The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection provides valuable educational materials for teachers, researchers, and other academic users.
With over 29,000 pieces of music relating to American popular culture, the collection offers an important glimpse into the values, events and struggles of the past 200+ years.
Teachers, lecturers and students can search the collection via the website's homepage, using a simple text search. The "Subject" filter can then be used to narrow results to specific subjects, like the American Civil War or historical depictions of African-American life. On each song page, images of the song--including often vibrant cover images--can be viewed and downloaded. Educators focusing on young audiences should note that many songs contain historical images and text which may not be appropriate for all audiences.
Academic researchers can use the collection both to explore popular American representations of important historical subjects, and to better understand the collecting methodology of Lester S. Levy. To assist these users--as well as academic researchers accessing the physical collections at the Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries--the Advanced Search page provides a variety of powerful filters, including the ability to filter by Box and Item Number.
Please feel free to contact us with any research questions about the collection.
The songs in this collection were amassed to document the history of the United States through sheet music. Therefore, users of the collection will find many songs with explicitly racist, xenophobic, sexist, and other offensive content. While this subject matter is in many cases reprehensible, it is preserved here to honestly and accurately reflect prejudice found in the collection-- even as we recognize that encountering harmful or offensive language can be difficult or painful. Strong consideration should be given to a song’s history and context prior to a public performance.
More information and resources can be found in the Peabody Institute’s Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Resources.