University of Pittsburgh
January 2, 2008

University of Pittsburgh Commemorates Stephen Foster Day Jan. 11

Contact: 

Sharon Blake

412-624-4364

Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-The life and accomplishments of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster, the country's first professional songwriter, will be celebrated Friday, Jan. 11, at Pitt's Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland, and at Allegheny Cemetery, 4734 Butler St., Lawrenceville. All events are free and open to the public. Jan. 13 is the 144th anniversary of Foster's death.

Foster was born in Lawrenceville on July 4, 1826, and became a world-renown songwriter, portraying life in mid-19th century America through such legendary compositions as "Old Folks at Home," "Oh! Susanna," "Camptown Races," and "Beautiful Dreamer." He died at age 37 and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery.

Foster's music is still widely used in television and films. The CD "Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster" (American Roots Publishing, 2004) won the 2005 Grammy Award in the category Best Traditional Folk Album. It features 17 renditions of Foster songs by various artists. Pitt's Center for American Music provided the producers with copies of Foster's original sheet music as well as many images and documents that helped form the basis for the album notes.

"People all over the world see Foster as epitomizing American music," says Deane Root, Pitt professor of music and director and Fletcher Hodges Jr. Curator of the Center for American Music. "He launched what we think of today as popular music, and his influence is still being felt."

The following Stephen Foster Day events are sponsored by Pitt's Center for American Music and Department of Theatre Arts, part of Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, and the Allegheny Cemetery Association.

10 a.m.

Temple of Memories Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery:

o Remarks by Tom Starsenic, superintendent of Allegheny Cemetery;

o Medley of Foster songs performed by the St. John Neumann School Choir;

o Remarks by Jacqueline Longmore, Lawrenceville Historical Society;

o Remarks by Kathryn Miller Haines, associate director, Pitt's Center for

American Music; and

o Placing of wreaths at the Foster gravesite.

Noon

Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, University of Pittsburgh:

o Welcome by Deane Root; and

o Performance and group sing-a-long led by guitarist and Pitt faculty member

Joe Negri, with special guest Thomas Douglas, conductor of Carnegie Mellon

University's Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

The Foster museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for self-guided tours. Its archive contains a wide assortment of the composer's manuscripts, photographs, first editions of sheet music, rare books, letters, and personal possessions, including his flute, sketchbook, and the change purse he was carrying when he died.

For more information, call the Center for American Music at 412-624-4100.

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