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America's Music

The Mississippi State University Libraries has been awarded a $2,500 grant to host a program series featuring documentary film screenings and scholar-led discussions of twentieth-century American popular music. The first film will be shown at Starkville Public Library on October 1 at 7:00 p.m. and will feature the music genre Swing Jazz. The selections from the documentaries Jazz, a film by Ken Burns featuring episode 6 Swing: The Velocity of Celebration and Jezbel Productions' International Sweethearts of Rhythm. 

The MSU Libraries in conjunction with the MSU Music Education Department will host "America's Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway," a series designed to enlighten audiences about uniquely American musical genres including blues, gospel, Broadway, jazz, bluegrass, country, rock n' roll, mambo, and hip hop. The MSU Library is one of fifty sites nationwide selected to host this program series. "America's Music" is a project by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint, and the Society for American Music. "America's Music" has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

In addition to the films, individuals from the Starkville community will demonstrate an element of the genre of music being featured.  Performers include Michael Brown, Tara Warfield, Joy Ray Underwood, Jason Baker, and Lynn and Peter Infanger. 

"We are thrilled to participate in this exciting program that will help introduce different types of music, show how modern music has been influenced by older styles, and bridge gaps among generations" said Stephen Cunetto, Administrator of Systems and project coordinator.  Cunetto added "We are very pleased that Dr. Michael Brown, Head, Department of Music Education, will lead a discussion following each screening.  Dr. Brown will facilitate a discussion about the humanities themes found in the film."

"America's Music," designed for a general audience, will introduce genres of twentieth-century American popular music that are deeply connected to the history, culture, and geography of the United States. Older and younger Americans alike will have the chance to discover how the cultural landscape that they take for granted today has been influenced by the development of the popular musical forms discussed in this series.

The onset of the twentieth century brought pervasive changes to American society. During the early part of the century, these social changes combined with new technologies to create a mass market for popular music that evolved over the next hundred years. The "America's Music" series is not meant to offer an all-inclusive treatment of twentieth-century American popular music. Instead, each screening and discussion session will examine an important American musical genre in the context of key social and historical developments, with events in American music history acting as a catalyst for that examination.

The first film will be held at Starkville Public Library on October 1 at 7:00 p.m. and will feature Swing Jazz.  Films viewed will include Ken Burns' Jazz: Episode 6: Swing, the Velocity of Celebration and Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss's 1986 film International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Blues and gospel music will be featured on October 15 at 7:00 p.m. in the MSU Library Auditorium.  Films screened will include Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Episode 1, Feel Like Going Home.  Demonstration by MSU Faculty member Tara Warfield. 

Country and bluegrass will be highlighted on October 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the MSU Library Auditorium.  Rachel Liebling's 1994 award winning documentary High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music will be featured with demonstrations by Joe Ray Underwood.   

Rock n' roll will be the subject of the screening on November 5.  Susan Steinberg's 1995 documentary, The History of Rock n Roll: Episode 6, Plugging In, will be featured in the MSU Library Auditorium beginning at 7:00 p.m.  Demonstration by drummer Jason Baker. 

The final film in the series will highlight Latin rhythms.  The screening will be held November 12 in the MSU Library Auditorium at 7:00 p.m.  Two films will be screened during this session: Latin Music USA, Episode One : Bridges by Pamela A. Aguilar and Daniel McCabe followed by From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale by Henry Chalfant, Elena Martinez and Steve Zeitlin. Steel drum will be demonstrated by Lynn and Peter Infanger. 

All events are open to the public and free of charge.  For more details, please visit or contact Stephen Cunetto, 662-325-8542 or

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