Graduate Student Explores Georgia’s Musical Legacy

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Much of Sarah Foreman’s summer was filled with music and stories. The University of West Georgia graduate student traveled to a half dozen communities in the state to help them prepare for a traveling Smithsonian exhibit New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music. Along the way, Foreman also helped the communities preserve their own stories for an online site sponsored by the national museum.

UWG undergraduate Sarah Foreman and Arden Williams of the Georgia Humanities Council during the Grand Opening in Darien. This is the back of the first panel. It show cases albums from American Roots Artists.“When I asked them if there was a story that no one knows, they threw out five or six of them. They were very excited,” said Foreman, who will graduate next summer with her master’s degree in public history and a certificate in museum studies.

The people shared their stories, photographs and documents. Those were the ingredients Foreman needed to write the musical tales of four Georgia communities — Calhoun, Toccoa, Darien and Byron — for the Stories from Main Street project within the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

“Every community prides itself on its music,” said Foreman, who grew up in the Alpharetta area and graduated from Milton High School.

Residents of Perry, near Byron, asked that Foreman write about the Byron Pop Festival, which started the weekend of July 4, 1970. The Allman Brothers, B. B. King, Grand Funk Railroad and Jimi Hendrix performed at what has been dubbed a Southern-style Woodstock.

“Every community is different. Calhoun prides itself on its string band music. Darien has its coastal shout traditions. The Byron Pop Festival is well known. Toccoa has a wonderful string band tradition was well. They also have James Brown – that is where his music career started, that’s where he met Bobby Byrd.”

The Stories from Main Street online project allows users to post the histories of their communities.

“I’ve always been good at computers,” Foreman said. “But I never realized how important an online website can be for public history. It taught me the importance of the Smithsonian’s resources.”

Foreman played the clarinet in elementary school, learned the piano and taught herself how to play the acoustic guitar in middle school.

“I’ve always enjoyed music. But I’ve never studied the history of music,” she said.

But this summer Foreman and Dr. Ann McCleary, the director of UWG’s Center for Public History, went to several communities to help them prepare for the traveling New Harmonies exhibit.

The New Harmonies exhibit includes eight displays of stories, photos and musical objects. It takes visitors through America’s musical history – sacred, country, blues and dance – looks at the role the music played in the protest movement. It also explores the revival of folk music. A listening station, where visitors and hear samples of the music, is also part of the exhibit.

“I learned how important the music from Georgia is to the world,” said Foreman, who is the curator of the New Harmonies exhibit.

The New Harmonies exhibit will come to the West Georgia region in 2013. It will be in Bremen from Feb. 9 to March 23 and in LaGrange Oct. 12 to Nov. 26. Visit the New Harmonies touring schedule for a full list of exhibit locations.



Photo: UWG undergraduate Sarah Foreman and Arden Williams of the Georgia Humanities Council during the Grand Opening in Darien. This is the back of the first panel. It show cases albums from American Roots Artists.