Skip to main content

Sounds and Stories collection

Identifier: PIMS-0091

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection was assembled primarily from 1998 to 2004 and contains information about African American musical culture, especially in Baltimore from approximately 1930 to 1960. Series 1 contains approximately 60 oral histories of individuals associated with African American musical life in Baltimore. Series 2 contains subject files assembled for research purposes. Series 3 contains administrative files related to the Sounds and Stories oral history project, exhibit, website, and grant proposal. Series 4 contains photographs and photographic negatives of musicians associated with African American musical culture in Baltimore in the 20th century.


  • Creation: 1923-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1998-2004

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use. Contact for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.

More information about use of digital assets can be found at

Biographical / Historical

Baltimore's African American community has a long and rich musical history. Despite the constraints imposed by segregation, gospel music, symphonic music, oratorio, art song, blues, ragtime and jazz all flourished in Baltimore during the first half of the 20th century. With the Civil Rights movement and increasing racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s, new musical opportunities opened up to Baltimore's Black community, but at the same time many of the institutions that had been created in a segregated environment withered and died. The Colored Symphony Orchestra went out of existence, the Black musicians union (Local 543) merged with the white local, the clubs on Pennsylvania Avenue closed their doors one by one, and in 1971 the Royal Theater was torn down to make way for an urban renewal project. Yet the musicians who had come of age in these earlier years passed their skills, their wisdom, and their memories on to the next generation.

Sounds and Stories began as a joint project between the Peabody Archives, the Musicology Department of the Peabody Conservatory, and the History Department of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. In the fall of 2002 a seminar of 18 students interviewed dozens of participants in the music of Baltimore's Black community to record their memories and to document their world and their legacy. Grants from the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland Humanities Council made it possible for the interviews to be transcribed immediately. The students edited the interviews, went over them with the interviewees, and enhanced them with visual and audio materials provided by the participants and by local archives. A website opened to the public in 2003 to serve as a resource for African American history, for Baltimore and Maryland history, and for music history.


4.87 Cubic Feet (17 boxes)

Language of Materials



Sounds and Stories began in 2002 as an oral-history project. A Peabody Conservatory musicology seminar of 18 students interviewed dozens of participants in the music of Baltimore's black community to record their memories and to document their world and their legacy. The collection was assembled primarily from 1998 to 2004 and contains oral histories, photographs, and supporting research about African-American musical culture, especially in Baltimore from approximately 1930 to 1960.


Mostly alphabetical within series 1, 2, and 4. Series 3 is in original order.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Access to recordings on outdated media is subject to the physical condition of the items and the library's ability to support playback. Contact the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives at for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This is an intentionally assembled collection of oral histories and supporting materials related to the history of African-American musical culture, particularly in Baltimore. At the core of the collection are oral histories recorded mostly in 2002 and 2003.

Materials in support of the oral histories were collected primarily by archivist Elizabeth Schaaf from approximately 1996 to 2007. Many photographs were acquired by donation from participants in the project or were created to document the exhibit. Some photographs were gathered from existing collections in the Peabody Archives, including the Peabody Institute photographs collection and the Fleagle/Henderson collection.

The following people contributed their skills and energies to this project: Elizabeth Schaaf, Ron Walters, John Spitzer (seminar leaders); Melody Abedinejad, Megan Coe, Brendan Costigan, Daniel Davis, Tony DePaolis, Russell Frisby, Kristen Gottlieb, Julia Koo, Brittany McClure, Jesse McGee, Delandria Mills, Ken Osowski, Marsha Peart, Glenn Quader, Eric Slegowski, Raul Soot, and Rachel Zephir (seminar participants); Daniel Davis, Nick Homenda, Shirley Kaufman, and Jessie McGee (Archives assistants); Margaret Montana (transcriber); Charles Kim (web designer); Russ Moss (photographer); Robert Cataliotti, Jack Hook, Audrey McCallum, Regina McCoy, Camay Murphy, and Dr. Reppard Stone (advice and consultation); and others who contributed their memories.

Related Materials

A summary of resources about the collection is available at

The Roy McCoy photographs (PIMS.0101) were originally acquired for inclusion in Sounds and Stories but have since been established as a separate collection.

Another exhibit created by the Peabody Archives about African-American music history in Baltimore, "The Storm Is Passing Over," is available as a separate collection, PIMS.0090.

Related collections at the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives include the A. Jack Thomas papers (PIMS.0022), Cal Lampley papers (PIMS.0027), Ellis Larkins papers (PIMS.0075), and Anne Brown collection (PIMS.0099).

Processing Information

Partially processed by Elizabeth Schaaf, 2000-2007. Appraisal, further processing, and finding aid by Matt Testa, 2018-2020.

Audiocassettes of oral history interviews digitized by George Blood LP and added to Peabody's digital streaming collections by Matt Testa in 2020. Interview transcript editing and indexing by Matt Testa, Marissa Scotti, Natalie Salive, Laura Carskadden, Jada Twitty, and Rachel O'Connor, 2020-2022.

Guide to the Sounds and Stories collection
Matt Testa
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Added notes about digital resources and processing.

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA