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Behind the Edition: Education at the Initiative

Kristen Clough talks about our Public Musicology and Education Outreach program and the role our undergraduate researchers play in this project.


Good morning readers! Today I wanted to take a moment to let you in on some of the things going on behind the scenes at the Gershwin Initiative. In addition to our primary goal–creating our critical editions–we have a mission to foster Gershwin scholarship and music scholarship at our university, in our community, and in our K-12 schools.  We call this our Public Musicology and Education Outreach program, through which we seek to blend our musicological research with the enrichment of U-M’s students, making the results available to a wide audience.

Sarah, Frances, and Kristen discuss research methods.

This blog is one of the ways by which we realize this mission, creating content about the Gershwins and their music for everyone to learn from and enjoy.  But what you don’t often see behind the blog is our team of student researchers and the collaborative effort it takes to make it all happen–this is one of the big ways we get to make an impact at U-M.  Readers of our blog and Facebook page will already be familiar with our two amazing UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) students, Sarah Sisk and Frances Sobolak, who have been with us since September.  In the Winter semester we added Cassidy Goldblatt, a violinist who has recently graduated with a B.M.from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  We are also looking forward to adding some new faces this summer. To celebrate all this activity, I wanted to write and give you a glimpse into what our students do behind the scenes of our blog, social media, and educational initiatives.

Sarah, Frances, and Kristen with scans of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s letters.

One of the primary activities we do as a team is planning, researching, and editing content.  Our undergraduate students dove into the world of the Gershwins head first and, after some exploration, have defined projects for themselves.  Anne Heminger and I, both musicology graduate students here at U-M, then step in to help guide the students.  We cover topics from how do musicological research, find sources, and contact archives, to the mechanics of writing articles and posts for different audiences and media.  This type of one-on-one mentorship has really allowed our students to blossom into insightful researchers, and has allowed, Anne, Jessica (our managing editor), and me to hone our mentorship skills.

The blog team, Anne, Sarah, Frances, and Cassidy editing an article

In addition, our students are very involved in the day-to-day operations of the blog.  They help me to schedule posts, run our calendar, edit content, and dream up new features to bring to our readers!

Recently, Sarah and Frances had a chance to present their work at the UROP symposium here on the U-M campus.  Their poster and their presentation were impressively engaging; we are all so proud of them and their blue ribbon!  The judges loved hearing them speak so eloquently about Gershwin and their work with us. Sarah also traveled to North Carolina to present at this year’s annual National Conferences for Undergraduate Research (NCUR)meeting.

Sarah and Frances with their blue ribbon.

Cassidy’s projects have been more behind the scenes for now; she’s working on completing a full discography of An American in Paris recordings for our editor-in-chief, Mark Clague, and has found some incredible old recordings. Additionally, Cassidy and the Converge New Music Initiative gave amazing end-of-semester performances of new works by budding U-M composers–something I’m sure the Gershwins would have loved.

Cassidy, on left, performing with Converge New Music Initiative.

We are now in the process of gearing up for the summer, which is going to have many more exciting projects from our Public Musicology and Education Outreach program!  Looking forward to sharing it all with you!


Kristen Clough is currently pursuing her PhD in Musicology at the University of Michigan. She has published on the operas of Francis Poulenc and researches the intersections of music, politics, and religion in 20th century France.  She joined the Gershwin Initiative team this fall as Coordinator of Public Musicology and Education Outreach.

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