2017 American Music Month Exhibit
The University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra was founded in 1974 by John Garvey, who had joined the University’s Walden String Quartet in 1948 as its violist and in 1959 established the university’s jazz band program. In 1969, the jazz band toured the Soviet Union as part of the State Department’s cultural exchange program, and Garvey developed a keen interest in Russian folk music. He later returned to the USSR to study Russian folk music traditions and purchased additional folk instruments that he used to establish the Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra. The Illinois ensemble eventually served as a model for other American universities’ Russian folk orchestras by providing open depoliticized educational spaces for students to pursue their interest in Russian folk music traditions. This exhibit of folk instruments, photographs, and music provides visitors with a general introduction to Russian folk music traditions and culture that were promoted by the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the folk musicians who immigrated to the United States after WWII. It also acknowledges many of the talented musicians who performed with the University of Illinois’ Russian Folk Orchestra under Garvey’s direction between 1974 and 1989 and reveals a forgotten part of the University of Illinois’ musical past.
For more information, please visit https://archives.library.illinois.edu/sousa/american-music-month/.