BLUFFTON PROFESSOR REVISITS RIVERBOAT MUSIC
In June 1958, 18-year-old Pat Carr had just finished her freshman year at Hiram (Ohio) College and set off on a summer road trip foreign to most college students.
That’s because the road was a river, the Ohio, where Carr spent nearly four months as a trumpet player aboard one of the river’s last moving showboats, the Majestic.
Carr’s account of her summer on the showboat is among the highlights of "The Call of the River: Riverboat Music on the Ohio," a 25-minute mini-documentary film written, produced and narrated by Dr. Jeffrey Boehm, a Bluffton University professor of music.
Boehm is also a performer of jazz music and president of the Jazz Education Connection of Ohio (JECO), which has posted the film on its website at www.jecohio.org.
Tapping into a longtime interest, Boehm presents a historical overview of steamboating and the musicians who performed on the boats, as well as insights into the social and historical background of riverboat music, particularly jazz, the JECO website notes. Hoping the film will be useful to classroom teachers, and to the future music teachers he instructs, he did much of the work last summer with the help of a $3,600 Bluffton University Research Center grant.
The project stemmed from JECO’s interest in finding a unique way to "meet the needs of the jazz community," Boehm says, and the decision to start a mini-documentary section on its website devoted to jazz from Ohio.
"Immediately, the idea of beginning with the riverboats popped into my head," adds the Bluffton professor, who heard riverboat entertainers perform at a jazz club in Dayton when he was growing up there and they were stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "This is a subject that has fascinated me since I was a child, so it was a natural starting point for me, and it makes sense from a historical perspective as well."
In addition to Carr—who went on to a 32-year career as a public school band director—viewers hear from Travis Vasconcelos, a river historian and calliope player from Louisville, Ky., and William Kenney, a professor emeritus of history at Kent State University who has researched and written about riverboat music.
Vasconcelos, who plays the calliope on the steamboat Belle of Louisville in the film, points out that the coming of television and air conditioning signaled the end of the traveling excursion boats’ heyday, which had begun in the late 19th century.
But steamboats and showboats can still be found along the river, Boehm says. At the film’s end, he showcases existing boats in Pittsburgh, Marietta, Cincinnati and Louisville, as well as steamboat museums in Marietta and Jeffersonville, Ind.
His hope, he says, is that "viewers will gain a new perspective and appreciation for the role the Ohio River has played in the development of our country in general, and of jazz in particular."
View the documentary.
Bluffton public relations, 12/12/11