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Scott Mervis on Pittsburgh Music History

posted May 18, 2011, 4:27 AM by Paul Carosi
Thursday, May 12, 2011
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh music enthusiast Paul Carosi has written an impressive encyclopedia of local music and put it online as a Pittsburgh Music History virtual museum.

It chronicles the development of the region's music history from the settling of the Harmonists in the 1700s to the folk music of Stephen Foster in the 1800s to the jazz era, through doo-wop and rock all the way up to the Modey Lemon, Anti-Flag and Wiz Khalifa.

The site features a rolling history, profiles of the major players, concise chronologies and Pittsburgh firsts -- including commercial radio station (KDKA), pop composer (Foster) and Album of the Year Grammy winner (Henry Mancini).

"I began building it online in the fall," says Mr. Carosi, who runs the Internet station, "and finished the timeline and other major sections in the last two weeks. It is a work in progress, as I will be adding more honoree profiles."

He says the process was enlightening even for him.

"One of the patterns that emerged as I wrote the artists profiles was the influence of classical music on both the white and African-American artists," he says. "The whites went off to Europe to study classical and begin their performing careers. The African Americans like Billy Strayhorn, Earl Hines, and Papa John Creach who wanted to be classical musicians were barred from the classical music world ... so they went into jazz. Mary Dawson fought back and founded her own opera company to give African-Americans the opportunity to perform classical music."

Another pattern, he says, was the number of Pittsburgh child prodigies.

"Given Pittsburgh's classical music culture, music programs in the schools, supportive parents, lively nightclub culture and support from KDKA radio, these talented individuals had the opportunity to learn and perform in Pittsburgh before they went off to New York or Hollywood to make it big. Billy Strayhorn, Earl Hines, Earl Wild, Lorin Maazel, Mary Lou Williams, Henry Mancini and others were natural-born talents."

Pittsburgh Music History site can be found at