Adjunct Associate Professor of Mandolin Butch Baldassari (left) and Professor of Musicology Dale Cockrell co-produced "Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder," which has been added to the National Endowment for the Humanities We the People collection.
by Jim Patterson
An album produced by two Vanderbilt professors is the first music collection to be added to a National Endowment for the Humanities collection of works intended to strengthen students’ understanding of American history and culture.
Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder is part of the new We the People collection from the NEH. This year’s We the People collection has the theme of “pursuit of happiness” and includes the books Those Happy Golden Years by Wilder, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and other classics of literature.
The NEH will distribute the chosen works to 2,000 public, school and military libraries in the United States and overseas.
“This kind of attention from the NEH is humbling,” Dale Cockrell, professor of musicology at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, said.
“Those whose work sits on the We the People bookshelf are the heroes of my youth and of my adulthood. It is beyond an honor to occupy any of the space that they hallow.”
Cockrell produced Happy Land with Butch Baldassari, an adjunct associate professor of mandolin at Blair.
The album of string band music, Stephen Foster classics and hymns and spirituals features song selections from the more than 120 songs that run through the plots of Wilder’s eight Little House books (published by HarperTrophy) that chronicle pioneer life in 1800s America. Songs including “Oh! Susanna” and “Barbara Allen” were given lively and contemporary acoustic arrangements meant to reintroduce children and adults to the musical heritage of America.
The album features performances by Riders in the Sky, Dave Olney, Andrea Zonn, Deborah Pacard, Pat Enright, Douglas P. Green, Keith Little and The Princely Players.
The album was released on Pa’s Fiddle Recordings (www.pasfiddle.com). A sequel album, Arkansas Traveler: Music from “Little House on the Prairie,” has been recorded and is being prepared for release.