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Dust Bowl

The Story Behind The Song: This Land is Your Land
Folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote this song to celebrate America’s bounty and to protest that not all Americans were getting their fair share
America, Folklore, Geography, History, Music

Fort McHenry, Baltimore

The Story Behind The Song: The Star-Spangled Banner
In this story, find out how a captured poet penned the song that became the country’s national anthem
History, Europe, Geography, Military, Music, America

We Shall Overcome mural

The Story Behind The Song: We Shall Overcome
In this story, find out how a song helped steel the courage of African Americans as they struggled for civil rights
America, History, Music, Presidents

Spirit of '76

The Story Behind The Song: Yankee Doodle
“Yankee Doodle” may be a popular kids’ tune today, but it got its start as a song of war.
America, History, Europe, Music, Military

Soup Kitchen

The Story Behind The Song: Brother Can You Spare a Dime?
When Americans were humbled by the Great Depression, this song gave voice to their fears and feelings of loss
History, Music, America

Union Soldiers

The Story Behind The Song: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Discover how Julia Howe’s hymn helped inspire the North in its fight to reunite the country and free African-American slaves
History, Music, America, Military

Aaron Copland

The Story Behind The Song: Fanfare for the Common Man
After the U.S. entered World War II, this brass and percussion piece sounded the call to service and sacrifice.
America, History, Orchestra, Music

USMC Memorial

The Story Behind The Song: The Marines' Hymn
This article gives you the stories behind the words—“From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli”
History, Military, Music, America, Geography

American Flag

The Story Behind The Song: God Bless America
In 1938, composer Irving Berlin dusted off an old piece of music to create a new national hit
America, History, Music

Atlanta Opera's production of Cosi Fan Tutte

Article: Cozying up to Così
A guide to Mozart's hilarious romantic comedy
Opera, Music, Theater, Comedy, Composers

La Traviata

Article: Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Tragic End
You haven't experienced stage romance until you've experienced opera. Here's a look at opera in love
Opera, Tragedy, Europe, Music, Theater

Article: Music as Dance’s Muse
Music is a muse for four different American choreographers
Choreographers, Music, Dance, Ballet

Bessie Smith

Article: Hear With Your Eyes: Jazz and Art
Romare Bearden makes music with his art. Learn how to “hear” a painting
Blues, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Visual Arts

Singer

Article: The Real Life of a Singer
A mini-course in starting a singing career
Music, Young Artists, Musicals, Jobs in the Arts, Opera, Rock & Roll

Singer

Article: What It Takes to Become a Professional Singer
So, you want to be a singer. What's next? A beginner's guide to starting a vocal career
Young Artists, Music, Jobs in the Arts, Opera, Musicals, Broadway

Singing Audition

Article: The Ins and Outs of Trying Out
Pointers for your next singing audition
Musicals, Opera, Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts

Singing at Piano

Article: No Singer is an Island
Some thoughts on being a musical teamplayer
Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts, Musicals, Broadway, Rock & Roll, Opera

sad lady

Your Brain On Music: Tearjerkers
Putting the "sad" in sad songs
Composers, Music

Great white shark

Your Brain On Music: Chills and Thrills: Music That Goes Bump in the Night
Creators of spooky tunes know exactly what they are doing to send shivers down the spines of listeners
Science, Music

brain with earbuds

Your Brain On Music: The Sound System Between Your Ears
The amazing sound system in the human brain helps explain why people everywhere fill their lives with music
Science, Music

Earworm

Your Brain On Music: Earworms
When songs get stuck... get stuck... get stuck... in our brains
Music, Science, Composers

Kathryn Bostic

Article: Q&A with Kathryn Bostic
Kathryn Bostic, music arranger for Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963, shares her thoughts on sharing stories through music and music’s central role in the Civil Rights Movement.
America, Backstage, Composers, History, Musicals, Controversial

brain with earbuds

Series: Your Brain on Music
Music, emotions, and imagination have gone together ever since the first cave dweller banged on a rock. Modern brain research is helping us understand why.
Composers, Music, Science

Singing on Stage

Series: So You Want to be a Singer?
What does it really take to become a professional singer?
Young Artists, Music, Jobs in the Arts, Musicals

Composers

Series: The Story Behind The Song
Through the history of popular songs, discover how history is full of surprising stories of people doing amazing things
History, Music, America, Composers, Military

henry fonda in the grapes of wrath

Series: The Grapes of Wrath: Voice and Vision
This collection of suggested lessons and activities aim at helping students build a framework, from various perspectives of the 1930s, in which to embed a close study of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
America, History, Geography, Science, Nature, Presidents, Literature, Music, Movies & Movie Stars, Opera

Connection

Series: Connections
Music shares some surprising connections to mathematics, language, and science. Learn about them in this series adapted from concerts performed at the Kennedy Center.
Music, Language, Math, Geometry, Science

Martha Graham

Series: Master + Work
Meet the masters...the talented artists who have created some of the most outstanding achievements of the twentieth century
Ballet, Choreographers, Composers, Dance Legends, Music Legends

Hip-Hop artists

Series: Hip-Hop: A Culture of Vision and Voice
Hip-hop is global, lapping on every shore and landing at every airport. But what does Hip-Hop mean?
Hip-Hop, Young Artists, Dance, Dance Legends, Choreographers, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Music, Poetry, Visual Arts

Science and Music

Connections: Science and Music
The music you listen to? It's scientific! Learn some of the surprising ways science and music connect.
Science, Music

Casio Melody 80

Connections: Math and Music
Math ideas help organize everything from the beat (rhythm) to the tune (melody) of music. Explore some of the surprising and essential connections between math and music.
Geometry, Math, Music

Music and Language

Connections: Language and Music
Communication isn’t just limited to language—music also does the trick. Discover some surprising features language and music have in common
Language, Music

Ear buds in love

Article: Perfect Harmony: Singing the Love
Nothing sings romance like a love song. And people have been singing them for thousands of years.
Music, Literature, History

Chorus Singing

Article: Surviving School Chorus
You've been assigned to a chorus. Now what? Some helpful hints for the young singer
Music, Young Artists

Conducting choir

Article: Understanding Different Voice Types
Ever wonder what makes one voice sound different from the next? Check out this look at (and listen to) vocal types and the various colors and textures of the human voice
Young Artists, Music, Opera

Young Female Singer

Article: Advice on Taking Care of Your Voice
Debunk myths about singing and learn the ABC's of how your voice works
Young Artists, Broadway, Jazz, Musicals, Opera, Rock & Roll

Children Singing

Article: Singing in an Ensemble
Learn how to sing with a group of friends, family, or classmates
Music, Young Artists

Peruvian woman

Collection: Latin America
Travel through the diverse cultures of Latin America, as represented by artists from Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Texas and California. Enjoy art rich in both tradition and innovation.
Folklore, Geography, Latin America, Music, Dance, World Cultures, Young Artists

Kennedy Center

Collection: A Few of Our Favorite Things...
From musical theater to music in space, our media collections reflect the breadth and depth of the performing arts in America and around the world. These are some of our staff favorites--we'd love to hear yours!
Backstage, Dance, Education, Jazz, Music, Theater, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Native American flute player

Collection: Native American Cultures
Experience traditional Native American culture through dance, music and visual arts. Watch Native Pride the eagle and hoop dances, trace the life of a Navajo weaver, learn how Keith Bear makes a flute, make a listening doll, and meet fancy dancers Larry and Jessup Yazzie.
America, Geography, Folklore, Dance, Musical Instruments, Music, World Cultures

India

Collection: India
Explore India and its multiple cultures and the art they produce. Listen to experienced musicians perform tabla beats, learn about the Bharatanatyam dance, and catch a movie produced by Bollywood, one of the largest centers of film production in the world.
Asia, Dance, Music, World Cultures

Beethoven graffiti

Collection: Great Composers
Get inside the mind of a composer-- from a popular song, to a Broadway musical, to a symphony, how does a composer write music?
Composers, Jazz, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends, Opera, Orchestra, Popular Culture

Japanese Noh theater

Collection: Japan
Larger-than-life calligraphy, giant bamboo weaving, and robots both real and toy... experience the vibrant diversity of the arts across Japan.
Japan, Asia, Backstage, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Inventions, Language, Music, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Hip-Hop

Collection: Hip-Hop Culture
Hip-Hop has blended and transcended its artistic elements to become a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world. Hip-Hop, in other words, is a way of living—a culture.
Hip-Hop, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Language, Music, Poetry, Popular Culture, Theater, Young Artists

Martha Graham

Collection: Women in the Arts
From providing historical inspiration to preserving cultural traditions to pushing the boundaries of creativity, explore the contributions women have made and continue to make to the arts.
Dance, Dance Legends, Music Legends, Musicals, Literature, Poetry, Theater

spooky moon

Collection: Things That Go Bump in the Night
Welcome, foolish mortals. Haunted music and monsters are just the beginning--this Halloween, look here for more spooky resources.
Folklore, Music, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Theater

Antennae galaxies

Collection: Space
Music and mobiles take flight in these resources that explore the relationship between artist, art, and the cosmos, including the special meaning behind the stars and early African-American spirituals.
Space, Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Music

Media Arts

Collection: Media Arts Resources
Audio, video, animation, photography, and technology. From Depression-era images that captured the attention of a nation, to student-produced videos on local artists, to how to make your own blood and guts special effects, explore the ever-changing world of media arts.
Rock & Roll, Technology, Television, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars, Music

Jazz trumpet

Collection: Jazz & Blues Resources
Foot thumping rhythms, crooning voices, soulful melodies – jazz is a music with a history as rich as its sound. Follow the great migration that lead African Americans to Harlem, meet jazz icons such as Bessie Smith and Charlie Parker, and stop by the Cotton Club and Apollo Theater on a journey through the past of this American art form.
America, Blues, History, Jazz, Music

comedy and tragedy masks

Collection: Theater Resources
Take a peek behind the red curtain and discover the artistry and history behind the world of theater. Explore the playwriting process first-hand, learn about the cultural impact of performance, and read and perform some of the most influential works of the 20th century.
America, Art Venues, Backstage, Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Drum hands

Collection: World Music Resources
Explore the rich tapestry created by musicians around the world -- from the music of the Arab World and Ancient Greece, to the diverse cultural sounds of China, to the songs that helped spur the Mexican Revolution.
Africa, Asia, China, Europe, Folklore, Greece, India, Japan, Music, Native America, World Cultures, Latin America

Violin hands

Collection: Classical Music Resources
Booming orchestras, teeming concert halls, obsessive composers, and prodigal musicians – classical music is anything but boring. Learn how Beethoven continued to pen symphonies while going deaf, discover the science behind the instrument and the math behind the music, and explore the ways in which music and emotion go hand-in-hand.
Composers, Europe, Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra

Guitar hands

Collection: Popular Music Resources
What can lyrics tell us about the time period they were written in? How has music been used to communicate and rally in war? How have people used song to spark revolution and shake up society? Discover the ways in which people perform, listen to, and interact with music in their everyday lives.
America, History, Music

It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings!

Collection: Opera Resources
Get out your opera glasses and prepare to take a look at the history and evolution of an art form over four hundred years old. Learn how singers train and condition their voices, become familiar with some of the stage’s most tragic love affairs, and discover how theatre and music combined can tell epic stories in unforgettable ways.
Choreographers, Composers, Europe, Musicals, Orchestra, Opera, Tragedy, Theater

Red Poppy

Collection: Asia
Fish painting, lion dances, larger-than-life calligraphy and a tornado of fire... experience the vibrant diversity of the arts across Asia.
Asia, China, India, Japan, Dance, Folklore, Music, Theater, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Chinese lion dancer

Collection: China
An army of buried warriors, lion dances, dancing shadows and a tornado of fire... experience the vibrant diversity of the arts across China
Asia, China, Dance, Music, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Oscilloscope wave

Collection: Acoustics & Sound
How do composers "hear" outer space? How did Beethoven compose music when he couldn't hear? Browse lessons and multimedia that explore the art and science of the world of sound around us.
Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Inventions, Math, Music, Science, Space

African-American Boy

Collection: African-American History
Learn about the African American experience through the arts — and discover the contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of the United States.
Africa, America, Folklore, Geography, History, Jazz, Music, Playwrights & Plays, Dance, Blues

African men

Collection: Africa
Discover the real story of the Lion King and the rich tapestry of sounds from North African cultures.
Africa, Animals, Dance, Folklore, Music, Puppets, World Cultures

Music Matters

Take Five: Music Matters
Incorporating music makes content lessons more exciting and memorable. And it's easy to do!
Education, Music

Twenty-First Century

Take Five: Arts in the 21st Century Classroom
The skills our students need can be readily integrated into arts lessons and vice versa
Theater, Music, Literature, Dance

Cultural Dancers

Take Five: Cultural Connections
Enliven and enrich your cultural heritage month observances through the arts
Music, Dance, Theater, Poetry, Literature, Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Native America, World Cultures, India

Art Teacher With Students

Article: Do Tell: Giving Feedback to Your Students
How can arts educators provide engaging and useful feedback? Here are seven suggestions to get you started
Education, Young Artists, Musical Instruments, Theater, Literature, Music, Poetry, Ballet, Dance

Story to Life

Tipsheet: Stories Brought to Life
Learn about ways to increase student participation and skill building during interactive read-alouds
Theater, Music, Language, Education, Dance

Students Dancing

Tipsheet: Shall We Dance?: Foolproof Ways to Bring Dance into Your Classroom
Try these five easy ways to use dance and movement in your classroom
Dance, Education, Family, Music, Young Artists

Footsteps

Tipsheet: Social Dances for Upper Elementary
Some fun social dances to try with your upper-elementary-level students
Dance, Education, Music, Physical Activity

Kids and Culture

Tipsheet: Beyond Food & Fiestas
Practical ideas for creating authentic cultural experiences for your students
Folklore, Language, Music, World Cultures

Kids Dancing

Tipsheet: Five Easy Social Dances for Early Elementary
Channel your students’ love of movement with these easy social dances
Dance, Education, Music, Physical Activity

Brunhilde

Article: Opera-tunity Knocks
A guide for all opera newbies, both young and old, with some hints as to how to calm the opera skeptic
Opera, Music

East High School Dancers

Article: Encouraging Your Students to Become Choreographers
Use these great ideas to get your students choreographing at your school
Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Musicals, Theater, Young Artists

Band of 40th Veteran Reserve Corps

Article: When Music Goes Marching to War
Explore music’s important role in the American Civil War. Includes activities for the classroom
America, Composers, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Tragedy

Indian Musician

Article: Rhythm and Raga
Learn how to incorporate and teach Indian music in your classroom
India, Musical Instruments, Music, World Cultures

The Star Spangled Banner Sheet Music

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Set a Poem to Music
After exploring a “singable” picture book as a class, each student examines a personally selected poem for rhythm to determine its musical meter.
Music, Poetry, Young Artists

freedom-riders

Grades 6-8 Lesson: We Are The Freedom Riders
Students will learn about the courageous efforts of the Freedom Riders while embracing the bold theme, "We Will Overcome!" as a theme surrounding the civil rights movement.
America, Music

Man playing harmonica

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Twelve-Bar Blues
Learn about the history, key players and musical qualities of the blues
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

sheet music

Grades 6-8 Lesson: First Rhythmic Composition
This lesson introduces students to rhythm concepts, including the names and symbols associated with music notation
Music

Gesture Drawings

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Rhythm and Art: Gesture Drawing
In this lesson, students will explore connections between music and visual art
Music, Visual Arts

Pancho Villa

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Corridos About the Mexican Revolution
In this lesson, students will be introduced to causes of the Mexican Revolution and key revolutionary figures
World Cultures, Music, Folklore

South Pacific

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Adapting a Musical
This lesson explores the implications of developing a musical from a literary text or an historical event, and includes suggestions for immersing students into the creative process of building a musical.
Broadway, History, Music, Musicals, Literature

Gilded age painting

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Arts of the Gilded Age
Learn about and discuss characteristics of the Gilded Age. Using books, internet and other media, research the various fine and performing art forms popular during that time period.
Opera, Musicals, Architecture, Ballet, Music, Theater

Sheet music and fibonacci spiral

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Amazing Fibonacci
Using the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, your students study math concepts of pattern, recursion, Pi and the Golden Ratio, developing their ability to analyze the structure of music.
Music, Science, Math

Fibonacci 3-D by Jeremy Bennett

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Patterns Across Cultures: The Fibonacci Sequence in Visual Art
The Fibonacci Sequence manifests in nature and visual arts
Math, Science, Music

Mexican Corrido

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Form and Theme in the Traditional Mexican Corrido
Students will learn about the traditional Mexican musical form of corridos, which dates back to the 1800s and continues to be very popular
Latin America, World Cultures, Music

Dancers in silhouette

Grade 5 Lesson: Lift Every Voice and Sing
Explore and analyze Lift Every Voice and Sing, a poem by James Weldon Johnson.
History, Music, Poetry, Blues, America

U.S. Army band on steps

Grade 5 Lesson: Civil War Music
Learn how music was used in the Civil War
America, History, Music

moon and raven

Grade 5 Lesson: Haunting Music
Learn about orchestral “program music” inspired by the spooky and bizarre
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Folklore

frog prince

Grade 5 Lesson: Finding Your Own Frog Prince
Students will use a traditional tale, “The Frog Prince,” and Jon Scieszka’s variation of it, The Frog Prince Continued, to create improvised scenes and then a book for a mini-musical.
Folklore, Musicals, Popular Culture

Strings

Grades 3-4 Lesson: String Instruments and Pitch
In this lesson, students explore how pitch is altered based on the width and length of the string
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Science

The American Flag

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Oh, Say Can You See…
Students will learn about the history behind the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Geography, History, Military, Music, Poetry, America

Percussion

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Percussion Instruments and Pitch
This lesson introduces students to the instruments of the percussion family
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Science

Woodwinds

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Woodwind Instruments and Pitch
This lesson introduces students to the instruments of the woodwind family
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Science

Irish Dancers

Grades 3-4 Lesson: You’re Invited to a Ceili: Exploring Irish Dance
Listen to Irish music, learn about ceilis, which are festive dance celebrations, view the intricate costumes worn by Irish dancers, and listen to an Irish poem.
Dance, Europe, World Cultures, Music, Fashion, Poetry

Chinese performers

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Chinese Instruments
Explore the similarities and differences between traditional western instruments and Chinese instruments while creating a Chinese instrument.
Asia, Geography, Musical Instruments, Music, World Cultures, China

Brass

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Brass Instruments and Pitch
This lesson introduces students to the instruments of the brass family
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Science

Ballerinas

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Ballet and Classical Music
This lesson will introduce students to both conceptual and practical elements of classical ballet.
Ballet, Dance, Music, Orchestra

Sheet Music

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Melodies and Math
After reviewing basic music theory, students compose their own music for the touch-tone phone
Math, Music

The Great Migration

Grades 3-4 Lesson: The Great Migration
In this lesson, students will learn about the migration of African Americans to Harlem
America, Blues, Geography, History, Jazz, Music

The Drinking Gourd Constellation

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Harriet Tubman: Secret Messages Shared through Song
In this lesson, students are introduced to the African-American spiritual and its use of a secret language to share information within the slave community.
America, History, Folklore, Music

Sounds Historic

Flash Interactive: Sounds Historic
Explore the relationship between history and music with the pieces and activities from the Sounds Historic concert, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra. Learn how music can be inspired by history, capture history, or even make history.
America, History, Orchestra, Music, Folklore, Jobs in the Arts

Perfect Pitch

Flash Interactive: Perfect Pitch
Batter up! This multimedia exploration introduces students to the most enduring all-stars of the orchestra: the instruments.
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Sports

Spooky Sounds and Scary Tales

Flash Interactive: Spooky Sounds and Scary Tales
Dust off the cobwebs and warm up your imagtination to hear composers tell stories about supernatural creatures and events.
Orchestra, Music, History, Folklore

Drop Me Off in Harlem

Interactive: Drop Me Off in Harlem
Drop Me Off in Harlem will give students the opportunity to explore the art, music, and people that changed Harlem from a neighborhood into a historical landmark
Jazz, Music, History, Poetry, America, Music Legends, Art Venues

iPass

Flash Interactive: IPASS: Japan! Culture + Hyperculture
This interactive features a comprehensive study of the arts and culture of Japan, ranging from ancient to modern times. It includes an investigation of Japanese art, theater, dance, music, manga, anime, robots, and installations.
Japan, Asia, Music, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Jazz In Time

Flash Interactive: Jazz in Time
Take part in this in-depth exploration of one of America's richest musical forms, the jazz movement, which is investigated through interactive web content and music clips.
Jazz, History, Music, Music Legends

Interactive: Dancing With Gregory Hines
In this video-based interactive, Gregory Hines is your guide through the diverse and exciting history, people, and techniques of tap.
Backstage, Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, History, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals

Whack a Note

Flash Interactive: Whack a Note!
Use your number pad or mouse to find the right note on the board! Make sure not to hit a wrong one - you'll lose your bonus!
Music

Quackin' Rhythms

Flash Interactive: Quackin' Rhythyms
Learn about tempo with Quackin' Rhythms! Hit your space bar to knock the ducks over in time with the metronome.
Music

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Rock Out
Turn up your favorite tunes and play the air guitar.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture, Physical Activity, Musical Instruments

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Music Muscles
Walk like you’re the drum majorette, or leader, of a marching band. Is it easy or hard? Remember to stand up straight, lift your knees, and strike up the band.
Music, Sports, Physical Activity

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Orange You Glad…
Divide an orange into four sections. Cover your teeth with the peel from one wedge. Sing “Happy Birthday.” Easy or hard?
Music, Plants, Language

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Tooth Tunes
Hum your favorite song while brushing your teeth. How much can you belt out before drooling?
Music

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Toe Tunes
Tap your feet to your favorite song. Can your feet keep the beat?
Music, Dance

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Turnaround Tunes
Sing the alphabet backwards. Do you need to stop mid-song and think about it or are you an ABC pro?
Music, Language

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Sound Effects: Beat It!
Move your lips and cheeks while blowing air from your mouth. Now you’re beatboxing. What kind of beats can you come up with? Fast? Slow?
Hip-Hop, Music

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Sound of Music
From the minute you wake up till lights out, count how many times you hear music during the course of your day. See how many different kinds of music you find.
Music

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Changing Channels
Change the dial on your car’s FM radio and find a song you’ve never heard before. Take a listen. Dance in your seat to an unfamiliar tune.
Rock & Roll, Music, Dance, Physical Activity

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Body Beats
Snap your fingers. What kind of noises can you make? Create a beat. Try adding some words to make a song.
Music, Physical Activity, Hip-Hop

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Makin’ Moves
Create a new dance move. What kind of music does it go with? What do you call it?
Dance, Music, Physical Activity

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Hand Jive
Sing your favorite song a cappella, or without instrumental music. Clap the beat in the background.
Music, Physical Activity

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Henry Mitchell
"All anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one."
Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Friedrich Nietzsche
"Folk music is the original melody of man; it is the musical mirror of the world."
Europe, Literature, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Carl Perkins
"If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song."
America, Music, Music Legends, Rock & Roll

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Jim Morrison
"O great creator of being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives."
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Victor Hugo
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."
Europe, Literature, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: George Jellinek
"The history of a people is found in its songs."
Music, History, Folklore

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Aaron Howard
"Art is... a question mark in the minds of those who want to know what's happening."
Music, Education, Young Artists

arts quote

Arts Quotes: B.B. King
"We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about but try to be yourself while you're doing so."
America, Blues, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Beverly Sills
"Art is the signature of civilizations."
America, Music, Music Legends, Opera

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Leopold Stokowski
"A painter paints pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence."
Music, Music Legends, Orchestra

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Frank Zappa
"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something."
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Plutarch
"Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord."
Greece, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Pythagoras
"There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres."
Greece, Geometry, Math, Music, Science

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Plato
"To sing well and to dance well is to be well-educated."
Greece, Music, Dance

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Carlos Santana
"Music rearranges your molecular structure."
America, Latin America, Music, Music Legends, Rock & Roll

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Robert Schumann
"To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist."
Europe, Composers, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Roger Sessions
"Music goes deeper than emotion into the energies that animate our psychic life."
America, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Albert Schweitzer
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
Europe, Literature, Music, Animals

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Johannes Brahms
"Study Bach. There you will find everything."
Composers, Music Legends, Music, Orchestra

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Leonard Bernstein
"Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable."
Music, Composers, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Pamela Brown
"A child sings before it speaks, dances almost before it walks, music is with us from the beginning."
Dance, Music, Young Artists, Literature

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Benjamin Britten
"Composing is like driving down a foggy road..."
Composers, Music Legends, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: José Bergamín
"If you really believe music is dangerous, you should let it go in one ear and out the other."
Controversial, Poetry, Literature, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Ludwig Van Beethoven
"Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess."
Composers, Music, Music Legends, Orchestra

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Arts Quotes: Hans Christian Andersen
"Where words fail, music speaks."
Europe, Literature, Music

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Arts Quotes: Frederic Chopin
"Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly, two."
Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends, Composers, Europe

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Arts Quotes: Pat Conroy
"Without music, life is a journey through a desert."
Literature, Music

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Arts Quotes: Confucius
"Let a man be stimulated by poetry, established by the rules of propriety, and perfected by music."
China, Folklore, Poetry, Music

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Arts Quotes: Ray Charles
"Music to me is like breathing - I don't get tired of breathing, I don't get tired of music."
Music Legends, Blues, Music, Rock & Roll

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Arts Quotes: Louis Armstrong
"What we play is life."
Music Legends, Jazz, Music

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Arts Quotes: George Balanchine
"Dance is music made visible."
Dance Legends, Music, Choreographers, Dance, Ballet

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Arts Quotes: Bela Bartok
"A nation creates music - the composer only arranges it."
Composers, Music Legends, Music, Europe

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Arts Quotes: Vladimir Ashkenazy
"I believe that interpretation should be like a transparent glass, a window for the composer's music."
Music, Composers, Orchestra, Music Legends

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Arts Quotes: Berthold Auerbach
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Music, Literature, Poetry

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Arts Quotes: M. Aumonier
"There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it."
Music, Nature, Literature

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Arts Quotes: Paul Hindemith
"People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts."
Europe, Composers, Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends

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Arts Quotes: Ulysess S. Grant
"I know only two tunes; one of them is "Yankee Doodle", and the other isn't."
America, History, Music, Presidents

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Arts Quotes: E.Y. Harbug
"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought."
Broadway, Musicals, Music

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Arts Quotes: Oscar Hammerstein
"All the sounds of the earth are like music."
Broadway, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Theater

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Arts Quotes: Benny Green
"A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

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Arts Quotes: Miles Davis
"Do not fear mistakes, there are none."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

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Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Playing "bop" is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

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Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

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Arts Quotes: Ethiopian Proverb
"Move your neck according to the music."
Africa, Folklore, Music

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Arts Quotes: Placido Domingo
"The high note is not the only thing."
Music, Music Legends, Opera

Apple iPod

Arts Days: October 23, 2001: Music for the iGeneration
Sleek and slim, with a clean white interface and dial that let users spin through hundreds, even thousands of songs on a whim, the iPod’s arrival heralded a huge shakeup in music—how it was played and how it was made. Not only did portable CD players suddenly seem impossibly clunky, but the tiny gadget-y iPod made it possible to also carry videos, photos, and other types of media in your pocket.

Apple's latest invention revolutionized the portable music player, and what’s more, opened the gates to a whole new music industry to meet demands for digital music downloads. Both record companies and artists had to figure out how to market music for the new digital age. Since the first iPod model debuted on this day in 2001, Apple is the leading seller of MP3 players, as well as digital music, which it sells through its iTunes store.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Popular Culture

Chuck Berry

Arts Days: October 18, 1926: The Father of Rock and Roll
There’s good reason why Chuck Berry was the very first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Berry not only defined the rock and roll sound, he created it. His 1955 song “Maybellene” was, in many ways, the first song of this musical genre, and its debut proved a pivotal moment in music history. Like many of his contemporaries, Berry began by playing the blues.

But audiences responded most enthusiastically when he played what was at the time considered “hillbilly” music: the rollicking infectious rhythms born of bluegrass. Berry added his own twists, like electrifying guitar playing, clever wordplay, and, above all, a vitality that made his audiences want to get up and dance. The resulting music was irresistible to young people and caught on like wildfire.
Composers, Music Legends, Blues, Music, Rock & Roll, Innovators & Pioneers

The Beach Boys

Arts Days: October 29, 1962: Surf’s Up
The idealized version of 1960s California is a land of endless summer days, pretty girls, and handsome surfer dudes driving to the beach in convertibles. The Beach Boys—the original band included brothers Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and pal, Al Jardine—fed the concept of this picturesque California, as much as they immortalized it in songs like “Fun Fun Fun” and “Good Vibrations.”

The music on their first record, Surfin’ Safari, and all that would follow, featured crisp vocal harmonies, bursts of electric guitar, and uncomplicated themes of falling in love and catching the perfect wave. About 25 years later, the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock & Roll, Music, America, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Metallica

Arts Days: October 28, 1981: Rock’s Heavy Hitters
Ten years after Black Sabbath invented heavy metal in the 1970s, Metallica adopted the sound and redefined it. When drummer Lars Ulrich placed an ad in the newspaper in 1981 looking for others to jam with, James Hetfield—who sings and plays guitar—was among those who answered.

Ulrich, Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bass player Robert Trujillo comprise the current lineup of the band, whose mission is to rock hard and heavy. With recordings like “…And Justice for All” and “St. Anger,” Metallica writes songs on subjects from political strife to love gone wrong, all with a thrashing, uncompromising sound. Make no mistake, Metallica’s music is loud, pounding, and intense—just like the guys in the band.
Rock & Roll, Music, America, Popular Culture

Mahalia Jackson

Arts Days: October 26, 1911: An Amazing Grace
Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson had a powerful contralto voice even as a little girl. She would sing around the house, sing at the Plymouth Rock Baptist Church in her hometown, and sing in various choirs or as a soloist. She landed a series of recording deals, starting in 1937 with Decca Records, eventually moving to Columbia Records, where she really hit her stride as a spiritual singer with broad commercial appeal.

Jackson’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show brought gospel to a whole new set of listeners, as did her performance at the inauguration of President Kennedy in 1960. This granddaughter of slaves was the first gospel singer to sing at Carnegie Hall, and the first gospel singer to be featured at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, Blues

Yo-Yo Ma

Arts Days: October 07, 1955: Cello’s Child Prodigy
Soon after a music professor began to teach his four-year-old to play the cello, he quickly realized his son was no ordinary music student. Later that year, the family immigrated to New York City in order for the young boy to continue his musical studies. At five, he began performing in public; at seven, he played for President Kennedy. Yes indeed, by all comparisons, Yo-Yo Ma was a pee wee cello prodigy.

Ma eventually enrolled at the Juilliard School, then went on to graduate from Harvard University. Today, Ma’s expressiveness and technical brilliance defies categorization. Tackling all kinds of music from classical to folk, baroque to bluegrass, Ma is believed to be the world’s premiere cellist.
Music, Music Legends, Musical Instruments, Presidents, Young Artists

cd player

Arts Days: October 01, 1982: A Shiny New Music Maker
At $900, the first home CD player had a pretty steep price tag. Still, the sound quality of music on Compact Disc (CD for short) was far superior to that of the cassettes and LPs that had dominated consumers’ stereo systems for years.

CDs hold more minutes of music than any record ever did, and store music in digital format, which helps create that crystal-clear sound quality. They are also relatively hard to scratch or damage, unlike tapes and records. It wasn’t long before the CD player became a must-have stereo component for any serious music buff. Oh, by the way, the first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Japan, Popular Culture

Luciano Pavarotti

Arts Days: October 12, 1935: King of the High C's
Performing with his father Fernando, a teenage Luciano Pavarotti won an international singing competition in Wales. This accomplishment set the stage for a lifetime of vocal artistry for this world-famous tenor. Pavarotti exposed countless listeners to the wonders of opera and other types of classical vocal music. Incidentally, certain operatic roles—like Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme—became forever linked to the man and his voice.

His gift combined deep expressivity, stellar technique, and the ability to meld opera into pop culture. During a performance of La Fille du Regiment in 1972, Pavarotti received 17 curtain calls, in part for the stunning high Cs he could effortlessly hit. Pavarotti, who set the standard for operatic tenors, was celebrated as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2001.
Music Legends, Opera, Music

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns

Arts Days: October 09, 1835: A Prolific Talent
Composer and organist, conductor and pianist, Saint- Saëns composed numerous works including Carnival of the Animals and Danse macabre. Among his contemporaries, the music he composed and performed was typically regarded as technically flawless.

He was famous for sitting stock-still at his keyboard during performances and playing every note perfectly. That calm demeanor earned him some criticism for his apparent lack of feeling. But to collectively consider the hundreds of pieces of music he composed in his lifetime, Saint- Saëns’ music shows much emotion and beauty.
Composers, Music, Music Legends, Orchestra, Europe

Giuseppe Verdi

Arts Days: October 10, 1813: Viva Verdi
Don't think you know any opera? Bet you do. Several pieces by Giuseppe Verdi have taken such deep root in worldwide arts culture that you've probably heard them—and could even hum them with a little effort. “La donna e mobile,” written by this Italian Romantic composer, is one such recognizable piece from his opera Rigoletto, based on a play by Victor Hugo.

Verdi broke some standard “rules” of opera; for example, his Macbeth was the first Italian opera that did not include a love story, and is considered a truly original piece for that reason. Verdi’s incredible range of operatic works can be heard in La Traviata, Aida, Il Trovatore, and Falstaff. Think opera. Think Verdi.
Composers, Opera, Europe, Music, Music Legends

Jerome Robbins instructing

Arts Days: October 11, 1918: Where Broadway Meets Ballet
The man born Jerome Rabinowitz infused 20th-century choreography with a uniquely American flavor. The work he did for ballets like Fancy Free displayed his penchant for freely mixing elements of many different types of dance: jazz, ballet, modern, and folk.

That creativity was burnished by Robbins’ work on a string of legendary Broadway musicals, from West Side Story to Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy. A 1981 Kennedy Center Honor recipient, Robbins balanced his theatrical projects with ballet choreography throughout his career. With his dancing feet planted firmly in both camps, it’s no surprise Robbins won Tony Awards®, Academy Awards®, and served as ballet master of the New York City Ballet in the 1970s.
Musicals, Ballet, Dance, Choreographers, Dance Legends, Innovators & Pioneers

Fiddler on the Roof

Arts Days: September 22, 1964: Mazel Tov! It’s a Hit!
It was just a simple story of a Russian Jew with five daughters, based on a book by Joseph Stein. But thanks to Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, and Zero Mostel’s unforgettable turn as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof became one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. Tevye tries hard to preserve the traditions of his childhood, but as his daughters grow up, fall in love, and leave the family’s village, he struggles to accept change.

In songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye’s family’s life is recounted with both hilarity and poignancy. Fiddler would go on to be the first musical to break the 3,000-performance mark on Broadway.
Broadway, Musicals, Europe, Folklore, History, Theater, World Cultures

Conway Twitty, Chubby Checker and Dick Clark doing

Arts Days: September 19, 1960: The Dance Craze Is On
Chubby Checker’s version of this song started a dance revolution. Kids everywhere were dancing the Twist’s signature moves: swiveling hips, stretching out arms, lifting one foot off the floor every now and then. Though the dance was considered fairly provocative, the song’s ascent drove the popularity of the Twist and made it mainstream.

Dance crazes were nothing new: for example, in the 15th century, noblemen and women went crazy for the minuet, while in the 1930s, everybody was doing the jitterbug. Basically, anytime people gather to dance, a new fad could be spawned. Think about that next time you’re dancing with your pals—maybe you will invent the next Mashed Potato or Moonwalk!
Choreographers, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Dance, Music

B.B. King playing the guitar

Arts Days: September 16, 1925: The Thrill is Born
It’s been decades since B.B. King, the “King of Blues,” stood on a street corner playing for dimes. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis to soak up the knowledge of other, more seasoned musicians and further hone his own sound. Just one year later, he got a chance to play on the radio, which led to regular jobs—and soon, a record deal.

King’s rich and expressive singing, coupled with his vocal-like string bends have made him a cherished example for every electric guitarist that has followed. He has made more than 50 records and was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 1995. While this reigning King can claim a long list of hits and awards, he is best associated with his 1970 classic, “The Thrill is Gone.”
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Blues, Musical Instruments, Music

Star Search

Arts Days: September 17, 1983: Make Me a Star Tonight
Searching for tomorrow’s superstar singers and dancers? Before there was American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, there was Star Search. Ordinary contestants sang, danced, and performed comedy skits on national TV, with judges and a studio audience voting for a winner.

Lots of artists who made it big competed on Star Search, including Christina Aguilera and Rosie O’Donnell. Interestingly, few of the actual winners are household names today. The original show ran until 1995. A new version launched in 2002, but lasted for only two years. American Idol, which also began in 2002, pretty much ate Star Search for lunch.
Art Venues, Comedy, Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Television, Young Artists

Agnes De Mille

Arts Days: September 18, 1905: Dance Queen of Broadway
Her father William and her uncle Cecil were both big-shot Hollywood directors, so perhaps it was genetic that Agnes de Mille sought a life in the arts. She studied piano, considered acting and took dance lessons, and choreographed big dance sequences for movies like Cleopatra and ballets including the sensational Rodeo (which received 22 curtain calls). Yet it was as a choreographer for the theatrical stage that de Mille really found her calling.

The dance routines she created were anything but routine. Musicals like Carousel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and especially Oklahoma! revolutionized musical theater by the way de Mille incorporated her choreography right into the plot, further rounding out characters’ personalities, and blending folk dance with ballet.
Backstage, Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Musicals, Theater

Ed Sullivan

Arts Days: September 28, 1901: Talent Scout
Hard to believe but for more than three decades, Ed Sullivan's television variety show kept Americans entertained. Sullivan, a former sports reporter and radio announcer, became an emcee to vaudeville revues and charity events. Despite his famously wooden persona and uncomfortable on-camera appearance, Sullivan knew how to choose and showcase talent.

Until 1971, The Ed Sullivan Show provided a staging arena for entertainers of all stripes. Elvis made his hip-shaking debut in 1956; the Beatles’ 1964 appearances were some of television’s highest rated programs. The show was as likely to feature opera performances as it was rock and roll bands, and hosted many black performers, including Pearl Bailey, Diana Ross, and Louis Armstrong.
Art Venues, America, Television, Young Artists, Rock & Roll, Comedy, Dance, Theater, Music

Gene Autry playing guitar

Arts Days: September 29, 1907: The Singing Cowboy
The five stars bearing Gene Autry’s name on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame are a testament to his versatility as a performer. The “Singing Cowboy,” as he was commonly known, earned stars for his work in radio, recording, television, movies, and theater. Autry is the only person to have been awarded five stars.

As a very popular public figure, Autry felt a personal responsibility to live by a creed he called the Cowboy Code, rules to live by that he hoped his young radio fans would emulate. Over the course of his multi-faceted life, Autry also served in the military, bought the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, and gave money to create a museum about the West, now known as the Autry National Center.
America, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Music Legends

A Chorus Line

Arts Days: September 27, 1983: One Singular Sensation
There are 17 of them up on the bare stage—chorus dancers, known as “gypsies” in musical theater lingo. They audition, then wait, wait some more…most are sent home empty-handed. This trying experience was captured by a young dancer/choreographer (and former gypsy) named Michael Bennett. Bennett took the audition process and added a slew of talented singer/dancer hopefuls and a fabulous score by Marvin Hamlisch.

The show’s minimal sets and costumes kept the audience’s focus right where it should be: on the singing and the dancing as each character sings and shares his or her story about how they wound up at the audition. Sometimes funny, always moving, the show’s cinema-like staging includes jumps from one character to another, stage dissolves, and close-ups.
Broadway, Musicals, Art Venues, Theater

Will Smith

Arts Days: September 25, 1968: Will Power
Will Smith’s many talents, from rapping to acting and producing, have enabled his rise as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. As part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Smith and childhood pal Jeff Townes hit big with the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” in the 1980s. They even won the very first Grammy® awarded to a rap act.

The folks at NBC liked Smith’s appealing persona enough to build a TV show around him; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran from 1990–96 and cemented Smith’s reputation as a natural comic. The show served as Smith’s platform to transform himself from hip-hop artist to accredited actor with starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Men in Black and Independence Day.
America, Hip-Hop, Music, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars, Young Artists

West Side Story

Arts Days: September 26, 1957: Tonight, Tonight
Behind the hit musical about the rival white “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” is an updated, urban retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The inspiration and innovation was provided by a boatload of talent; Stephen Sondheim wrote the sophisticated lyrics, Leonard Bernstein the historic music.

Jerome Robbins directed and choreographed the revolutionary dance sequences like the Shark Girls’ exuberant “America” and the Jets’ “Cool.” Audiences saw how violent gang warfare shattered the dreams of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. The musical drew big crowds, shocking them all with the death of two young men at the end of Act One and of Tony at the close of the play. As stunned viewers exited the theater, few doubted the universality of Shakespeare’s love story.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Choreographers, Composers, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Popular Culture

John Cage

Arts Days: September 05, 1912: Pushing Music’s Boundaries
You might be confused the first time you hear an orchestra perform John Cage’s famous 1952 composition, 4’33” which refers to the length of time the piece lasts: four minutes, 33 seconds. During this time, no one will play their instrument; the concert hall will be completely silent.

Or will it? Cage, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, believed in “found sound.” He thought that a whole other kind of music could be heard in the hundreds of small noises of a concert hall: someone shifting in her chair, someone coughing, someone else turning the page of a program. His experimental ideas about music and composition are still considered controversial by many.
America, Composers, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends

Jimmy Reed

Arts Days: September 06, 1925: Bluesman Jimmy

With his harmonica slung around his neck and his electric guitar in his grip, Jimmy Reed sang the blues like nobody else had before. Like the words he typically sang in his distinctive singing style, his music kind of loped along, even as it set listeners’ toes tapping.

Writing songs covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Reed captured everyday people’s joy and pain in songs like “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and “Bright Lights, Big City.” These tunes, simple at first listen, hooked you with their melodies and with the emotion with which Reed delivered them. His music, honest and catchy, brought the blues to a whole new audience.


America, Blues, Music, Music Legends

Buddy Holly

Arts Days: September 07, 1937: Rock’s Best Buddy
Buddy Holly started singing and playing instruments as a child. At 18, he heard Elvis Presley perform; later that year, he was opening for Elvis and generating buzz for his rockabilly music, which combined elements of bop, country, and rock.

Though his life ended at age 22 in a plane crash, he had an outsized influence on early rock and roll. For example, along with his band, the Crickets, Holly helped make the standard rock band lineup that has stuck to this day: two guitars, one bass, and drums. He also was one of the first rock-and-rollers to write, produce, sing, AND play on his own songs. And oh boy, did he crank out a lot of rock standards: “Every Day,” “That’ll Be The Day,” and “Peggy Sue” are just a few.
America, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Kelly Clarkson

Arts Days: September 04, 2002: Idol Maker
Something like 50 million people were watching the night Kelly Clarkson was chosen the winner of the first season of American Idol. This wildly successful, interactive singing competition counts on viewers calling or texting in votes for their favorite singers to help determine who will make it to the next round.

The popular show helped launch Clarkson’s career, just as it has with other winners in subsequent years. The show’s judges—originally Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul—helped shape viewers’ voting with their blunt feedback on the performances, which can range from pathetic to magnificent.
Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists, Music, America

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Arts Days: September 02, 1995: Rock Solid
With exhibits looking at, say, the life and music of Elvis Presley or the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aims to celebrate rock music in all its forms. Founded by Jann Wenner, longtime editor of Rolling Stone magazine, the site also collects and preserves rock music through its educational programs and archives.

For years before the actual museum existed, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation nominated musicians to be part of the Hall of Fame. One qualification: artists are only eligible for induction 26 years after their first recording. Those fortunate enough to be inducted have their names added to a spire inside the spectacular glass pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei.
Art Venues, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music, Architecture

The John F. Kennedy Center

Arts Days: September 08, 1971: America’s Home for the Arts
In 1958, President Eisenhower signed legislation to build a national cultural center in Washington, D.C. Yet in the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Congress decided that the center would be a “living memorial” to our 35th president, who had worked tirelessly to elevate the role of the arts in America.

Opening night saw the debut performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, written in memory of the fallen president; other performers included the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Berkshire Boys Choir. Since that night, the Center has welcomed and entertained millions as the finest performers from around the globe have graced its multiple stages. In addition, its Education Department touches more than 11 million young people, teachers, and parents each year.
Architecture, Art Venues, Backstage, Ballet, Choreographers, Composers, Dance, Dance Legends, America, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Opera, Theater

Francis Scott Key standing on ship

Arts Days: September 14, 1814: O Say Can You Sing?
Key was watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore by the British when he wrote a poem he called “Defence of Fort McHenry.” An important battle in the War of 1812 was raging, and Key was among those aboard American ships in the Chesapeake Bay. Rockets rained down all night on the fort, and Key wondered whose flag would be flying in the morning light.

Imagine his relief to see that “Star-Spangled Banner” waving above the fort the next day—tattered but proud. The poem was set to an existing tune and printed in several newspapers. It became very popular and was often played at public events. In 1931, President Hoover signed a law designating the song as our national anthem.
America, History, Military, Music, Poetry

Oh Susanna

Arts Days: September 11, 1847: America’s First Pop Hit
This American folk tune starts with lines that make absolutely no sense: “The sun so hot I froze to death/Susanna don’t you cry.” Yet Stephen Foster, the songwriter, was probably most concerned with just creating a hummable tune. And that he did. The song tells the story of a man going to New Orleans to see his beloved Susanna.

Filled with desire and longing, the man sings of dreaming of his love at night. Foster intended the song to be sung in minstrel shows, during which white performers often performed in blackface makeup. Traditionally the song is sung with only the accompaniment of a guitar and harmonica.
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

William “Count” Basie

Arts Days: August 21, 1906: The Count of Jazz
As a jazz bandleader, pianist, and composer, Count Basie had few peers. He learned to play piano as a youngster, making up music to go with the early silent films of the day.

Working in Harlem and Kansas City, Missouri, Basie absorbed the regional styles of jazz into his own signature “jumping” sound, which referred to his spare piano, pulsating rhythm section, and riffs—a series of notes that are repeated throughout a song—created by his horn players. His band was less formal than others, demonstrating a new lightness and solo originality.

This 1981 Kennedy Center Honoree made jazz history night after night in concert halls and clubs around the world.
America, Composers, Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Gene Kelly

Arts Days: August 23, 1912: Dancing Up a Storm
Dancer, actor, choreographer, boyishly handsome good guy—that was Gene Kelly, the fellow who bought a one-way ticket to New York City when he was a young man and soon landed a Broadway lead.

Kelly pushed for Hollywood to make more musicals and wound up dominating the musical revival in the 1940s and 50s. In timeless movies like Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, Kelly’s elegant dancing stole the show.

He made it look so easy, yet his dancing demanded great strength, technical skill, and expression. In his choreography and in his performances, he melded everything from classical ballet to jazz to athletic prowess to tap dancing. And by the way, he could sing, too.
America, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars

Woodstock Poster

Arts Days: August 18, 1969: Give Peace a Chance
Who knew that a weekend-long, live music festival slated for a farm in upstate New York would become a cultural touchstone for untold numbers of people?

The Yasgur dairy farm north of Woodstock, N.Y., was the scene for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a three-day long celebration that featured acts like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, and Carlos Santana. Woodstock, as it came to be known, was attended by half a million people, by some estimates.

Some feared that such a large crowd would lead to roads shutting down from traffic or riots breaking out, but the event was remarkably peaceful, which is just what the organizers had wanted.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Art Venues, Music, Popular Culture

Charlie Parker

Arts Days: August 29, 1920: Rare Bird
As a musician who could improvise jazz and blues music on the fly, Charlie “Bird” Parker has few equals. With his alto saxophone and his deep reservoir of talent, Parker thrilled listeners with his playing on tunes like “Ko-Ko” and “Billie’s Bounce.”

He was one of the leading developers of bebop, a jazz form featuring four or five musicians, fast tempos, and jagged-sounding, complex melodies. He also crafted new ways of playing long solos that shattered the usual conventions. For example, he experimented with creating melodies using higher intervals of a chord than had traditionally been played.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Musical Instruments

Itzhak Perlman

Arts Days: August 31, 1945: A Violin Virtuoso
Violin superstar Itzhak Perlman’s musical genius has brought new appreciation of both the delicacy and power of the instrument to legions of listeners.

After studying violin at New York’s Julliard School, young Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut at the tender age of 18. He often performs solo, other times in small ensembles—such as the group playing at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009.

Either way, it is this virtuoso’s sheer love of music—be it classical, baroque, romantic, or modern—coupled with his flawless technique that caused a critic from The New Yorker to write that Perlman’s playing was “everything one wants a violin sound to be.”
Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends

Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C.

Arts Days: August 28, 1975: Rock 'n' Rap
When the rock band Aerosmith cut this single in the mid 1970s, they probably didn’t know they were setting the stage for a mash-up of rock and rap a decade down the road.

In 1986, Aerosmith worked with rap duo Run-D.M.C. to make a new version of the song. Its tempo and rapid-fire lyrics lent themselves well to the full rap treatment. Aerosmith’s singer Steven Tyler and both halves of Run-D.M.C.—Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels—shared singing/rapping duties on the new version.

The fun video for the remake—in which Tyler feigns indignation at the interlopers rapping his song, then dances with them—only helped the song rocket up the charts. It was the first major hit featuring the melding of rock and rap music.
America, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop

Leonard Bernstein

Arts Days: August 25, 1918: Bernstein’s Bold Baton
You might find it odd that Leonard Bernstein was the first American-born and trained music director of the New York Philharmonic. But historically speaking, he was also the first American classical music conductor to earn worldwide acclaim.

Bernstein, who was awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 1980, was applauded for his ability to convey all the facets of a composer’s music and its meaning when he was conducting—or when he was teaching at his Young People’s Concerts. He also wrote orchestral pieces, ballet scores, choral and chamber music, the score for the film On the Waterfront; and of course, the music for Broadway’s Candide and West Side Story.

Held in extremely high regard by musical colleagues, Bernstein’s passion and intensity for conducting, writing, and playing music never ebbed over his lengthy career.
America, Composers, Broadway, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Orchestra

Madonna

Arts Days: August 16, 1958: Lady Madonna
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born into a large Italian-American family with a strong Catholic faith. Yet she has said that her ethnic and religious roots fed her desire to rebel. Among other things, she dropped out of college to move to New York and dressed provocatively, often mixing religious icons with her revealing stage outfits.

In songs she wrote such as “Like a Prayer” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna pushed lyrical boundaries; and in her popular videos on MTV, she made polished, sometimes controversial mini-movies to go with her songs.

A string of dance-able hits and a charismatic personality, plus her chameleon-like ability to change her look and style from one record to the next, have made Madonna one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
America, Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Fashion

The Bee Gees

Arts Days: August 07, 1971: Band of Brothers
The wistful ballad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” topped the U.S. charts on this day. The song was cut off the Bee Gees’ ninth album, Trafalger, and is the perfect showcase of the Australian brothers’ breathy harmonies and synthesizer-heavy arrangements. Brothers Robin, Maurice, and Barry Gibb cultivated a clean-cut image, often sporting matching suits as they sang their pop-rock hits, most of which they wrote themselves.

Not long after this song was released, a producer named Arif Mardin worked with the lads to make their music more danceable. He also encouraged Barry to sing falsetto. Both of these tweaks paved the way for the Bee Gees to reach the pinnacle of their career with “Jive Talkin’,” “You Should be Dancing,” and, of course, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet

Arts Days: August 04, 1901: Horn of Plenty
The great trumpeter Louis Armstrong soaked up all the pains and joys of a young man growing up poor and unequipped yet possessing an extraordinary musical talent. These emotions can be clearly heard in the jazz music he grew up to both play and sing.

There's little doubt that Armstrong was the most gifted and influential trumpet soloist in the history of the instrument. His innovations included playing high notes that had never been hit before, and holding these notes for long periods of time; creating vibrato or trembling sounds with his lips; and experimenting with rhythm to make music move, or "swing."

Armstrong's combination of singing and playing (both trumpet and cornet), plus his larger-than-life personality, made him one of the world's greatest and most memorable solo entertainers.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments

MTV Logo

Arts Days: August 01, 1981: Video Kills the Radio Star
The original concept for the cable television network MTV—short for Music Television—was simple: the channel featured non-stop, around-the-clock music videos by big name pop stars like Madonna, Depeche Mode, and Michael Jackson.

Overnight, MTV was a hit sensation among young people and grownups alike. As the channel’s influence grew, it became essential for performers to produce a music video to go along with any new song release. Over time, these videos have gotten more and more elaborate, and are produced like mini-movies, complete with incredible sets, costumes, and plots.
Innovators & Pioneers, Rock & Roll, Television, Popular Culture, Music

Benny Carter

Arts Days: August 08, 1907: They Call Him “King”
What aspect of jazz did the great Benny Carter not master? This 1996 Kennedy Center Honoree played alto sax, clarinet, and trumpet. He composed and arranged songs, some of which, like “When Lights are Low,” are now considered jazz standards. And he was an in-demand bandleader for much of his career.

Largely self-taught, Carter began playing in Harlem nightspots in his teens. At 21, he made his first recordings with Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra, and in the 1930s, he lived in and toured Europe, spreading the gospel of this uniquely American music form.

This jazz legend shaped the big-band jazz sound more than just about any other musician before or since. As jazz great Miles Davis once said, "Everyone should listen to Benny Carter. He's a whole musical education."
America, Music, Music Legends, Jazz

Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz

Arts Days: August 15, 1939: The Great and Powerful Oz
The Wizard of Oz, based on a book by L. Frank Baum, is one of the most spectacular fantasy musicals Hollywood ever generated. Surely the audience gasped in delight when Dorothy opened the door of her twister-flung farmhouse for her first peek at Oz and the black-and-white image erupted into glorious Technicolor.

Between the antics of the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man; the green fury of the Wicked Witch of the West; and the bluster of the Wizard himself before he is revealed as a fake, there is much to savor about this gem of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards.®
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Popular Culture

Giacomo Puccini

Arts Days: December 22, 1858: For the Love of Opera
Are you surprised to learn that Giacomo Puccini was the latest in a long line of musicians in his family? For a while, he served as a church organist and choirmaster, but then he happened to enjoy a night at the opera: Verdi’s opera, Aida. Puccini was so inspired by what he heard and saw that he decided he, too, would compose operas.

He went on to create some of the world’s best-known ones, from La Boheme to Turandot. Over the next decade or so, Puccini composed what were arguably his three most successful operas in a row—Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La Boheme. Influenced by composers from Verdi to Richard Wagner, Puccini’s operas contain scores of passionate beauty and intensity.
Composers, Opera, Music Legends, Music, Musicals, Europe

Scene from Aida

Arts Days: December 24, 1871: Love on the Nile
One of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operas, Aida, made its debut in Cairo, Egypt at the Khedivial Opera House. Why there? Well, an Egyptian prince named Ismail Pasha had commissioned Verdi to write the opera in the first place, paying him 150,000 francs to do so—equivalent to about $32,000 today.

Verdi composed the music for the story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is enslaved in Egypt, and her star-crossed relationship with Radames, an Egyptian soldier. Interestingly, Verdi was miffed that no members of the general public were in attendance at this premiere, so he considered the performance in Milan, Italy, the following year to be its true debut.
Musicals, Opera, Africa, Composers, Music, Folklore

Loretta Lynn

Arts Days: December 28, 1970: Honky Tonk Woman
No kidding, Loretta Lynn really was the daughter of a coal miner. She grew up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the second of eight kids. The family was poor in cash but rich in love, and Lynn’s childhood provided the material she needed to write several of the songs on this record.

Her honesty and emotional delivery delighted her many admirers and converted lots of other people into country music fans. Over the years, this 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree has penned many more songs, often written with a strong feminist perspective, which had been pretty much unheard of in country music until she came around. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was also the name of Lynn’s autobiography and the movie about her life that stars Sissy Spacek.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Family, Folklore, Music, Popular Culture

Carollers

Arts Days: December 25, 1818: Shhh!
Two Austrians collaborated on the words and music to “Silent Night,” which has become one of the best-loved Christmas carols, sung in churches and by roving carolers the world over. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics, while an organist named Franz Gruber composed the melody.

On this Christmas night, the two played the song in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Surprisingly, while today it’s usually sung at a pace akin to that of a lullaby, the song had a more up-tempo rhythm back then. If you celebrate Christmas with your family, think about offering a round of caroling for your neighbors.
Music, Popular Culture, Europe

Beethoven

Arts Days: December 16, 1770: Music’s Master
Young Ludwig van Beethoven was first given music lessons by his dad, performing his first concert at age seven. He stunned listeners with his technical abilities on the piano and organ, impressing them even more when he produced his first composition at nine. The father of this child who would become one of the greatest classical composers in history hoped his son would follow in the steps of Mozart himself, who died when Beethoven was 21.

Beethoven went on to write symphonies, like No. 9 in D Minor, the first symphony written by a prominent composer to include a choral portion. Though he eventually went completely deaf, Beethoven’s genius was such that he still composed and conducted even when he could not hear a single note. Beethoven was a brilliant improviser, rule-breaker, and master of dramatic music.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Europe, Music, Orchestra

James Brown

Arts Days: December 07, 2003: The Godfather of Soul
Rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, jazz, rock and roll—James Brown took all of these genres and melded them together into an unmistakable blend of music all his own. Dubbing himself “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business” along the way, he certainly earned that title for his incredibly demanding performances.

During his legendary shows, he did splits, yowled, danced, fell to his knees—and oh yeah, he sang the whole time, too. Brown’s classics include “Papa’s Got a Brand-New Bag” and “Living in America,” to name just two; over the course of his 30-year career, he racked up 98 singles on Billboard’s R&B charts. Of those, 17 of them went to number one.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Blues, Music, Popular Culture

The Cotton Club

Arts Days: December 04, 1927: Setting Up Shop in Harlem
Go back to the corner of Lenox Avenue and 142nd Street in Harlem and the very night Duke Ellington and his orchestra first played for an adoring crowd at New York City’s Cotton Club. This evening marked the beginning of a tremendous four-year residency. Ellington and his musicians provided dance music for the club's performers, African American dancers in incredible costumes who performed songs, dances, and comedy routines for all-white, high-society audiences.

Ellington’s trumpet players, trombonists, and saxophonists—from Bubber Miley to Harry Carney—were each amazingly gifted in their own right; under Ellington’s direction, the orchestra melded into a rock-solid, jazz-playing unit. Soon enough, Ellington, his band, and their music were exposed to a national audience when these shows were broadcast weekly on WHN radio.
Art Venues, Jazz, Music, Composers, Music Legends, America

Thriller

Arts Days: December 02, 1982: A Monster Hit
Clocking in at almost 14 minutes, the mini-movie that accompanied Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller” was like no music video that had ever come before. Directed by film director John Landis and featuring voiceovers by famed actor Vincent Price, the video starred Michael Jackson as a young man on a date with his sweetie.

A cast of dancing zombies and a teenage werewolf with hideous yellow eyes are just a couple of the surprises filmed by Landis, who co-wrote the video with Michael himself. In December 2009, “Thriller” was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which referred to it as “the most famous music video of all time."
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Arts Days: December 08, 1925: The Ultimate Entertainer
Whether singing, acting, playing instruments, or tap-dancing, Sammy Davis, Jr. always performed with style and elegance. A Kennedy Center Honoree in 1987, Davis was just three years old when he made his vaudeville debut. In young adulthood, he played clubs, landed movie roles (including one in the original Ocean’s Eleven from 1960), starred on the Broadway stage, and even got his own TV program, The Sammy Davis Jr. Show.

Signed to Capitol, Reprise and several other record companies over the decades, Davis’ hit songs include “Mr. Bojangles” and “What Kind of Fool Am I.” His friendships with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other big stars of the day earned him a place in the Rat Pack, a crew of Hollywood hotshots who partied and performed together.
Movies & Movie Stars, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, Dance, Dance Legends

Pérez Prado

Arts Days: December 11, 1916: Mambo King
Of Mexican and Cuban heritage, Pérez Prado helped bring Latin music to whole new crowds of listeners around the globe. The “King of the Mambo” played piano and led bands throughout his career, including the Pérez Prado Orchestra—today led by his son, Perez Prado, Jr. in Mexico City. And, he wrote music for people to dance the mambo, better known today as salsa dancing.

Prado described his mambo as being “an Afro-Cuban rhythm with a dash of American swing.” Makes sense. Prado’s best-known pieces, like “Mambo No. 5” and “Mambo Jambo,” had American audiences dancing in the aisles of his concerts, which often sold out.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Dance, Music, Latin America

Rockband

Arts Days: November 20, 2007: Band Aid
First issued for Xbox and PlayStation, this video game lets players indulge in their rock and roll fantasies. Each player is rated on his or her ability to play music notes accurately using peripherals, or devices shaped like drums, guitars, and microphones. The game knows and alerts you when you’re singing off key or falling behind in tempo on the “drum kit.”

A team of players can form a band and compete together, earning points collectively against another team. Rock Band is not just a lot of fun to play, but it's helped expand people’s interest in learning to sing and play actual instruments. So, dream on because you never know, today’s Rock Band players may be tomorrow’s newest rock stars.
Inventions, Rock & Roll, Musical Instruments, Music, Popular Culture

Lillian Russell

Arts Days: November 22, 1880: Broadway’s Beauty
In the late 1870s, 18-year-old Helen Louise Leonard arrived in New York City in the hopes of becoming an opera star. After a bit role in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, the beautiful blonde singer was discovered by theatre owner Tony Pastor. He changed her name and introduced her on opening night as “Lillian Russell, the English Ballad Singer.”

Russell’s gorgeous soprano and voluptuous figure earned her the nickname “America’s Beauty,” and she kept the press busy with her penchant for living life to the fullest. Russell starred in more than 24 musical comedies, many of which were written expressly for her. While none of her musicals are performed today, Lillian Russell is still remembered as one of the early 20th century’s most important Broadway stars.
Broadway, Theater, America, Musicals, Opera, Music Legends, Music

W.C. Handy

Arts Days: November 16, 1873: Father of the Blues
William Christopher Handy, who composed “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues,” among many others, was one of the first professional musicians to play the blues, a distinctly American musical genre. But he did more than most to elevate awareness of the blues; he helped popularize the sound beyond its traditional African American roots to a wider, commercial audience.

When Handy and his band moved to Memphis, Tennessee, his career took off, especially with the release of “Memphis Blues,” a tune he published in 1912 that many consider the first blues song. During the 1920s, Handy formed his own music publication company, a business that proved quite lucrative and also brought him great fame.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Blues, America, Music

Le Chat Noir

Arts Days: November 18, 1881: Come to the Cabaret
Today you think of these clubs as famous nightspots where celebrities like to hang out in Hollywood or New York. But back in Paris in the late 19th century, they were referred to as cabarets, and Le Chat Noir was perhaps the most legendary. Located in Paris’ fashionable, bohemian Montmartre neighborhood, Le Chat Noir, or “The Black Cat,” was envisioned by owner Rodolphe Salis as part nightclub, part salon.

Seated at crowded tables were well-known Parisian celebrities and their artist associates from around the world. On any given night, you could rub elbows with painter Pablo Picasso, composer Claude Debussy, or perhaps Jane Avril, the can-can dancer whom Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in several paintings. They and countless others would talk, drink, flirt, and enjoy live performances. The party lasted until 1897, when the place closed up shop.
Art Venues, Europe, Popular Culture, Musicals

Jukebox

Arts Days: November 23, 1889: Music On Demand
When patrons arrived at San Francisco’s Palais Royal Saloon, they found a curious, cabinet-like object that played music. It was built by the Pacific Phonograph Company and had tubes poking out of it; up to four listeners at a time could pick up a tube and listen to the same tune being played. Of course, they had to drop a coin into a slot near each tube to hear a thing.

The man who installed the jukebox at this bar, Louis Glass, dubbed the machine the “nickel-in-the-slot” player. It was a big hit at the Saloon, and word soon spread from city to city of this amazing song-playing machine. By putting musical choice in the hands of patrons, jukeboxes revolutionized the way people listened to music.
Inventions, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Robert Johnson

Arts Days: November 27, 1936: Deal with the Devil
Revered amongst blues musicians and rock stars alike, Robert Johnson lived a life far too short to accommodate his ample talent. What’s more, there are few, if any, letters or other documents to give us a clear picture of the man. One thing is for sure: When the 25-year-old recorded this song, he fueled a powerful legend with which his name has long been associated.

Some say the song is about a pact Johnson made with the devil to give up his soul at a metaphorical crossroads in exchange for his amazing blues guitar skills. But other historians point out that the song is actually about the dangers a black man faces, walking alone after dark in the Deep South of the early 20th century, when the horrors of lynching were all too common.
Music Legends, Blues, Music, America, Musical Instruments, Folklore

Scott Joplin

Arts Days: November 24, 1868: The Ragtime King
Pianist and composer Scott Joplin was undoubtedly the best-known composer of ragtime, or “ragged time,” music. Ragtime’s main hallmark is its syncopated rhythms—marked by a stress on what would normally be an unaccented beat in the music, or a rest where there would normally be an emphasis. Popular in 19th-century dance halls, ragtime captivated music fans for a couple of decades before jazz became all the rage.

Audiences clamored for Joplin’s many compositions, like “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Pineapple Rag,” and “The Entertainer.” He even wrote a ragtime opera called Treemonisha. By combining natural piano talent and classical European training with the rich sounds of African American gospel hymns, spirituals, blues, and plantation songs, Joplin created a new American sound.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, America, Jazz

John Philip Sousa

Arts Days: November 06, 1854: Strike Up the Band
Everyone loves a good march, especially one written by American conductor/composer John Philip Sousa. Sousa was musically gifted in several ways: He had perfect pitch, meaning that he could identify notes and chords without any external references (like a pitch pipe) to guide him, and he could play many instruments.

He is best known for composing 136 military and patriotic marches. Marches were once used to keep soldiers in line during maneuvers; the cymbals and others instruments were thought to have an intimidating psychological effect on the enemy. Sousa’s marches, however, primarily served to entertain listeners and inspire patriotic sentiments. His Stars and Stripes Forever, full of cymbal crashes and piccolo trills, is the official march of the United States.
Composers, Music Legends, Military, America, Music

John Barry

Arts Days: November 03, 1933: A Musical Bond
John Barry had been working as a composer and record producer for several years when he caught a lucky, career-making break—he was hired to work on the music for a new movie called Dr. No. This was the first James Bond film ever made, and Barry’s arrangement of the “James Bond Theme” was soon tied to the very successful string of movies, starring Sean Connery as the suave British agent named Bond. James Bond. 

Barry went on to compose the scores for 11 of the next 14 Bond films, as well as music for other popular movies, including The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves. For these latter three, Barry took home the Oscars® for Best Original Score.
Composers, Music, Movies & Movie Stars, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mickey Mouse

Arts Days: November 13, 1940: Animation as Art
This artful melding of classical music and animation, Fantasia is perhaps one of the most interesting experiments in the history of feature animation. Walt Disney, fresh from successes like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, wanted to stretch animation beyond its traditional cartoon roots.

The film interpreted classical music through short bursts of animation, creating such classic sequences as Mickey Mouse’s star turn in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the fire and brimstone dance of Night on Bald Mountain. At this premiere, audiences listened to the film through Fantasound, a sound system that enriched the music by making it fuller and more dynamic. In 2000, Disney released a sequel of shorts with similar pairings of music and animation, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Rolling Stone Magazine

Arts Days: November 09, 1967: The Bible of Rock
Back then, it featured John Lennon on the cover and looked more like a newspaper than a magazine. The inaugural issue of Rolling Stone aimed to report not only on the performers and trends shaping rock and roll, but also, in the words of founder Jann Wenner, “the things and attitudes that music embraces.” As a result, the magazine has consistently printed long articles about politics, the environment, and other topics as well as influential record reviews and detailed question-and-answer pieces with top artists.

While on-staff at the magazine, photographer Annie Leibovitz helped shape the modern look of the publication. Her photos reveal surprising and controversial sides of world-famous celebrities, created through close collaboration with her subjects.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture, Literature, Controversial

Billboard Music Chart

Arts Days: July 20, 1940: Top of the Pops
It was called the “Music Popularity Chart,” when Billboard magazine started ranking songs in terms of their airplay and sales. Until then, there was no way to measure the popularity of pop songs relative to one another.

Suddenly record-company executives and musicians alike could keep track of how their songs were faring. They could cheer when their song hit number one—a thrilling moment for anybody. After all, the more a song is played, the more it is being purchased, and the more money the labels make. Well, you get the picture.

What was the first number-one? “I’ll Never Smile Again” by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with none other than Frank Sinatra singing lead.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

George Bernard Shaw

Arts Days: July 26, 1856: Voice of the People
Hmmm… could the fact that George Bernard Shaw started out as a newspaper arts critic have something to do with his interest in expressing his political and philosophical opinions freely?

In his 60 some plays, Shaw always found a way to criticize social mores by poking holes in the conventions of 19th century life. Pygmalion, upon which the smash Broadway musical My Fair Lady would later be based, examines class differences, while Major Barbara considers whether it is right to use money earned from the sales of weapons for charitable purposes.

Some of these satirical themes generated controversy among early theatergoers, but Shaw didn’t care. “My way of joking is to tell the truth,” he once said. Shaw’s “joking” earned him both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for My Fair Lady.
Literature, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Sony Walkman

Arts Days: July 01, 1979: Whistle While You Walk
For decades, home stereo systems were big and unwieldy, with separate turntables, tape players, speakers, and other components. So when the Japanese corporation Sony developed a portable stereo system it called the Walkman, consumers were skeptical.

Sony embarked on a huge marketing campaign to raise awareness of its little stereo that came with a set of padded earphones and could accommodate a cassette tape. The company hired college kids to walk around busy shopping areas in Tokyo, wearing their Walkmans and offering strangers a chance to listen.

Turns out the sound quality was excellent, and the freedom to carry your tunes with you exhilarating. In changing the way we carry and listen to music, the Walkman set the stage for today’s MP3 players, which manage to make the Walkman look enormous.
Inventions, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Japan, Music

George Cohan

Arts Days: July 03, 1878: Yankee Doodle Cohan
Though documents tell us otherwise, George Cohan insisted all his life that he was actually born on the Fourth of July—better to tie into the spirited patriotic songs he wrote like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

No matter what day he was really born, Cohan’s singing and dancing legacy began at a young age when he and his family cavorted around the nation on the vaudeville circuit. In his teens, he was churning out musical comedies in which music and dance advanced the plot in some way—a new way of writing a play and a source of many of his Tin Pan Alley hits.

Few performers on the Broadway stage made a greater mark than Cohan on the history of musical comedy.
Composers, Musicals, America, Broadway, Music, Music Legends

Louis Armstrong

Arts Days: July 08, 1922: When Satchmo Went North
Born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter who profoundly influenced the development of jazz music, both with his instruments as well as with his gravelly, instantly recognizable voice.

With the encouragement of his mentor Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong left the south, joining thousands of other young African Americans in search of better job prospects in Chicago. As people secured work, they found they had money to spend in their free time—and they would often go listen to music.

In jazz clubs around the city, Armstrong’s star was on the rise. He played with Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and musicians in New York, and then returned to Chicago to make his first recordings. Far from home, Armstrong blazed a trail countless other musicians would one day follow.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz, Music, Musical Instruments

Arthur Laurents

Arts Days: July 14, 1918: From Brooklyn to Broadway
Arthur Laurents, the playwright and lyricist who wrote the book for West Side Story, one of the world’s most beloved musicals, had another source in mind when he conceived of the tragic tale of Maria and Tony. He was thinking of Shakespeare and his play, Romeo and Juliet, and this pair of lovers whose family conflicts stand in the way of their feelings for one another.

Though the theme wasn’t new, Laurents set his characters’ love affair in an urban setting, with rival gangs standing in for the families Shakespeare had put at odds. Laurents worked closely with composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim to create the Broadway version of West Side Story.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Musicals, Theater, Shakespeare

The Rolling Stones I can't get no Satisfaction

Arts Days: July 10, 1965: Satisfaction Guaranteed
That blistering riff from Keith Richards’ guitar kicks off “Satisfaction,” a rock-and-roll song that shook up a lot of teenagers and alarmed some parents with its provocative lyrics. Richards and his fellow Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger, wrote the song together, with Jagger adding lyrics about a very different theme: the push he had seen while in America for material possessions.

The song hit number one on this day and stayed there for a month. It is also an example of the sensation created by a hit record.
Rock & Roll, Controversial, Music, Popular Culture

Johann Sebastian Bach

Arts Days: March 21, 1685: Bach Star
One of the greatest classical composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote music we identify as belonging to the Baroque period, a century and a half (1600-1750) of European compositions that tend to be elaborate pieces with innovative, complex instrumentation. From the Brandenburg Concertos to the Mass in B Minor, Bach wrote ornate pieces of music for orchestras as well as for single instruments (such as the Sonata for Solo Violin).

He also wrote complex choral pieces like the St. Matthew Passion, which set part of the gospel according to Matthew to music and is meant to be sung by large groups of singers, accompanied by an orchestra. A trained and talented organist, Bach liked to write music that would fill up a huge concert hall or church.
Composers, Europe, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends

Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Stephen Sondheim

Arts Days: March 22, 1930 and 1948: Two of a Kind
If you displayed the pages of music written by these two legendary Broadway composers who share a birthday, it would stretch around the block many times over—sort of like the crowds standing in line at their shows. Sondheim’s brought us Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and Sunday in the Park with George, among others. He also wrote the breakthrough lyrics for West Side Story, which premiered in 1957 and marked his big break.

For his part, Lloyd Webber has no less musical theater credentials. In Cats and Phantom of the Opera, his songs “Memory” and “The Music of the Night,”  plus “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, showcase Webber’s standard composing style, which melds together elements of rock, jazz, pop, and classical music.
Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Composers, Theater

John Kander

Arts Days: March 18, 1927: Razzmatazz On Broadway
Along with lyricist Fred Ebb, the composer John Kander created some of the most memorable tunes you’ll ever hum. Like “New York, New York”—Kander came up with that unforgettable melody and Ebb added the words. The men also collaborated on the musicals Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and others. Together they understood the conventions of musical theater better than just about anyone.

But it wasn’t always that way. Kander wrote the music for a show called A Family Affair in 1962. Kander clicked with the show’s producer Harold Prince, who thought he was a terrific musician and hired him and Ebb to write the music and lyrics for Flora, the Red Menace. In 1966, their work on Cabaret led to the Tony Award® for Best Musical. For nearly five decades, Kander and Ebb were the longest running musical/lyricist partnership in Broadway history.
Backstage, Broadway, Composers, Music, Musicals, Music Legends, Theater

Nutcracker

Arts Days: March 19, 1892: A Winter Wonderland
The most popular ballet of all time is quite an international affair. Consider this: The story behind The Nutcracker was by a German writer, E.T.A. Hoffman. The music was written by a Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. And the dance steps of the version you are most likely to enjoy this Christmas were created by Frenchman Marius Petipa.

On this day, Tchaikovsky chose several pieces of his score to perform at an event offered by the St. Petersburg branch of the Musical Society. While the music was incredibly well-received, the version of the ballet we know and love today—filled with delicious dances from the Land of Sweets, performed by the Sugar Plum Fairy and dozens of others—did not emerge for another 60-odd years.

Enjoying the ballet’s fantastic sights—a sparkling Christmas tree shooting up into the rafters, the Nutcracker turning into a prince, and the Mouse King in battle—is a holiday ritual for many families around the world.
Ballet, Dance Legends, Dance, Music, Composers

The King and I

Arts Days: March 29, 1951: Culture Clash
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had collaborated on five other musicals, including The Sound of Music, by the time they turned out the words and music for The King and I. The musical starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, an Englishwoman hired by the King of Siam (today we call it Thailand), to teach reading, writing, and speaking English—to his children.

King Mongkut was played by Yul Brynner, a Russian actor who shaved his head for the stage role. Tackling a range of complex issues, from cultural clashes to gender roles, The King and I included the well-known “Getting to Know You,” a touching song about making new friends. The show ultimately went on to win the Tony Award® for Best Musical.
Broadway, Musicals, Theater, Popular Culture

Aretha Franklin

Arts Days: March 25, 1942: The Queen of Soul
Considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time, Aretha Louise Franklin has wowed audiences with her powerful voice from the time she was a small child singing gospel songs in church. This singer/songwriter has mastered the music of many genres: soul, rock, and jazz among them, racking up 20 Grammy Awards® along the way. Franklin’s also had 20 #1 singles on Billboard’s R&B chart to date.

In 1967, “Respect” rocketed up the charts, vaulting Franklin to superstardom. Though her career lagged in the mid-1970s, she returned to her gospel roots—and to renewed success—with the 1987 album called One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. That same year, the versatile singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the first woman to ever achieve that distinction.
America, Music Legends, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Birthday cake

Arts Days: March 04, 1924: A Song is Born
You’ve probably sung the most popular song in the English language more times than you can count. It’s said that the melody of the tune is borrowed from a song called “Good Morning to All,” written in 1893 by Patty and Mildred Hill, sisters and kindergarten teachers from Kentucky.

All they wanted to do was create a song easy for five-year-olds to sing. They never copyrighted the song, meaning they never registered it as their work. But an editor named Robert Coleman published the song in a book, adding a second verse to the “Good Morning to All” tune that features the words we all know. And from then on, “Happy Birthday” has stuck in a big way.
Music, Popular Culture

Frederick Chopin

Arts Days: March 01, 1810: Mr. Piano Man
Imagine writing complicated pieces of music when you are only seven years old. Someone who can do that—like Frederick Chopin—is called a prodigy, someone who at a young age displays amazing skills in music, art, or something else.

Chopin developed new ways of playing the piano that today are at the heart of what we call “Romantic music”—the term given to expressive, complex music written in Europe in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries.

Chopin also was known for his gifts at improvising where he would make up new combinations of notes in the course of playing something he had written already. Chopin’s last public performance took place in London in November 1848 where he played for fellow Polish refugees.
Composers, Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends, Europe

Star-Spangled Banner

Arts Days: March 03, 1931: Long May It Wave
On this March day, President Herbert Hoover signed a law officially designating this song as our national anthem. But let’s back up more than 100 years to tell the whole story.

The poem that gave rise to the song was written by Francis Scott Key as he observed—with much anxiety—the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814 by the British navy. Key’s poem about the American flag that “yet waved” after the attack was printed in several newspapers.

Later, it was set to a popular melody by (ironically) a British composer named John Stafford Smith. The subsequent song became very popular and was frequently played at public events like parades. Also, soldiers in the U.S. Army and other members of the military often played it each time the flag was raised and lowered.
Composers, Poetry, America, Music

Mississippi John Hurt

Arts Days: March 08, 1892: Guitar Hero
Not long after the nine-year-old John Smith Hurt picked up his first guitar, he was in demand at barn dances. His style of playing is called finger-picking, which means the strings are plucked using fingers, not a guitar pick, and that the thumb provides the steady bass rhythms on the lower strings.

Hurt was an excellent self-taught player who went on to make several blues and old-time recordings for Okeh Records (which gave him his nickname); but when the Great Depression drove the record label out of business, Hurt returned to Mississippi and worked on farms, playing occasionally at parties.

But a musicologist named Tom Hoskins loved Hurt’s records so much that he tracked him down in Mississippi decades later, persuaded him to come back north and play a few shows, including the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The second act of his musical career began from here.
America, Blues, Music Legends, Music, Musical Instruments

Quincy Jones

Arts Days: March 14, 1933: On Q
Quincy Jones, a 2001 KC Honoree, wears an extraordinary number of hats in musical genres from jazz to hip-hop. As a composer, he’s created music for movies like The Color Purple and The Pawnbroker, and TV shows like The Cosby Show. As an arranger, he’s shaped songs for artists ranging from Peggy Lee to Sarah Vaughan. As a record producer—someone who oversees a recording from start to finish—he enjoyed unparalleled success working on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Off the Wall, which have collectively sold tens of millions of copies. Playing his trumpet, Jones toured the world in the 1950s with Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats. And as a conductor, he led Frank Sinatra’s band and others in live concerts and recordings.
Music Legends, Music, Hip-Hop, Jazz

Simon and Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence cover

Arts Days: March 10, 1964: The Silent Sound of Success
After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, singer/songwriter Paul Simon was among the artists who sought to sort through their emotions about the event in a creative way. When he finished writing “The Sounds of Silence,” he showed it to Art Garfunkel, his musical singing partner. The two began performing it in their live shows in and around New York City and also put it on their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Unfortunately, the record flopped, and the pair broke up. But a year later, the duo’s record producer remixed the song with new instruments, including drums and electric bass and guitar—without asking Simon or Garfunkel. The song rose to number-one, they reunited, and recorded a new full-length album called The Sounds of Silence. It is considered one of the greatest folk rock albums of all times.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: February 22, 1956: King Tops the Charts
It’s no surprise Elvis Presley, or the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” knew how to make an entrance: His first single to enter the music charts, “Heartbreak Hotel,” not only hit the number one spot, it was also the best selling single of the year.

The song introduced Elvis’ original rockabilly sound, or the up-tempo fusion of country and blues music. That combined with his uninhibited stage and television performances quickly made him a household name. Following the release of “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis remained influential in rock music for decades.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Saturday Night Fever

Arts Days: February 16, 1979: Disco Fever… Can You Dig It?
Who’d have thought that a movie about a Brooklyn kid in a white suit trying to win dance contests would kick off a disco phenomenon? Well, actor John Travolta boogied down as 19-year-old Tony Manero in this classic movie, whose music—about half of which was performed by the Bee Gees, a trio of brothers from Down Under—swept the nation in 1979, and never really went away.

In songs like “Jive Talkin’” and “You Should Be Dancing,” the Brothers Gibb (get it? B-Gs) exhorted listeners to forget their day-to-day troubles to the flashing lights and thumping tunes of discothèques, which were springing up all over New York City and other urban centers.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Dance, Music, Movies & Movie Stars

Vaudeville Theatre

Arts Days: February 28, 1883: Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Cry
Vaudeville was a type of variety show with a bunch of back-to-back quick skits: A singing, tap-dancing man up first, then a dog riding a bike, then a few folks doing a comedy routine. And on and on for hours. If you could spin plates, sing well, or imitate various animal sounds, you, too, might have wanted to jump up on stage!

At its peak, thousands and thousands of performers worked the vaudeville circuit—a series of shows held at venues around North America. With everything from Yiddish theater to minstrel shows and contortionists to jugglers on the bill, vaudeville showcased the cultural diversity of 20th century America.

But vaudeville could not compete with the “moving picture show”—the form of entertainment we now call movies. Vaudeville shows went into a steep decline as movies became more popular.
America, Art Venues, Musicals, Theater, Comedy

Johnny Cash

Arts Days: February 26, 1932: The Man in Black
As a child, Johnny Cash “The Man in Black” sang gospel music with his family, but a record producer told him that those gospel tunes just wouldn’t sell. So Cash was spurred to write his first rock-inflected country songs, including “Cry Cry Cry.”

Cash soon signed to Sun Records where he recorded tons of new songs like “I Walk the Line,” a huge hit in 1956. Cash went on to record nearly 100 albums over the course of his career, leaving an indelible mark on American rock, country, folk, and pop music.

And why did he wear black onstage? There’s a clue in the lyrics of his song, “Man in Black”—“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down/Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town.” Johnny Cash was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1996.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Woody Guthrie

Arts Days: February 23, 1940: Music of the People, For the People
The great folk singer Woody Guthrie communicated his messages of social justice and human equality through his music. Living as he did through everything from the Great Depression to the Cold War, Guthrie commented on these and other events’ effects on everyday people, like the hunger many faced in the Dust Bowl years.

“This Land is Your Land” was written in response to the themes of “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin; Guthrie considered that patriotic song to be out of touch with the cares and joys of common folks. When he created the song, he borrowed the melody of an old hymn called “O My Loving Brother” and set his own words to it.

Guthrie didn’t record “This Land is Your Land” until 1943, but he tinkered with the verses over the years, adding new words here and there.
Innovators & Pioneers, Controversial, Music Legends, Music, Folklore, America, Poetry

Minstrel show

Arts Days: February 06, 1843: Minstrel Stage Debut
As a uniquely American form of musical entertainment in the 19th century, minstrel shows would shock most people today for the racist caricatures they exploited. White performers uses burnt cork to darken their faces and hands, mocked black people as lazy and ignorant, and, pretending to be slaves working for white masters, danced and sang songs about life on the plantation.

On this day, at the Bowery Theater, the Virginia Minstrels—four performers led by Dan Emmett—performed what’s considered to have been the first full-length minstrel show, or “minstrelsy."
Controversial, Theater, Musicals, America

The Beatles

Arts Days: February 07, 1964: Beatlemania, American-Style
Upon exiting New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the four lads from Liverpool, England, were probably a bit shocked to witness thousands of teenage girls welcoming them by screaming, weeping, and, yes, even fainting.

They came to America to perform on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show, which promised to introduce the Fab Four to lots of new fans. No doubt British kids were already well aware of the band through hits like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Well, it turned out that across the pond, Beatlemania was spreading just as fast. It’s hard to believe, but the show’s producers received 50,000 requests for its little more than 700 seats—more than it had received for Elvis Presley's 1956 debut appearance. That Sunday night, 73 million Americans tuned in and were captured by this British Invasion.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Frank Sinatra

Arts Days: February 02, 1940: Hello, Old Blue Eyes
A young crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, caught a lucky break on this night while performing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

Frank Sinatra, whose vocal prowess, acting chops, and star quality would go on to earn him worldwide fame, was born to Italian immigrants in 1915. After hearing Bing Crosby sing, he worked hard to develop his voice and land local gigs.

While the kind of big-band music Dorsey favored was popular with an older crowd, Sinatra’s charm and talent lured younger people—especially teenage girls who hoped for a glance from the singer with the famous blue eyes. For over six decades, Sinatra’s great gift of combining effortless technique, innovative phrasing, and impeccable taste in song selection made what he did look oh-so easy.
Music Legends, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Ron McNair

Arts Days: February 03, 1984: Rocket Man
Who knew astronaut Ron McNair, one of the first African Americans ever to be accepted into NASA’s Space Shuttle program, excelled at a wide variety of things, including science and sports?

McNair was an expert on laser physics, an accomplishment that helped him land a place on the Space Shuttle Challenger’s 1984 mission. You remember, this was the craft that hurtled into space to deploy satellites and handle other research and communications tasks.

On this day, McNair—an accomplished jazz saxophonist—played his instrument in space to the delight of NASA colleagues listening at Mission Control. Sadly, McNair and six others would perish in the next, ill-fated Challenger deployment, which took place on January 28, 1986.
Music, Space, Musical Instruments, Innovators & Pioneers

King David Kalakaua

Arts Days: February 12, 1874: The King of Aloha
Before Hawaii became America’s 50th state, it was a monarchy ruled by King David Kalakaua I. Kalakaua is credited with helping to revive and support Hawaiian art forms like hula dancing; instruments like the ukelele; and martial arts, like Lua.

You see, some religious missionaries on the Islands thought these activities were improper. They had spent years before Kalakaua was elected to the throne trying to suppress various elements of Hawaiian culture, including its languages and art customs—even surfing!

But Kalakaua believed that these traditions and activities were important for native Hawaiians to learn, enjoy, and share with others to help keep Hawaii’s unique cultural history alive.  For his efforts, he was nicknamed “the Merrie Monarch.”
Dance, America, Geography, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Folklore, World Cultures

Johann Strauss II

Arts Days: February 09, 1867: Step, Slide, Step
Austria’s Johann Strauss, the Younger, would be absolutely amazed to know the extent to which his work “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” has endured as one of the best-known pieces of classical music.

At the time this 19th century successful composer and conductor, and son of Johann Strauss, The Elder, was known for his light dance music and operettas. But it was this waltz in particular, with its distinct melody and dance rhythms, that became the focus of every concert hall’s dance floor first in Vienna, and later in Europe.

In 1872, Strauss brought his Viennese waltz to America’s shores where the music and dance captivated the country. On this particular day, Blue Danube was performed at a concert of the Vienna Men’s Choral Association.

Strauss is credited with composing 500 waltzes, earning him the title of “Waltz King.”
Composers, Dance, Music, Orchestra, Europe

Placido Domingo

Arts Days: January 21, 1941: Phenom of the Opera
At age eight, operatic tenor Plácido Domingo moved to Mexico and attended the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. Originally, he studied piano and conducting, until his strong voice was discovered.

Domingo's voice is known for its versatility and dramatic tone throughout its wide range. He made his operatic debut in 1961 as Alfredo in La Traviata. Since then, he has performed for audiences all over the world and has appeared in more than 400 performances in 41 different roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Domingo has also made a name for himself as a conductor, leading musical forces from London's Covent Garden to New York's Metropolitan Opera and Washington's Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is also a 2000 Kennedy Center Honoree.
Music Legends, Opera, Music

High School Musical

Arts Days: January 20, 2006: Musical Theater’s Comeback
Sad but true, in a movie age of stunning special effects and computer animation, the days of musical theater seemed to take a back seat.

That is until the jump start sparked by Disney's original television film High School Musical, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that tells the story of Troy and Gabriella–two high school juniors from rival cliques that audition together for the high school musical.

The film premiered on this day in 2006 and since then has become a phenomenal sensation around the world.
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Brian Epstein

Arts Days: January 24, 1962: All You Need is Epstein
Hard to imagine, but The Beatles were initially turned away by almost every British record company. It seemed no one could sense their potential—no one except British music entrepreneur Brian Epstein.

While helping to run his family's music stores, Epstein first noticed The Beatles after seeing their posters strewn around Liverpool. Curious, he went to see them perform, and was immediately struck by the group's musical talent and sense of humor and charm on stage. He signed on as their manager, confident the band was destined for international success. He helped mold the group's image, encouraging them to wear suits and ties rather than blue jeans and leather jackets.

For the remainder of his life, Epstein worked closely with The Beatles, who grew to be one of the most commercially successful and critically-acclaimed bands of all time.
Rock & Roll, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

Princess Victoria of England

Arts Days: January 25, 1858: Nuptial Notes
Wedding bells rang on this day in 1858 at the marriage ceremony of Princess Victoria of England to Prince Friedrich of Prussia.

The princess walked down the aisle to German composer Richard Wagner's "Bridal Chorus," and after saying "I do," she and her new husband exited the church to the sounds of the "Wedding March" by German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

Overnight, these songs became the hot music selections for wedding processionals and recessionals. To this day, both songs remain popular, traditional choices in Western weddings.
Popular Culture, Music, Composers, Orchestra

Apollo Theater

Arts Days: January 26, 1934: Where Stars Are Born…
The Apollo Theater originally opened in 1913 as one of the city's leading burlesque venues for white-only audiences.

In 1932, powerful theatrical landlord Sydney S. Cohen purchased the theater and went to work refurbishing the entire venue. When it reopened its doors in 1934, patrons and performers of all races were welcomed.

The new Apollo Theater featured an "Amateur Night," which invited talented singers and dancers to the stage. "Amateur Night" helped launch the careers of numerous stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill.
Art Venues, Music Legends, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Arts Days: January 27, 1756: The Music Man
It's hard to imagine, but child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could play the keyboard and violin almost as soon as he could walk. He began composing original music at age five and was regularly invited to perform for European royalty.

At 17, he left his home to travel Europe in search of new musical opportunities. He stopped in Vienna, Paris, London, and Rome, where he observed and absorbed new musical forms and techniques.

Mozart's travels helped create his unique, versatile compositional language. He modernized the highly intricate Baroque style of music with advanced technical sophistication, enabling his works to reach new emotional heights.

In his lifetime, he created over 600 works and wrote in every major classical genre: symphony, opera, solo concerto, chamber music including string quartet and quintet, large-scale religious masses, choral music, dances, divertimenti, serenades, and the piano sonata.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Opera, Music, Orchestra

Benny Goodman

Arts Days: January 16, 1938: All Jazzed Up
Though jazz music originated in the early 1900s, it took several decades until it was commonly recognized as a serious musical form.

While there’s no way of putting an exact date on when this happened, jazz music did make history on this day in 1938. The prominent New York City music venue Carnegie Hall hosted its first jazz concert, performed by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Guest artists included Count Basie and members of the Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras.

Initially, Goodman was hesitant to play at Carnegie Hall fearing mainstream audiences were not ready to accept jazz music. He was happy to be proven wrong by the 2,760 sold-out seats.
Art Venues, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz

George Gershwin

Arts Days: January 07, 1924: George’s Big Break
At 15, American composer and pianist George Gershwin dropped out of school to pursue his passion for music. He got a job in New York City playing the piano for a popular music publisher, and immediately began writing his own music. He had his first national hit, "Swanee," at age 20, but it was another five years until he composed "Rhapsody in Blue."

Written in less than three weeks, the composition's soaring clarinet solo launched Gershwin’s career and began a new era in American music. He went on to write some of America's most popular and important original music, often for Broadway or the concert hall, including the musical scores for Funny Face, An American in Paris, and Porgy and Bess.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz

Long Playing record

Arts Days: January 04, 1950: The 19 Minute Gift
Before the arrival of the cassette tape and compact disc, the big breakthrough in music recording was the invention of the LP, or long-playing record. Up until this point, the standard record was able to hold only four minutes of music; the LP could play for 23 minutes. Thank you recording company RCA Victor for those extra 19 minutes.
Inventions, Math, Music, Popular Culture

The Andrews Sisters

Arts Days: January 02, 1942: Girls Rock and Rule
With a catchy, fast-paced melody and snappy lyrics, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" was a phenomenal hit during World War II, bringing the Andrews Sisters worldwide acclaim.

LaVerne, Maxene, and Patty were the most successful female vocal group of their time, recording 113 chart singles between 1938 and 1951. Their success helped pave the way for the "girl group era" of the mid-1960s, which included all-women vocal groups like The Supremes, The Shirelles, and The Ronettes and decades later, The Go-Gos and The Spice Girls.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music, America, Music Legends

Aretha Franklin

Arts Days: January 03, 1987: Show Some RESPECT
Let's have a standing ovation for "The Queen of Soul," Ms. Aretha Franklin, the first woman to be inducted on this very day into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for her ability to imbue songs with powerful emotion.

Never confined by musical genre, Franklin has sung the blues, R&B, soul, pop, and rock and roll. She is most recognized for her pioneering 1960s R&B records, many of which are considered among the most important and innovative R&B recordings ever made.

During the late 1960s and early 70s, she was awarded eight consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocalist. Franklin was also the youngest artist (at 52) to receive a Kennedy Center Honor back in 1994.
Music Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: January 08, 1935: Hail to the King
Elvis Presley, also known as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll," began playing guitar as a teenager and made his first musical recording in 1953. He was a pioneer of rockabilly, an up-tempo fusion of country and blues music. His original sound and uninhibited stage and television performances made him a household name by 1956, and he remained influential in rock music for decades.

Though his career included numerous film roles, he is best known for his music, including hits like "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender," "Don’t Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock." It is estimated he has sold over one billion record units worldwide, more than anyone in record industry history.
Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture

Radio

Arts Days: January 13, 1910: Turn It Up!
Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1896 invention of the radio, which was initially used by ships to communicate with stations on shore. Over a decade later, American inventor and opera lover, Lee de Forest, developed the radio receiver, bringing radio broadcasts to the public.

On this day in 1910, de Forest promoted the radio receiver by broadcasting a live performance of tenor Enrico Caruso from the Metropolitan Opera. At the time, only a small number of people owned radio receivers and could listen to the broadcast, which was sent over a telephone transmitter.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Math, Opera, Music

Hitsville USA, The birthplace of Motown

Arts Days: January 12, 1959: The Sound of Young America
Pioneer record label Motown Records played a major role in the racial integration of popular music. Founded on this day in 1959 by Berry Gordy, it was the first successful record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African American artists.

Among Motown's early artists were Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and The Jackson Five. The label specialized in "The Motown Sound," or pop music characterized by the use of tambourine back beats, prominent and melodic bass guitar chords and structures, and a call and response singing style originated in gospel music.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Hip-Hop, Rock & Roll, Music Legends, Music

Evita

Arts Days: January 10, 1996: Evita Hits the Big Screen
Casting catastrophe and celebrity coup? The film adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1978 Broadway musical Evita stars pop music singer Madonna and Spanish actor and singer Antonio Banderas. The story traces the life of Eva Perón, beloved Argentinean first lady and spiritual leader.

Prior to the film’s release, critics were skeptical of the casting, unsure if Madonna was best suited for the lead role. Evita, however, was warmly received and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.
Broadway, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Latin America, Popular Culture

Jaws

Arts Days: June 20, 1975: Something’s Fishy
When a killer shark decides to vacation at a tourist beach town, you clearly have the makings of the first summer blockbuster action film.

Director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws fast-paced, suspense-filled thriller came ashore on this June day, and caused waves of attention and ticket sales.  Even before the first sight of the lone fin sweeping through the water, composer John Williams’ theme music adds to the film’s sense of impending terror. Audiences quickly covered their eyes as the menacing great white begins to attack innocent swimmers, and as the adventure to track and destroy him tensely unfolds.
Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Animals, Composers, Music, Popular Culture

Smokey Robinson

Arts Days: June 19, 1973: That Velvet Voice
He’d been a soulful crooner since he was a kid, singing with other talented teens and later with super groups like The Miracles. But when Smokey Robinson (nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by his uncle) released his first solo recording, Smokey, he was carving a new artistic path for himself. Among the tracks on Smokey was “Sweet Harmony,” a valentine to The Miracles and the pleasures of singing with them.

At the time this record was released, Robinson was also serving as a vice president at Motown Records, the legendary Detroit label founded by Robinson’s close friend Berry Gordy. With his high tenor voice and ability to stir both joy and heartache with his songs, Robinson holds the nickname, “King of Motown.”
America, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Igor Stravinsky

Arts Days: June 17, 1882: Blazing Music's Trail
One of the greatest composers and conductors of 20th century music, Igor Stravinsky was urged by his parents to become a lawyer. But he was bitten by the musical bug as a child, attending concerts, learning to play piano, and most importantly, studying orchestration with his influential teacher, composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

At just 18, Stravinsky was hired to compose a score for the Ballets Russes. The Firebird, which met with critical and commercial success, was followed by more ballet scores, including Petrushka. His score for another ballet, The Rite of Spring, startled and even outraged listeners at its world premiere with its creative experimentation of chords and rhythms.

Stravinsky drew on Russian folk tunes in his works, but added elements that were completely his own, from new rhythmic patterns to polytonality, sounds that no one had ever heard before in symphonic music. Far ahead of his time, Stravinsky shook up people’s beliefs of what classical music was by reinventing modern music.
Ballet, Composers, Dance, Music, Music Legends, Orchestra

33 1/3 Record

JUne 18: June 18, 1948: More Music
From this day until about 1990, the primary format to sell music was the “LP.”

This black vinyl disc inscribed with grooves, produced music when it spun on a turntable, originally called a phonograph. An engineer who worked at Columbia Records named Peter Goldmark figured out how to fit more music on the LP. Also called “records” or “albums,” LPs could hold up to 30 minutes of music on each side, a huge leap over other formats that might hold three or four minutes’ worth of music per side. (By the way, that 33 and 1/3 measurement refers to the number of revolutions per minute (RPM) required for the music to sound as the performer had intended it to.)

Goldmark’s invention made it much easier for music fans to purchase affordable music and enjoy very good sound quality.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Mel Brooks

Arts Days: June 28, 1926: Blazing Laughter
He acts. He directs. He writes movies and songs. And he makes us laugh!

Mel Brooks is one of the funniest, most versatile fellows ever to grace a movie screen or write a tune. The shows he’s created, like The Producers and TV’s Get Smart series parodies everything from Adolf Hitler—yes, Hitler—to TV detective shows to scary movies. Brooks’s longtime creative partnership with actor Gene Wilder paved the way for some of his most popular comedies including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

Most importantly, Brooks used satire to push comedy a little bit further than anybody had before, sometimes leaving audiences a little bit shocked—but always laughing.
Broadway, Comedy, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars

Oliver

Arts Days: June 30, 1960: The Boy Who Asked for More
Drawing on themes and characters Charles Dickens created in his 1838 novel Oliver Twist, composer Lionel Bart wrote the words and music to a stage version of the story, which he called Oliver!

Dickens’s book was about Oliver, a lonely orphan boy, the adults who abused him with too much work and too little compassion, and a few kind people he meets along the way. Despite the serious subject matter, the infectious melodies of songs like Food, Glorious Food and Consider Yourself became lodged in listeners’ memories. In fact, Oliver’s modest request for more porridge—“Please sir, I want some more”—became one of the best-known lines to go straight from Dickens’s pen to Bart’s libretto.

Ultimately, Oliver’s happy escape from a cruel life to a happy one with his long-lost grandfather, delighted audiences.
Broadway, Musicals, Theater, Literature

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: June 05, 1956: A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On
Oh boy, did people go nuts when Elvis Presley appeared on this variety show hosted by “Uncle Miltie” (a.k.a. comedian Milton Berle). Performing his hit “Hound Dog,” Presley gyrated his hips, swung his arms, and caused kids in the studio audience to scream with delight. However, many parents and press members were scandalized by Presley’s performance; news reports the next day complained that his moves were “obscene.”

Overnight, the rising star earned the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.” Other TV hosts capitalized on the brouhaha Presley’s appearance had caused by booking him on their shows. Allen, who promised a “cleaned-up” version of Presley’s act, had him singing “Hound Dog” to an actual dog, which Presley went along with in a good-natured way.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Television

The Musical Grease!

Arts Days: June 07, 1972: Grease is the Word
Nobody thought that a musical about a bunch of working-class 1950s high school kids known as “greasers”—obsessed with fast cars, rock and roll, and each other—would go on to shatter Broadway records for the longest-running show. But it did and 3,388 performances later, Grease was still the word on everyone’s lips. Audiences followed the antics of a cute couple named Danny and Sandy and their pals as they sang and danced through summer-fling memories, teenage disappointments, and promises of eternal friendship.

The play, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, was loosely based on their own high school experiences and touched on some hard-hitting themes like gang rivalry and teenage pregnancy. But it was the music that had audiences dancing in the aisles and lining up to buy tickets year after year.
Broadway, Musicals, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Theater

Bruce Springstein, Born in the USA.

Arts Days: June 04, 1984: Red, White, and Bruce
If you’re not paying attention, the title track for the album, Born in the U.S.A., sounds like a rock anthem celebrating pride in being an American. But a closer listen reveals another message—one that questioned the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam War and reveals a sense of hopelessness. This title song and the others that comprised Springsteen’s seventh album—including “Glory Days,” “My Hometown,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “I’m Goin’ Down”—were filled with themes of yearning for the past or the search for the American dream.

Born in the U.S.A. was the best-selling record in 1985, one that vaulted Springsteen to a new level of commercial success, fueled by his hours-long live shows with his legendary E Street Band. Springsteen, a 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree, continues to write rock songs that refuse to shy away from complex or controversial themes, from unemployment to religion to relationships.
Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Elton John

Arts Days: June 03, 1969: Rocket Man Blasts Off
It’s hard to believe that with more than 200 million records sold, Elton John’s first album Empty Sky made a modest splash in his home country of England. While seven and eight minute songs like “Gulliver” and “Empty Sky” weren’t exactly radio-friendly, you could get a sense of John’s flair for writing a catchy melody—and as seen on the cover photo, his penchant for funky glasses.

His second record, Elton John, was the first to be released in the U.S. and is still often mistaken for his debut record. Even today, the album’s “Your Song” is considered one of John’s greatest hits. By combining songwriting duties with lyricist Bernie Taupin, with whom he began a lifelong creative partnership in 1967, John began a prolific career releasing knockout song after song and selling out stadium shows packed with tens of thousands of avid fans.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Player Piano

Arts Days: June 14, 1881: A Do-It-Yourself Piano
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, John McTammany, Jr. secured a patent for his “mechanical musical instrument,” a piano that was capable of reading the musical notes on thick rolls of paper and playing songs all by itself. Typically, the “autopiano,” as it was also known, had to have a way for air to move through it and for small pegs called hammers to strike the keys at the appropriate times.

While McTammany believed he had invented the “player” part of the piano, he didn’t take credit for the whole thing. In fact, many people over the 19th and 20th centuries had contributed bits of knowledge toward the progression in the instrument.
Inventions, Musical Instruments, Music

Cole Porter

Arts Days: June 09, 1891: The Great American Song Man
Composer/lyricist Cole Porter was playing violin by age six and the piano just two years later. He preferred the piano, and good thing, too. Some of the most sophisticated melodies and wittiest pop standards ever written came from Porter’s genius at the keys, everything from “Night and Day,” and “Begin the Beguine,” to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”—songs that have been recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Fred Astaire. Oh, and there were the musical comedy shows he created, too, such as Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, shows that are staged in theaters all over the world still today.

Porter was also one of the authors of “The Great American Songbook,” the body of musical works created for Broadway shows and musical theater between the 1920s and the 60s.
America, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Musicals

Judy Garland

Arts Days: June 10, 1942: A Star Is Born
At 13, singer/actress Judy Garland was signed to the MGM Studios—a bit old for a child star, but still on the young side for adult roles. But a series of movies with Mickey Rooney, such as Love Finds Andy Hardy, helped the studio find the right place for the teen, who shot to worldwide superstardom in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will always be identified with Garland.)

Her fans loved her voice so much that any movie in which she didn’t sing was pretty much guaranteed to disappoint at the box office. On the other hand, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls, filled with memorable songs, were big hits. Garland is still considered one of the greatest vocal interpreters of the 20th century.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Music Legends, Musicals, Music, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Strauss

Arts Days: June 11, 1864: A Pioneer of the Modern Movement
This composer of Romantic and early-modern works understood the workings of an orchestra like few others have before or since.

As a young man, he used to frequent rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra and take lessons in music theory with some of the conductors. Strauss’ training and own innate talent for writing complex orchestral pieces led him in new directions as he got older; he started writing “tone poems,” pieces of music inspired by and written about a painting, novel, or some other non-musical source (his first tone poem was Don Juan). In addition, at the turn of the 19th century, Strauss began composing operas. He conducted many orchestras and also explored dissonance, combining chords in ways that sometimes startled listeners.
Composers, Europe, Music, Music Legends, Orchestra

Marvin Gaye

Arts Days: May 21, 1971: Soul Man
In the 1950s and 60s, the silky tenor voice of Marvin Gaye moved easily from the pop stylings of “Ain’t That Peculiar” to the lush duet with Tammi Terrell “You’re All I Need to Get By.” But in 1971, Gaye released an album that showcased a new level of artistry and depth. What’s Going On was a concept album filled with songs that tackled the problems of the day: the Vietnam War, racism, environmental damage, unemployment, poverty, and other complex issues.

The album marked a groundbreaking achievement in recording history as Gaye’s phenomenal voice with its three-octave range coupled with difficult social and political issues. What’s more, with this album Gaye resisted Motown’s standard process of separating songwriters, singers, and producers on a project.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Shuffle Along

May 23: May 23, 1921: Breaking Broadway’s Barriers
The early 20th century ragtime and jazz musicians Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had a major hit on their hands when they co-wrote Shuffle Along, the first major Broadway musical by, for, and about African Americans. All told, the show ran for more than 500 performances. It played in Washington, D.C. and other locales before lighting up Broadway, where police were assigned on show nights to help ease traffic congestion.

Shuffle Along also made stars of dancers like Josephine Baker and singers like Paul Robeson. Many songs became popular hits. But by today’s standards, some aspects of Shuffle Along are offensive. For example, though the actors were all African American, they applied makeup to their faces to darken them further, and borrowed stock characters from minstrel shows. As the show’s popularity spread by word of mouth, the audiences were filled with black and white theater patrons alike.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Jazz, Controversial, Theater

Adolphe Sax

Arts Days: May 17, 1846: The Sax Man
Belgian-born Adolphe Sax not only played musical instruments, he invented new ones, too. When he was 15, he made and musically mastered his own flutes and clarinets, even entering them in contests. Only a few years later, a kind of bugle he created laid the groundwork for a new family of instruments called the saxhorns.

The saxophone that bears his name proved to be the pinnacle of his ingenuity. Designed for use in orchestras and concert bands, Sax envisioned it as a woodwind instrument similar to the clarinet and played with a mouthpiece composed of a single reed (a thin strip of material that vibrates inside an instrument to create its distinctive sound). Inventing this new instrument gave Sax greater credibility among musicians and teachers of music.
Inventions, Musical Instruments, Music

Bob Dylan

Arts Days: May 24, 1941: Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
When Robert Allen Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan he was a young college student playing local coffeehouses. Just like his folk hero Woody Guthrie, Dylan was obsessed with taking a road trip across the country.  And so two years later, Dylan dropped out of school and headed east, winding up in New York City, where he had two goals. First, become a professional musician, and second, meet Guthrie. He managed to do both.

He also managed to challenge the establishment and influence others with both his words and music. With protest songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and social commentaries including 1964's “The Times They Are A-Changin’” Dylan’s distinctive, nasal vocals became the voice of a generation. Bruce Springsteen has said Dylan essentially invented a new sound and “changed the face of rock and roll forever.”
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music