Toward a History of the Institutionalization of the Classical Guitar: Vahdah Olcott Bickford (1885–1980) and the Shaping of Classical Guitar Culture in Twentieth-Century America
AuthorAcosta Zavala, Kathy
Women and guitar
Women in music
AdvisorMugmon, Matthew S.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation has two primary aims: to demonstrate how women guitarists have been the primary advocates for the construction of a guitar-specific institutional landscape, and — with a specific focus on American guitarist Vahdah Olcott Bickford (1885–19890) — to narrate the history of the establishment of local guitar societies across the United States. Although guitar societies have become ubiquitous in the early twenty-first century, the formation of the first American guitar society in 1923 was a byproduct of women guitarists’ entrance into the workforce and of the longstanding tradition of women’s philanthropy and voluntarism in the arts. Furthermore, the guitar society model derived from national and international institutional precursors. The most important of these precursors were the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinsists and Guitarists (BMG Guild) and the German guitar societies that emerged between 1899 and 1910. I argue that guitar societies allowed amateur and professional classical guitarists to break from the multi-instrument values fostered by the BMG movement in order to organize and focus their efforts on solely promoting the classical guitar. As one of the founding members of the American Guitar Society (AGS) and Guitar Foundation of America (GFA), Vahdah Olcott Bickford was one of the main forces behind the establishment of classical guitar organizations in America. Her efforts to establish an American guitar society were not isolated, but rather were inspired by the activities of other women guitarists emerging at the turn of the twentieth century, such as Gertrude Miller, and of women philanthropists in her network in Los Angeles. Through the lens of philanthropy and voluntarism, I show that Olcott Bickford was as an institutional pioneer and the first American philanthropist who devoted her life to preserving classical guitar culture in America.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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