The Central Illinois Roots of Lloyd Loar and the Growth and Development of the Mandolin Orchestra Tradition in America

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Location: 

  • Illinois State Museum, Springfield

Event Venue: 

Thorne Deuel Auditorium

Event Audience: 

Adult
Teen

Fee: 

Free, donations appreciated

**We are going forward with tonight's program, but we urge you to use your good judgement in venturing out. Remember that you can park in either of the State lots next to the Museum for after hours events.**

Paul Mickey Learning Series presented by James Stanlaw, Professor of Anthropology, Illinois State University

The mandolin orchestra was extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century in America. This presentation and demonstration will be about its rise and fall—and rise again—in popularity. It will also be about the Illinois roots of musical virtuoso and acoustic engineer, Lloyd Loar. 

Loar, who was born in Cropsey and grew up in Lewistown, is one of the most important figures in American music history, though today his name is largely forgotten except among collectors of vintage instruments. Loar essentially established bluegrass music (one of the original American musical conceptions, like jazz and blues) via Bill Monroe and the iconic Lloyd Loar F5 mandolin. Every typical bluegrass mandolin today has the Gibson F-5 shape, envisioned and designed by Lloyd Loar. These are the “Stradivariuses” of the mandolin world, and highly sought after. He also designed the L-5 Gibson guitar played by the Carter Family’s Mother Maybelle in the 1930’s. Loar went on to design the first electric guitars, violins, and mandolins and he contributed to the amplification design that Leo Fender and Les Paul later took to new heights. Loar really did change the musical world in several ways and his name should be more well known.

The mandolin orchestra tradition—a uniquely American musical contribution—has been largely relegated to history books and rare early recordings (even though the Library of Congress lists almost 4,000 pre-World War II mandolin orchestra pieces). This presentation will discuss the history of mandolin orchestras in America, and Loar’s contributions to the genre. Included will be demonstrations of early Gibson mandolin-family orchestra instruments, which attendees will be encouraged to try. This activity is sponsored by an Illinois Humanities Vision Community Grant.

James Stanlaw is Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University, with interests in linguistics, Asian studies, popular culture, and ethnomusicology. He plays mandocello in the Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra in Bloomington, mandolin in several other groups, and is a life member of the Classical Mandolin Society of America.

Each month, the Paul Mickey Learning Series features a different speaker and topic in the Auditorium at the Illinois State Museum. For additional information, please contact events@illinoisstatemuseum.org or (217) 558-6696.

 

James Stanlaw, Professor of Anthropology, Illinois State University

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