Sweetland's Word²: Writer to Writer series lets you hear directly from University of Michigan professors about their challenges, processes, and expectations as writers and also as readers of student writing. This session we welcome writer, musician, ethnomusicologist, and UM American Culture professor Bruce Conforth.
Sweetland's Word²: Writer to Writer series lets you hear directly from University of Michigan professors about their challenges, processes, and expectations as writers and also as readers of student writing. Word² pairs one esteemed University professor with Sweetland faculty member for a conversation about writing.
This session features a conversation with Bruce Conforth. Growing up in New York City during the folk revival of the 1960s exposed Bruce to the culture and history of American Roots music at an early age. While still in his early teens he learned guitar from such legends as Reverend Gary Davis, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and many others. In the 1970s he played with musical great Dave Van Ronk, performed at folk festivals across the country and at such celebrated clubs as New York’s The Bitter End and Gerdes Folk City. His albums of blues and folksongs- “Cap’n You’re So Mean” (Rounder Records) and “Nobody Knows My Name” (Heritage Records) - were respectively voted as one of the best folk music recordings by the Library of Congress, and the year’s best release by the Village Voice.
Bruce received his doctorate in ethnomusicology, folklore, and American Studies from Indiana University specializing in American traditional music. In 1991 he was appointed the founding curator of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Since leaving that post he has devoted his time to continuing his research in American Roots music, especially the country blues, establishing himself as one of the foremost experts on the life and music of blues great Robert Johnson. He has published extensively, given numerous conference papers, lectures, and keynote addresses, and has appeared on radio and television stations across the globe. His most recent book is African-American Folksong and American Cultural Politics (Scarecrow Press – 2013) and he is completing, with co-author Gayle Dean Wardlow, the definitive biography of Robert Johnson. He is a faculty member of the University of Michigan’s Program in American Culture where he teaches courses in the blues, folk music, folk culture, and tries to keep alive the memory and traditions of those great musicians who so graciously shared their talents and culture with him. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and a Director of the Blues Heritage Foundation.