Leah Branstetter is a PhD candidate in musicology at Case Western Reserve University, and she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cello performance and music history from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Leah’s research focuses on American popular music, theater music, and women’s history. She is currently at work developing a digital dissertation about women in 1950s popular music, teaching rock history at CWRU, and volunteering at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Library and Archives.
My project, which has the working title “Women in Rock and Roll’s First Wave,” focuses on the careers and music of women rock and roll performers active in the 1950s. While many male rockers like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis are now legendary, their female contemporaries have not received much attention from critics and historians. I am in the process of collecting and preserving interviews and documents that will help to chronicle women’s experiences in the music industry during this era.
The Matthew and Ellen Feldman Digital Technology Grant that I received from the Baker-Nord Center allowed me to purchase the equipment that I needed to produce content for this digital archive—like a digital audio recorder, scanner, and a camcorder—and I am now using these tools to record oral histories and to digitize images. The archive is the basis of my PhD dissertation, which will be one of the first born-digital dissertations out of CWRU. I have built the prototype of my dissertation using an open source web publishing platform called Omeka, through which I am developing digital exhibits and media-rich articles that will link archival materials with historical context and scholarly analysis.
I hope to launch this project publicly during the 2013-2014 academic year. And in the meantime, if you or your mother/grandmother/aunt/friend rock and rolled in the 1950s, I would love to hear from you (leah.branstetter [at] case.edu)!
Some of my new equipment (with rockabilly pioneers Wanda Jackson and Laura Lee Perkins keeping watch!)
A screen shot of my design-in-progress for the dissertation.