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America's Music

America's Music exhibits at Booth Library opened January 28, 2013.


The Donald & Suellyn Garner Illinois Sheet Music Collection
North Lobby

Somewhat obscured as the recording industry burgeoned, sheet music played a vital role in the lives of Americans one hundred years ago. The Donald and Suellyn Garner Illinois Sheet Music Collection contains the work of Illinois artists who wrote music and lyrics, participated in publication or designed cover art. This exhibit focuses on six topics: a piano in every home and the importance of sheet music; publishing in Illinois; how cover art illustrates and sells a song; comparing exoticism and patriotism; the fervor and heartbreak of World War I; and attitudes on prohibition. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

The Business of Music
Marvin Foyer

The music business has always been about the creation of a stable market and medium for people to be able to collect music in various formats over the years. In the United States, the music industry has become an economic powerhouse. Subsidiary labels were formed to reach markets that a company would otherwise be unable to break into. An example of this is Rare Earth for Motown Records. Over the last few decades, the emergence of Indie labels has diversified the market and competition among the elite companies. Charity organizations have come from major labels and continue to fund programs across the country for music education and poverty relief. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Country and Bluegrass Music
Marvin Foyer

Country music emerged from a combination of folk and blues as a 20th century genre. Borrowing from the traditions of folk and blues, country music tells stories of life in agriculture and small towns, appealing to a broad population in the United States. Lyrics often discuss the financial problems faced by the average person and turn to tales of religion or alcohol as a result. As rock popularized electric instruments, many country artists conformed to that trend according to individual taste. However, bluegrass artists resist electrification in favor of the traditional country sound on acoustic instruments and singing style that closely reflects old folk. Both genres continue to thrive. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Folk Music
Marvin Foyer

Most folk music in the United States developed out of combined European and African heritages. As an informal and household genre, people passed songs and technique down through oral tradition. County fairs and family gatherings provided a public outlet, and then advances in transportation in the late 19th century and 20th century allowed for celebrities to emerge as folk stars. Soon, recording and performing folk music became professions alongside other pop genres. Its influence on country and bluegrass as well as on social movements continually validates the genre. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

The Meme Generator
Marvin Foyer

Create your own title or caption for historic sheet music and photos. Visit the exhibit website or the Marvin Foyer computer station to show your wit and creativity. Website: http://library.eiu.edu/exhibits/americasmusic. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Music Technology
Marvin Foyer

This display case contains a progression of recording media: wax cylinder, Edison disc, 78 disc, 33 1/3 disc, 45 disc, reel-to-reel tape, 8-track tape, cassette tape, compact disc and mp3 player. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Soul and Disco Music
Marvin Foyer

Soul came to fruition in the mid-20th century, mixing elements of blues, gospel and jazz in the bustling urban environments of Detroit, Chicago and Memphis. Record companies such as Stax and Motown boomed as a result of soul as it dominated pop music alongside rock in the 1950s-1970s. Funk and disco are soul’s most distinct offshoots. Disco emerged from the demand for dance music in clubs patronized by young cosmopolitans. Although short-lived, its success in getting America dancing as they had during the Big Band age cannot be overlooked. Its rhythmic pulse transformed popular culture and led the way for acceptance of new computer-assisted music. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Hip Hop
Marvin Foyer

Hip hop can be described as the punk of urban African Americans. Beginning in the late 1970s, DJs and MCs controlling turntables and rapping their poetry over the music became a genre of its own in impoverished New York neighborhoods. The rapped poetry protested popular social issues such as poverty, police oppression and drugs. Even so, the new style impressed audiences and hip hop became a popular way to glorify gang lifestyle. Simpler, danceable varieties emerged by the beginning of the 1990s, removing hip hop from its roots and making it a fully popular phenomenon. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Musicals on Broadway and Film
South Entrance

The musical is a combination of spoken dialogue, acting, dancing and singing in a single production. Such a broad definition allows artists to incorporate any genre of music into the work. Thus, American musicals often reflect contemporary pop music. Starting with the jazz era, the realm of pop recording and performances have exchanged songs and performers with the realm of musical theater. Recognizing the appeal of musicals, the movie industry has capitalized on this genre since the beginning of talking tracks. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Blues and Gospel Music
Third Floor South Hallway

The blues developed as the expressive music of rural African Americans in the South. Primarily sad, its subject matter dealt with the anguishing heartbreak and the issues black people faced as a result of poverty and racism. Blues quickly gained popularity and influenced the development of nearly all subsequent music in the United States. Its primary offshoot is gospel, which uses many blues elements but tempers despair with the hopeful message of Christian religion. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Presence of Blues in Children’s Literature
Ballenger Teachers Center

This display highlights the presence of blues music in children’s literature. The information can be utilized for story hour sessions and lesson plans at elementary grade levels. Curator: Amy Gilkey

Third Floor South Hallway

A sort of urban equivalent to the blues, jazz developed as the expressive music of urban African Americans in the South. It borrowed melody, harmony and rhythm from African roots and instrumentation from European roots as well as American folk. Jazz spread northward along the Mississippi River from New Orleans and then quickly across the entire nation. In the first half of the 20th century, jazz dominated most of the pop music scene, from Broadway musicals to big band swing to crooning vocalists. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Rock ‘n’ Roll
Third Floor Reference Hallway

Rock ‘n’ roll sprung out of blues, gospel, jazz and country as a fast and upbeat music of a youthful generation. Popularized by both black and white musicians, it became the new music of the United States. Not to be compartmentalized, rock transitioned from its rock ‘n’ roll roots to eras of psychedelic, new sounds and alternative sub-genres. The exhibit divides them to show the salient characteristics of the eras and display some of the best examples of each. Curators: Philip Mohr and Patrick Vonesh

Musician Biographies
Marvin Foyer

Exhibit highlighting biographical information of important figures in 20th century popular music.  Stop by and pick up your handout or souvenir. Curator: Luis Alarcon



Philip Mohr has a B.A. in history from Westminster College in Missouri and a M.A. in historical administration from Eastern. He studied clarinet and piano as an undergraduate, as well as focusing historical research on music composition. Currently, he is working toward a M.A. in American history and worked on this exhibit as a graduate assistant in Booth Library. In the near future he hopes to hold a position in the museum profession.

Patrick Vonesh received his B.A. in history from Eastern Illinois University in the spring of 2011. Continuing on the M.A. history program track, Vonesh intends to seek a job in the public history sector. His own research interests include music and youth experiences in 20th century Europe. Drumming for the past eight years, he enjoys all aspects of music and its creation.

Amy Gilkey is an undergraduate student at Eastern, majoring in English with teacher certification and a minor in history. She is a library-school-bound intern at Booth Library and previously held a position as the director of children’s services with Marion Carnegie Library in Marion, IL, where she enjoyed creating and conducting story hour programs of both fiction and non-fiction children’s literature. Her favorite genres of music are the Motown sound of soul, 1970s New York punk and ‘90s grunge. Her favorite album is Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

Luis Alarcon is a graduate student pursuing a M.A. in English with a concentration in literary studies. He graduated from Elgin Community College with associate in arts and associate in liberal arts degrees. He earned a B.A. in English and a B.A. in foreign languages from Eastern. He plans to pursue a Ph.D in English or Spanish literature/linguistics. He served a writing internship at Booth Library during the fall semester 2012. His goal is to teach at the university level and eventually obtain a position in university administration.