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Smithsonian Exhibition Explores Roots Music Traditions

Posted Aug. 8, 2011
James Cotton
The great blues "harpist" James Cotton throws heart and
soul into his harmonica.

Kent State University at Geauga, in cooperation with the Ohio Humanities Council, will explore America’s roots music as it hosts the local showing of New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music, a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. New Harmonies will be on view beginning Aug. 10 and continue through Sept. 2.

When you stop and listen, you quickly realize that music is all around us – at a local festival, at a dance hall on a Saturday night, or on your radio or your MP3 player. Whether you’re hearing blues, country western, folk or gospel, American roots music reveals the American story – peoples reshaping themselves in a new and changing world. As Americans from a variety of heritages shared cultural influences, musicians found new ways to play unique sounds learned from new neighbors on traditional instruments. The inevitable intermingling of musical influences created exciting new sounds – new American music.

Kent State at Geauga and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the Ohio Humanities Council to host New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music as part of the Museum on Main Street project – a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations.

Through a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles, New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music will explore the distinct cultural identities of American roots music forms. The exhibition will examine the progression of American roots music, as rich and eclectic as our country itself. Other musical genres profiled include zydeco, tejano, bluegrass and klezmer.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring New Harmonies to our area,” says Carol Gardner, Geauga representative for the exhibit. “It allows us the opportunity to explore this fascinating aspect of our own region’s musical history and we hope that it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of our community.”

“Allowing all of our state’s residents to have access to the cultural resources of our nation’s premiere museum is a priority of the Ohio Humanities Council,” says Jack Shortlidge, program officer. “With this special tour, we are pleased to be working with Kent State at Geauga in Burton to help develop local exhibitions and public programs to compliment the Smithsonian exhibition.” Such free events include Tuesday evening coffee house performances with local musicians, Friday evening concerts at the campus, plus a special concert at the Burton Public Library on Aug. 12.

New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about New Harmonies and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

SITES connects millions of Americans with their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of art, science and history exhibitions. State humanities councils, located in each state and U.S. territory, support community-based humanities programs that highlight such topics as local history, literature and cultural traditions. The Kent State Geauga Campus serves the local community as the only university in the county and is proud to be able to bring this unique opportunity to area residents. To learn more, visit, and

Kent State Geauga is located at 14111 Claridon Troy Road in Burton. Exhibit hours: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, Aug. 10 through Sept. 2, and during all programs.

Related Events
Aug. 12 – Free concert at the Burton Public Library
Aug. 13 – Raccoon County Music Festival, noon-8 p.m., Geauga Historical Society’s Century Village Museum

Free Events at the Kent State Geauga Campus
Aug. 13 – 4 – 6 p.m.
Dedication of the William and Margaret Clark Commons and Grand Opening of New Harmonies Exhibit

Tuesday Evening Coffee Houses, 6- 8 p.m.
Aug. 16 – Jesse Huge
Aug. 23 – local talent
Aug. 30 – Mark Haas

Friday Evening Concerts, 6 - 8 p.m.
Aug. 19 – Hiram Rapid Stumblers
Aug. 26 - One Dollar Hat
Sept. 2 –Zach Smoko and Anthony Papaleo

Aug. 21, 2 - 4 p.m.
Car Cruise-In with oldies music

Aug.  31, 6 - 8 p.m.
Wednesday evening blues