Ballad of America preserves and celebrates music from America's diverse cultural history through:
Articles and videos with fascinating stories of songs, genres, instruments, people, and more
Resources to help teachers, both traditional and homeschool, integrate music and United States history
Sing-along recordings and lead sheets to facilitate the singing of American folk songs by people of all ages
Multimedia programs that entertain, inspire, and inform people of all ages, delivered in-person and online
The music in America today is part of a continuum that reaches back to Colonial America and stretches across the Atlantic Ocean to the Old World. Music, instruments, and songs tell the story of the ordinary and extraordinary people who have populated the United States and propelled it into the 21st century. The genres of music explored through Ballad of America include traditional folk songs, fiddle tunes, ballads (both Old and New World), sea shanties, railroad and cowboy songs, Appalachian, ragtime, spirituals, work songs, minstrel, blues, jazz, jug band, rhythm and blues, old-time, country and western, bluegrass, and rock & roll.
“Swannanoa Tunnel,” also known as “Asheville Junction” and “Swannanoa Town,” is an American folk song that originated during the late 19th century as a work song. African American prison laborers leased to Western North Carolina Railroad sang it as they swung their hammers and blasted a series of tunnels through the Blue Ridge Mountains. An estimated 125 – 300 convicts died during the construction of these tunnels. White folklorists and banjo players adapted the song and kept it circulating through the 20th century, obscuring its African American origins.