SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – South Plainfield Public Library will present Jazz and the American Spirit: Swing, The Great Depression and WWII by Michael Conklin on Thursday July 21, 2016 at 7pm at South Plainfield Public Library 2484 Plainfield Ave. South Plainfield NJ, 07080. This program is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The program is funded by the Horizons Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
When the stock market took a dive on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the country was unprepared and the resulting economic devastation was a key factor in beginning the Great Depression. In 1933, at the worst point in the Great Depression years, unemployment rates in the United States reached almost 25%, with more than 11 million people looking for work. Americans were searching for an escape for their hardship and they found it in the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and others. Jazz was the antidote to the waking spirits of the American public.
Although the country was facing unprecedented hardship, Swing music elevated jazz to new heights — making it the first and only time jazz was America’s popular music. This talk will illuminate the origins of the Great Depression and the key musicians who helped revive the American spirit. Music of the 1930s and 1940s will illustrate the importance of this uniquely American art form and the cultural significance it has played in our country’s history. From the advent of V-Discs (victory discs) and the USO, evidence will be provided on music’s ability to heal a nation through economic devastation and the turmoil of war.
Mr. Conklin is an active jazz scholar, cultural historian, and writer who specializes in jazz history and American music, music of the antebellum South, the Harlem Renaissance, and issues of race and class. He is presently pursuing his doctoral studies at Drew University. This interdisciplinary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree allows him to focus on the intersections of American 19th and 20th century cultural history and black American music, jazz.
Mr. Conklin graduated from Rutgers University with a Master’s degree in Jazz History and Research and had the pleasure of studying with such luminaries as Lewis Porter and Henry Martin. His thesis, an examination of the divergent piano styles of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk, was entitled The Poet and The Priest. He spends the majority of his time teaching and writing; his work can be seen in publications by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, Salem Press, Scarecrow Press, University of Michigan Press, ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Press and SAGE Publications.
To sign up for the program, contact the South Plainfield Library at 908-754-7885. For more information about the Horizons Speakers Bureau please visit http://njch.org/programs/hsb/.