Celebrating Missouri’s Music

If anything can dispel the gloom of a negative historical anniversary, it is music. That seems to have been what motivated Dr. Michael J. Budds to produce a book, 200 Memorable Missouri Musical Moments, for Missouri’s Bicentennial.

The Bicentennial itself conjures up a time when the status of slaves was bartered politically as well as economically and their freedom came to depend on which side of the Mason Dixon Line they found themselves. The Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri to become the 24th state in the Union in 1821; this settlement stopped northern attempts to forever prohibit slavery’s expansion by admitting Missouri as a slave state in exchange for legislation which prohibited slavery north of the 36°30′ parallel—except for Missouri.

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Dr. Budds was a beloved, longtime professor at the University of Missouri School of Music who founded and endowed the Budds Center for American Music Studies at the University in 2019.

Dr. Michael J. Budds
Dr. Michael J. Budds

He recognized the rich musical heritage of Missouri across the state. Dr. Budds described the scope of his book in his preface. He had the notion that:

“…a worthy introduction of the Budds Center to the public could take the form of a volume in which I identified days of significance in the history of music in Missouri. For each I would prepare brief commentary to describe the importance of the musical occasion and provide a historical photograph that related the nature of the event under consideration. In addition, I decided to provide YouTube links of the music performed if I knew specific titles and if relevant performances had been uploaded to the Internet. For events preceding the modern technology of recording, I have substituted more recent performances. These details are, perhaps, the most instructive aspect of this project. The history of music in Missouri—in its considerable variety—can be heard with a click of a mouse.”

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Dr. Budds enlisted Elisabeth “Libby” Roberts, as his inaugural staff assistant, and they set out to identify and describe 200 memorable music-related moments in Missouri’s 200-year history for a book to be published in 2021. Libby writes:

Elisabeth Roberts
Elisabeth Roberts

“Did you know a Missouri all women’s band led a suffragist parade in D.C.? That a Missouri-born man became the first TV musician superstar? That Missouri has been a destination for famous musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Pablo Casals, The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Bela Bartok, and Igor Stravinsky and many others? That annual inter-tribal, Native American powwows host public music events annually? Although sometimes overshadowed by other regions of the United States, Missouri has a surprisingly dense musical [culture] that boasts depth in essentially each major musical tradition: Black, Folk, European Fine-Art, and Popular. Missouri has been both the extremity of the nation as well as its center. It has served as a departure location for adventurers, destination farmland for settlers, as well as a land of passage for travelers, merchants, and displaced peoples.”

In what is its inaugural publication, the Budds Center for American Music Studies at the University of Missouri celebrates the traditions of music in Missouri’s bicentennial year with 200 entries about various significant contributions of its citizens and its locations to American musical heritage.

Laid out in a coffee-table book format, with full-page pictures for each entry, the publication is both informative and fun, and comes complete with a YouTube bibliography so the reader can experience the music. (Don’t worry—there is a playlist link as well, so you can enjoy each musical representation in a nonstop format!) Released as both a physical book and as an e-book, this project is the perfect addition to any lover of American music or Missouri history. Learn about events, people, places, and traditions that mark Missouri on the map for great music in America.

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About a year ago Libby contacted the Joplin Foundation about details on the Maple Leaf Rag and the famous contract agreement signed on August 10, 1899, between John Stark and Scott Joplin. They specifically needed a good photo of the marker that the city placed on the site five years ago and a photo of the Treemonisha Choir that performed for the first 1974 Sedalia Festival to include with a festival article.

Elisabeth Roberts is an accomplished musician with more than a passing interest in stride piano. She is also a composer of distinction having produced commissions for the Mississippi and St. Louis Symphonies, and numerous electronic and chamber pieces. Dr. Budds taught over 15,000 students in his distinguished 37-year career in music education. He died unexpectedly in November 2020 at the age of 73. Elisabeth Roberts became the Interim Director at the Center and will be bringing their research to publication early in 2021.

200 Memorable Missouri Musical Memories
The late Dr. Michael J. Budds collaborated with Elisabeth Roberts on the above volume celebrating 200 years of Missouri music.

Michael Budds was also the author of Jazz in the Sixties (1978), Jazz and the Germans: Essays on the Influence of “hot” American Idioms on the 20th-century German Music (2003), and 100 Years of Making Music at Mizzou (2018).

I have enjoyed a personal correspondence with Libby. She is a classically trained musician with a Master’s degree in musicology and composition but her interest in the way European classicists blended folk elements with symphonic music led to her interest in jazz and finally to stride. I am personally fascinated by her interest and research in music psychology and the study of how music is perceived. She is currently looking into the connections between James P. Johnson, George Gershwin, and Jelly Roll Morton. Readers with any insight into these relationships are encouraged to contact Libby at [email protected].

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The Center will continue to produce and promote research publications and resources concerning American music. More information is available at the Budds Center for American Music Studies at the University of Missouri web site.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of this volume. You will be able to purchase the limited-edition hard-copy book or the e-book online at www.themizzoustore.com.

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Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected]

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