University to Celebrate Stephen Foster Day Jan. 12

Issue Date: 
January 8, 2007

America’s first professional songwriter to be remembered with wreath-laying, lectures,
sing-a-long, museum tours

The life and accomplishments of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster, the country’s first professional songwriter, will be celebrated Jan. 12 with free public events at Pitt’s Stephen Foster Memorial and Allegheny Cemetery. Jan. 13 is the actual date of the 143rd anniversary of Foster’s death.

Foster was born in Lawrenceville on July 4, 1826, and became a world-renowned songwriter, portraying life in mid-19th century America through such legendary compositions as “Old Folks at Home,” “Oh! Susannah,” “Camptown Races,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” Foster died at age 37 and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery.

Foster’s music is still widely used in television and films. The CD Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (American Roots Publishing, 2004) won the 2005 Grammy Award in the category Best Traditional Folk Album. Pitt’s Center for American Music was closely involved in the project, which features 17 performances of Foster songs. Pitt provided copies of Foster’s original sheet music to the producers as well as many images and documents that helped form the basis for the album notes.

The following Stephen Foster Day events are sponsored by Pitt’s Center for American Music and Department of Theatre Arts, part of Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Allegheny Cemetery Association.

10 a.m.
Temple of Memories Mausoleum,
Allegheny Cemetery, 4715 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville:

Remarks by Tom Starsenic, superintendent of Allegheny Cemetery;

Medley of Foster songs performed by the St. John Neumann School Choir, Lawrenceville;

Remarks by Jacqueline Longmore of the Lawrenceville Historical Society;

Remarks by Kathryn Miller Haines, associate director, Pitt’s Center for American Music; and

Placing of wreaths at the Foster gravesite.


Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial:

Welcome by Deane Root, director of Pitt’s Center for American Music;

Music by the Stephen Foster Chorus of Stephen Collins Foster School, Mt. Lebanon;

Remarks by Mariana Whitmer, project coordinator for the Center for American Music; and

Performance and group sing-a-long led by guitarist and Pitt faculty member Joe Negri, with special guest Thomas Douglas, conductor of Carnegie Mellon University’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble and a lecturer in voice in Carnegie Mellon’s music department.

Immediately following the program, at approximately 1 p.m., attendees will be given a tour of the Foster Memorial. The Foster Memorial’s museum, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be open for self-guided tours. Its archives contains a wide assortment of the composer’s manuscripts, photographs, first editions of sheet music, rare books, letters, and personal possessions, including his flute, a sketchbook, and the change purse he was carrying when he died.

“People all over the world see Foster as epitomizing American music,” says Root. “He launched what we think of today as popular music, and his influence is still being felt.”

For more information, call