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Join me this summer as I travel the country to research the steam calliope tradition on America's inland rivers.
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On the Road Again: Summer 2009

Posted 04-14-2009 at 01:06 AM by Jon Tschiggfrie
ďI have learned that there lies dormant in the souls of all men a penchant for some particular musical instrument, and an unsuspected yearning to learn to play on it, that are bound to wake up and demand attention some day.Ē - Samuel Clemens

Itís been nearly eight months since I last posted to this blog, and in that time, Iíve come to the realization of what is now a painfully obvious truth: not only is calliope research turning into one of those lifelong projects for me, but also I have the creeping suspicion that I wonít be satisfied until I can play the thing authentically. At the end of last summer, I made a definitive note that the research was nowhere near completed, and that there remained much more to accomplish toward preserving this essentially American tradition.

Well, here we go again.

First, I should bring you all up to speed. Since I last left you, I produced a summary paper for the University and presented at the Inquiry at UST poster session in the fall. These two were requirements as I understood the conditions of the grant. My poster session presentation involved a large display and a video, which you can view below. The paper, at 15 pages, barely scratched the surface of the information Iíd uncovered over the summer of 2008. I had promised many of you a copy of this paper, but frankly I would be ashamed to send it to you. In light of my commitment to you all, Iím now spending the spring semester of 2009 writing a 30-40 page article for publication, which will hopefully be picked up by at least one scholarly journal of American music or folklore. The article will be far more comprehensive, and will be long enough to focus on the people and the stories rather than the bare facts and information.

This brings us up to the present, and I come bearing quite exciting news. I applied for the grant again from the University and against all odds received word several days ago that my proposal had been approved for the summer of 2009. This was an enormous surprise to me for several reasons, not the least of which was the current economic crisis our country faces. There were 89 undergraduate proposals, of which approximately 25 were chosen. In addition, preference is given to new research over returning projects. This means that at least sixty applicants wrote worse applications or had poorer ideas than had I. I try not to let this go to my head.

Certainly, I believe that part of why I received the grant again is the pressing nature of the project due to the timeframe in which it must be completed. I used strong wording in my proposal relating to the fact that in five years the number of operable steam calliopes on the inland rivers decreased from six to two, making the research all the more necessary now and not later. At any rate, the grant entails another full summer of 400 hours of research, and Iím now able to more clearly delineate research goals. This time, Iíll be focusing on performance practice (translated, how do you actually play the thing?) and examining the lives of the people behind the instrument.

No doubt, your help will again be vital to my success. Iíll be traveling again, this time to at least New Orleans and Cincinnati, with stops in Marietta and Louisville along the way. Iím issuing a call for older recordings of steam calliope music, whether audio or video. Iíve got plenty starting circa the mid-1950s, but anything earlier would be deeply appreciated. Iíll be interviewing Capt. Hawley of course, and also looking for more on the illustrious Thomas J. Nichol, calliope builder extraordinaire. Iíll be keeping up the blog again on, so I hope youíll sit shotgun for the ride.

As per usual, address all concerns and inquiries to

See you Ďround the bend,

Jon Tschiggfrie
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Posted in Music, Travel
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Thats Great JON ,,...
And keep the STEAM up....
Posted 05-07-2009 at 05:32 AM by Dave Morecraft Dave Morecraft is offline

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