Between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, amateur performances of popular songs were a widespread pastime in the United States. Thousands of sentimental ballads, romantic waltzes, and rousing marches were composed and published as individual scores of sheet music for American consumers. The Champlain College Special Collections contains one of the largest publicly-available collections of sheet music related to the State of Vermont: 125 scores with a Vermont theme, composer, publisher, retailer, and/or consumer dating from the 1860s to the 1960s. During the 2019-2020 academic year, our sheet music is the focus of a Humanities Research for the Public Good project funded by the Council of Independent Colleges and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This multifaceted project provides undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct in-depth studies of the music and present their research to the public.
The College’s sheet music collection is a rich interdisciplinary resource for researching Vermont cultural themes at a particular time period, how these cultural themes reflect the broader national experience, as well as how the same topics are viewed by different generations of Vermonters over time. Through their music, lyrics, and cover illustrations, these songs provide a window into subjects including the Vermont landscape, politics, civic heroes, immigration, and conceptions of beauty, courtship, and gender roles.
We’ll be posting periodic updates about our sheet music project – stay tuned!
– Erica Donnis, Special Collections Director