Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Raymond Hyser

Gabrielle Lanier

Phillip Herrington


The world of the Great Depression was in massive transition as the economy crumbled and people sought an escape from their ordinary and troublesome lives. The expanding and remodeling cultural forms of this time worked to provide this diversion for all people. One of these forms in particular adapted to fulfill the need of the American people: music. While music was a popular form of culture throughout the American past, it went through a large transition beginning in the Gilded Age through the Great Depression in order to survive. With the beginning of the Great Depression, professional and amateur groups began outreach for larger audiences, both as a way of maintaining their musical organization and as a means of reaching people who desired to escape from their everyday lives by losing themselves in the sound of music. Through this, cultural forms that previously belonged to certain classes no longer remained under their sole control. Cultural forms quickly became the property of the masses. One form this change took was the movement of music out of the concert hall and into the public sphere.

This thesis will provide the first in-depth examination of the rise of music outside the concert hall in these unconventional spaces, which allowed for larger audiences and the presence of people who may have felt unwelcome in the formidable face of the concert hall. The first part of this thesis will establish context for the rise of music outside the concert hall during the Great Depression, beginning with the changing music scene of the Gilded Age. The first chapter will discuss the rise of public parks and the building of physical spaces made specifically for outdoor concerts. The second chapter features an overview of the concerts held outdoors during the Great Depression, as well as the groups that formed to perform at these concerts. Finally, the last chapter will examine the Federal Music Project, the first federally funded music program in America, which led to the creation of new music groups and further groups performing in unconventional venues.



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