"Uniting Generations and Cultures: A Tribute to Hoagy Carmichael"
IU Auditorium Foyer
September 18, 2008
Introduction: An Affirmation of the Arts
In 1961, at the dedication of Showalter Fountain, just around the corner, President Herman B Wells celebrated the completion of what he called IU’s Fine Arts Plaza. He said, “Indiana University has long been outstanding in the sciences and in the professions. Yet it remembers its ancient foundation upon the classics. Today in dedicating this magnificent Fountain with its central figure the goddess of love, truth, and beauty, we proudly reaffirm our belief in the importance of the arts and the life of the spirit.”1
This afternoon, nearly 47 years later, we are once again reaffirming our belief in the power of the arts as we dedicate this magnificent life-sized statue of the beloved son of Indiana, Hoagy Carmichael. This is the perfect home for this sculpture at the heart of our Fine Arts Plaza.
IU’s Magnificent Fine Arts Plaza
Here we have our magnificent Auditorium, which opened in 1941 with the vision and determination of President Bryan and President Wells.
Around the corner will soon be the University Cinema, which will remind us of Hoagy’s many contributions to American film as a composer and actor.
Nearby is the Musical Arts Center, over the years home to tens of thousands of musical performances, where Hoagy provided the funds for the foyer that bears his name.
Just a few steps to the east is IU’s treasured art museum designed by one of the truly great architects of the 20th century I.M. Pei. Just last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of its opening. And attached to that is our Fine Arts and Radio and Television Building, home to the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, the SoFA Gallery, and Bloomington’s PBS station WTIU.
Also close by, our libraries are dominated by the massive collection of the Wells Library and the masterpieces of the incomparable Lilly Library.
If we cast our gaze further afield, we will see the vibrant arts community at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, and the regional centers of art and culture at all of our campuses around the state.
These varied structures represent years of determination, dedication, and intellectual effort all directed towards strengthening and honoring Indiana University’s great traditions in the arts and humanities. They are the great repositories—and symbols—of this state’s cultural treasures.
Binding Together Cultures and Generations
And the same could be said of the newest addition to Indiana University’s magnificent Fine Arts Plaza. This sculpture is an enduring symbol of the level of achievement and excellence found in so many different areas of Indiana University. It represents Hoagy Carmichael’s dedication to developing his musical talents. It reveals the transcendent power of art as it reaches across the years and binds together cultures and generations.
Take Hoagy's song “Stardust,” as a classic example. As I understand it, “Stardust” has been recorded over five hundred times for virtually every possible combination of instruments. With lyrics translated into over forty different languages, it is one of the few if not the only song recorded on both sides of a record by two different bands: on one side, Tommy Dorsey, and on the other, Benny Goodman and his orchestra. The fact that Nat King Cole, Willy Nelson, and Japanese jazz virtuoso Terumasa Hino have all performed versions of this song suggests its endurance as a classic and its international and cross-cultural appeal.
Conclusion: The Legacy of Hoagy Carmichael
The sight of Hoagy Carmichael sitting at his Steinway reminds all of us of the way he changed the American musical landscape. Compared to Fitzgerald and Hemingway as quintessentially American, Hoagy’s influence continues to this day.2 It lives on in the skill of people like artist Michael McAuley, who dedicated so much effort and heart to this project. It lives on in the generosity of individuals and groups like the IU Foundation, which provided such support to make this project a reality. And it lives on in the Carmichael family, without whom this project never would have happened. On behalf of Indiana University, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude.
The sculpture itself has extended Hoagy’s influence as it has traveled the state over the course of the past year as part of an educational tour. The smallest city on the tour was Brazil, about fifty miles to the northwest. The editor of the local paper there described people lining up to have their photo taken with Hoagy and learning for the first time that he had written ‘Stardust’ just short of an hour away.3
Today marks the culmination of a long journey. As Hoagy put it in his autobiography, The Stardust Road, “I wanted to get back to Bloomington. Always back to Bloomington.”4 May this sculpture serve as a fitting tribute to his return. Welcome back, Hoagy.
- Wells, Herman B. Remarks Delivered at Dedication of Showalter Fountain. Indiana University. Bloomington, Indiana. 22 Oct. 1961.
- An example of this comparison can be found in Davis, Francis. “Hoagy Carmicahel, Gauge of a Nation’s Moods.” New York Times 21 Nov. 1999: 1+. Indiana University Libraries. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database. Accessed 15 Sept. 2008.
- Moon, Jason. “Thanks for the History Lesson.” The Brazil Times 13 Aug. 2007. Accessed 15 Sept. 2008.
- Carmichael, Hoagy. The Stardust Road & Sometimes I Wonder: The Autobiography of Hoagy Carmichael. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1999. Google Book Search. Accessed 15 Sept. 2008. Page 50.