Beginning February 4, 2013, Oak Park Public Library will host America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway. Oak Park has been awarded a $2,500 grant to host this two-month program series focused on 20th century American popular music.

Through documentary films and scholar-led discussions, America’s Music seeks to enlighten audiences about uniquely American musical genres including Blues and Gospel, Broadway, Jazz, Bluegrass and Country, Rock n’ roll, Mambo and Hip-Hop.  Additional film screenings and supplemental programs, including engaging lectures and all-ages concerts, continue through March at the Main Library, 834 Lake Street, Oak Park.

Oak Park Public Library is one of 50 sites nationwide selected to host this program series, created by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint and the Society for American Music. America’s Music has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring Human Endeavor.

America’s Music film series is designed for a general audience and will introduce genres of 20th century American popular music that are deeply connected to the history, culture and geography of the United States. Audiences of all ages will have the chance to recognize how our current cultural landscape has been influenced by the development of the popular musical forms discussed in this series.

Interim Library Director Rebecca Teasdale adds, “We are thrilled to participate in this program, which introduces so many different types of music, especially showing younger audiences how modern music has been influenced by older styles. We really feel like the slate of programs we’re providing will help bridge gaps among generations of music lovers.”

At the core of the series are carefully selected documentary films, spanning genres from Blues to Hip-Hop. Each film will be introduced by George Bailey, Columbia professor, Jazz musician, and long-time Oak Park resident, who serves as the resident scholar on this project. Bailey will lead discussions following each of the documentary films, shown Tuesdays at 7pm beginning February 12.

Oak Park Public Library will supplement America’s Music documentary films with Pitch Perfect, a series of six remarkable portrayals of 20th Century music legends. Curated and presented by film historian Doug Deuchler, these silver screen favorite performances range from Kevin Kline as composer Cole Porter in “De-Lovely” to Angela Basset’s award winning turn as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

America’s Music lectures and live performances add depth and breathe to the outstanding films. These events include Dominican University’s Janice Monti exploring the musical and racial legacy of the Mississippi Delta, author and photographer Terry Abrahamson sharing photos and stories from his years photographing Blues legends, local legend Val Camilletti joining WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis to discuss music criticism in the digital age, and Chicago’s Numero Group sharing insight into their popular Eccentric Soul series of obscure soul recordings. Live concert performances feature Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble at a special after-hours kick-off (21+ with cash bar), Oak Park-River Forest High School’s own Gospel Choir, blues-funk-soul-rock fusion act The Fuzz and The Fury, and Chicago’s Golden Horse Ranch Band closing the series with an all-ages square dance.

The series will also include some events especially for teens. Open Mic nights in February and March give teens the opportunity to showcase their musical skills: sing, rap, dance, play an instrument…or sit back and prepare to be amazed. Oak Park-River Forest High School’s Spoken Word Club will perform some of their best hip-hop poetry, straight from the “Louder than a Bomb” competition. And budding Oak Park-River Forest filmmakers will showcase their very own music videos.

All films shown, including full sets of the documentary series featured, will be available for check-out following America’s Music.