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State Historical Society of Iowa
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Music History in Iowa

At-Home Expedition Activities
   + Innovative Iowans Activity: Iowa & Music History
   + Think Like an Iowa Musician Cards
   + Montauk Coloring Sheet 

   + Virtual Tours of Montauk Historic Site and Surf Ballroom
   + Larrabees of Montauk Flickr Album
   + Additional videos, articles and more! 

Is it a hootenanny? A jam session or a hoedown? Whatever you call it, Iowa's musical history is an eclectic mix of sites and sounds. From Antonín Dvořák’s visit to Spillville in 1893 to Slipknot’s recent concerts in Des Moines, Iowa's hills have always been alive with the sound of music. Think of Bix Beiderbecke in Davenport, Glenn Miller in Clarinda, Meredith Willson in Mason City and the Everly Brothers in Shenandoah. All in all, it's quite a playlist.

Explore the activities, videos and additional resources in this at-home expedition to discover more about Iowa's music history. Also, learn about two featured national historic landmarks – Montauk Historic Site (near Clermont) and Surf Ballroom (Clear Lake) – that have deep ties to this expedition theme. 

Design a Homemade Banjo

Music has always been important to Iowans – from classical piano recitals to rock and roll concerts held across the state over the years. This Innovative Iowans activity focuses on the musical lives of the Larrabee family and their home of Montauk and the famous Surf Ballroom. Learn about these historic places while creating your own paper plate banjo.

Think Like an Iowa Musician

Explore the history of Iowa musicians by downloading a set of the State Historical Society of Iowa's "Think Like an Iowa Musician" cards. The set features five musicians or musical groups and provides a brief bio and photo of each, as well as accompanying questions to help you think about history through multiple perspectives.


Create a Montauk Masterpiece

Besides being good musicians, the Larrabee family also had a deep appreciation for art. They collected artwork and statues, and all of the girls were taught to paint and draw. The family met many well-known Iowa artists and hosted artist retreats at their home. Download the Montauk coloring sheet and create your own masterpiece portrait of the state historic site.


Virtually Tour the National Historic Landmarks

Watch video tours of two National Historic Landmarks with connections to music history in Iowa. 
Montauk - Clermont, Iowa
     + The Surf Ballroom, a National Historic Landmark
     + Tour the Historic Surf Ballroom - Clear Lake, Iowa



See Snapshots of Montauk

View a digital album with a sampling of State Historical Society of Iowa photographs related to the Larrabees of Montauk, who were one of the most powerful and wealthiest families in the Victorian and Edwardian age living in Clermont, Iowa. Use these visual literacy instructions to help you look beyond an image to search for clues to better understand the historic photographs.


Discover Additional Resources

Check out kid-friendly videos, articles and other resources about the history of the Surf Ballroom, Montauk Historic Site and music in Iowa. 
     + Video: #IowaArtifact - 1915 Villa Calisto
     + Video: Swiss Music Box Plays in Montauk
     + Video: Iowa History 101 Series: Iowa's Newest National Historic Landmark - The Surf Ballroom

     + The Goldfinch: Homes in History, "Home History Project"
     + The Goldfinch: Doing Local History, "History Buffs to the Rescue"