Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Fine Arts

Department

Musicology

First Advisor

Ronald Pen

Abstract

This dissertation addresses the place of music in circuit chautauqua, the place of circuit chautauqua in American culture, and the role of music in defining that place. It takes into account the perception of chautauqua as a conduit by which higher culture and urban intellectual discourse could reach rural Americans, and the implications of this perception on musical programming.

The heyday of the circuit chautauqua movement (1904-1932) occurred during a time of considerable interaction between, and discussion of, entertainment and education in the United States. Music was important to the self-image of those involved in the entertainment and education industries, and especially to those who could not easily be labeled as either entertainers or educators. Chautauqua performers, and the chautauqua movement itself, held an uneasy position on the continuum between pleasing crowds and bettering audience members’ lives.

Music helped to define circuit chautauqua, both as an edifying factor and as an empty diversion. Popular music attracted crowds, while art music enhanced chautauqua’s image as a valid outlet for high culture. Music’s role in defining chautauqua’s identity was often more complex, however, as the lines between art and popular music, and thus between education and entertainment, were rarely clearly defined. Much of the programming billed as cultural outreach would have been more accurately labeled as novelty, while the popular music often espoused patriotism, loyalty, piety, and other sentiments that would cause audiences and critics to deem such music as edifying, if not purely educational. This dissertation seeks to clarify music’s role in establishing and maintaining circuit chautauqua’s reputation as a cultural conduit, an educational force, and an American institution.

Included in

Musicology Commons

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