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Premieres in the Library of Congress Collections [DRAFT]

Before class preparation/set up

  • On their own, students browse the Leonard Bernstein Collection and try various searches . Also, they listen to a recording of the work Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein.
  • To be shown: Letter from D.R. Hutchison to Leonard Bernstein, May 19, 1965. This letter refers to the planned world premiere of Bernstein’s work Chichester Psalms and the disappointment of the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in apparent plans to have the world premiere take place not there but in New York City.


  • Students are introduced to the Library of Congress digital collections portal and continue trying various searches.
  • Students listen together to an excerpt of Chichester Psalms and then discuss the letter in groups and take notes in three categories:
    • observations (what the item seems to be and what it tells us)
    • questions (what kinds of questions it raises)
    • strategies (how they might go about doing research to answer some of these questions).
  • Each group then shares its findings in each category.
  • Independently, students will then search for items relating to world premieres in musical genres that interest them individually and share those items with small groups and the entire class.


  • Students will create a blog post on an item of their choosing from any Library of Congress collection as long as the item relates in some way to a musical premiere (or similar item, such as a record release). 
  • Throughout the semester, students are expected to write a series of blog posts that deal with primary sources both provided to them and that they have identified. 


Each blog post is evaluated qualitatively by the instructor. Longer term, students will use their experience with this activity to help in blog posts throughout the semester, in which many students will continue to locate and discuss primary sources.