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Voices Across Time: Teaching American History through Song

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A five-week institute for twenty-five school teachers linking American popular songs to significant periods and events in American history.

The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh hosts a summer institute on American popular song, directed by Deane Root and Marianna Whitmer (both University of Pittsburgh).  The objective is to provide teachers with musical examples from different time periods and groups that address current standards for teaching American history and social studies. The first week's theme,"Migration," highlights the music of various immigrant groups during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second week's theme, "Work," is juxtaposed with the songs of laborers on ships, railroad trains, and textile mills, as well as songs of the labor movement in the twentieth century. The third week's theme, "War and Peace," focuses on songs from the Revolutionary War period, the Civil War, the two World Wars, and the Vietnam era. The fourth week's theme, "Conflict through Diversity" (or "United/Divided"), focuses on songs of the Civil Rights movement. Finally, the fifth week's theme, "Home," explores the songs of Stephen Foster and the homemade music of early American settlers. Field trips are taken to industrial sites around Pittsburgh associated with the steel industry and various ethnic groups; to Fort Pitt, built during the French and Indian Wars; and to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. In addition to presentations by the project directors  and a host of visiting scholars, including Dale Cockrell (Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University) and Susan Cook (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Alan Jabbour (American Folklife Center, Library of Congress) and David and Ginger Hildebrand (Colonial Music Institute) lecture on and perform Southern fiddle tunes and music of the Colonial era, respectively. The reading list includes the Voices Across Time Resource Guide and selected books and articles, including Adelaida Reyes, Music in America; Tim Lynch, Strike Songs of the Depression; Alexander Bloom, ed., Long Time Gone: Sixties America Then and Now; and Dale Cockrell, ed., The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook.

Faculty: Susan Oehler Herrick, Mark Albright, Alex Bloom, Norm Cohen, Dale Cockrell, Susan Cook, James Davis, Ken Emerson, J. Andrew Flory, Garrett Haines, David and Ginger Hildebrand, Alan Jabbour , John Koegel, Tim Lynch, Scott Sandage, Barbara Tischler, Stephanie Heriger, Jason Hanley

Dates: June 24—July 26 (5 weeks)
Director(s): Deane L. Root and Mariana E. Whitmer, University of Pittsburgh
Grantee Institutions: University of Pittsburgh
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.