Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Jefferson Johnson


Stephen Foster is acknowledged as America’s first composer of popular music. His legacy can be seen in the number of songs that are embedded in our cultural heritage – “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” are but a very few of his most popular works. Stephen Foster’s songs have been incorporated into every facet of American culture including both popular and classical musical culture, television, and film. However, his legacy is complicated as it is tainted by connections to blackface minstrelsy in some works. This document seeks to trace the threads of racial sensitivity and cultural appropriation in works arranged for choral ensembles based on Foster’s songs. The arrangements chosen for this document provide a glimpse into three distinct periods of American history – pre-Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Era, and post-Civil Rights. Using a process of comparative analysis of the music and text of the originals to that of the arrangements, this document traces expected and unexpected changes in music and text associated with each period. Perhaps through the continued study of one of America’s first purveyors of popular culture, we can begin to understand our national legacy of racism more clearly and find a path towards reconciliation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)