March 26 Webinar: “Folk Music and the New Deal”



Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 5pm-6pm Pacific Time

“Folk Music and the New Deal:
Collecting the Hidden Soundtracks of the Great Depression”

With Sheryl Kaskowitz and Catherine Hiebert Kerst.

Many people are familiar with the New Deal’s legacy in the visual arts, but the soundtracks left by its folk music collecting activities have remained largely unknown.

Beginning with a Music Unit within the Resettlement Administration in 1936 and continuing with the WPA California Folk Music Project in the late 1930s, the pioneering collector Sidney Robertson Cowell amassed hundreds of recordings that provide new insights into life during the Great Depression, as she followed her own interests in union protest songs and the folk music of ethnic immigrants. 

Music scholar Sheryl Kaskowitz is author of the forthcoming A Chance to Harmonize: How FDR’s Hidden Music Unit Sought to Save America from the Great Depression—One Song at a Time, (Pegasus Books, April 2024) the story of the Resettlement Administration’s Music Unit, a little-known program that laid the groundwork for a folk music revival that has had a lasting impact on American culture.

Catherine Hiebert Kerst, former Folklife Specialist and Archivist in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, is author of the forthcoming book, California Gold, Sidney Robertson and the WPA California Folk Music Project (UC Press, April 2024) about Sidney Robertson Cowell, whose fieldwork for the WPA documented the diverse musical culture of California.


Event details

Date: Tue. Mar 26th, 2024

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