by wind bands and string orchestras of every size and ability.  However, the March King’s musical ideas were also arranged for a variety of other instrumental combinations including full banjo and mandolin orchestras. Many of his early marches, including The Washington Post March and The Thunderer, were published by Philadelphia’s Harry Coleman Music Company.  But when David Blakely became the manager of the John Philip Sousa Civilian Military Band in 1892 he convinced Sousa to sign a contract with Cincinnati’s John Church Music Company.  Recognizing the financial benefit of creating different instrumental arrangements of his new marches, Sousa began soliciting other publishers for similar types of music arrangements.  These companies’ arrangers of his marches for banjo and mandolin were John Klohr, a minstrel show musician and trombonist who later performed with the Henry Fillmore band; F. W. Wessenberg, a leading banjo and mandolin instructor from Cincinnati during the late 1890s; and Ralph Colicchio, a virtuoso banjo player and arranger from New York who worked for the Irving Berlin Company.  This exhibit examines their distinctive banjo and mandolin arrangements of several of the March King’s most famous march melodies and the earnings that Sousa made from them.

Samuel S. Stewart and America’s Banjo. Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois (October 10, 2018 – September 27, 2019).

Samuel S. Stewart (1855-1898) was born in Philadelphia on January 8th, the son of Dr. Franklin Stewart, and at a very early age took a keen interest in banjo performance after hearing Lew Simmons (b. August 28, 1837) perform “Bell Chimes” at Philadelphia’s Eleventh Street Opera House.  Unhappy with the quality of music that was taught by most banjo instructors, Stewart opened his own banjo company in one room on Philadelphia’s 833 Race Street in 1878, and began to elevate the banjo from its lowbrow minstrel legacy to become an iconic symbol of American middle-class gentility.  While Stewart is frequently discredited as the modernizer of America’s banjo construction, all scholars recognize him as a master salesman who excelled at advertising his instruments and teaching methods through the endorsements of such leading banjo artists as Horace Weston, America’s most accomplished African-American banjo artist of the nineteenth century.  This exhibit explores the legacy of America’s diverse banjo traditions and the extraordinary elegance and craftsmanship of Samuel S. Stewart’s banjos during the nineteenth century.

Sousa and Tsar Nicholas II’s Birthday: An Unexpected Tour Adventure, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois (August 21, 2017 – February 1, 2019).

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.

James Beauchamp and the Harmonic Tone Generator, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, September 22, 2015 – January 31, 2019.

James W. Beauchamp earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in 1960 and 1961, and in 1965 he graduated from the University of Illinois with a PhD in electrical engineering. While a student at Illinois he worked closely with his mentor and composition professor Lejaren Hiller, and created one of America’s first voltage-controlled electronic music synthesizers called the Harmonic Tone Generator (HTG). The HTG was used in several different electronic music projects produced at the University of Illinois during the 1960s and 70s including Salvatore Martirano’s Underworld.  After graduating from Illinois he joined their electrical engineering faculty, and by 1969 had earned a joint appointment in the electrical engineering and music departments.  Between 1969 and 1973 Beauchamp served as director of the School of Music’s Experimental Music Studios (EMS), and as director of the Computer Music Project (CMP) between 1984 and 1993.  In the fall of 1993 Beauchamp and Sever Tipei became co-managers of CMP.  This exhibit documents through photographs, stories, scientific reports, and audio recordings the early development of the HTG at the University of Illinois.

The Red Cross: A Soldier’s Best Friend, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, February 11, 2015 – January 31, 2019. 

Clara Barton, who earned recognition as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her humanitarian service during America’s Civil War, founded the American Red Cross in May 1881 as an associate relief organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross Organization.  However, unlike its international associate, the American Red Cross devoted most of its early service efforts to provide relief for those individuals from the United States affected by natural disasters, such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  During America’s involvement in WWI, both the International and American Red Cross played a major role in arranging transportation of volunteers to the Western Front to aid soldiers injured during battle; and in 1917, the Red Cross received the only Nobel Peace Prize awarded between 1914 and 1918.  The American public lauded these volunteers for their devotion to the troops, and many of America’s popular songs were written to honor the men and women of the Red Cross.  This small exhibition of sheet music cover art graphically illustrates America’s diverse portrayals of the Red Cross volunteer during the Great War.