Soundscapes of the People

Program Contact

Susan Thomas

Co-PI, Director of the American Music Research Center, and Professor of Musicology



The American Music Research Center is conducting a comprehensive study of the music and music making of Pueblo, CO and the surrounding county.

Led by CU ethnomusicologists Drs. Susan Thomas and Austin Okigbo along with Dr. Xochitl Chavez, from the University of California, Riverside, the study will document the music and culture of the city of Pueblo and its immediate vicinity.  Researchers will interview community members who are current and past participants in musical activities and will create a digital archive of interviews and performances that will be accessible to the general public through the University of Colorado Libraries. The project is also partnering with the Latino History Project and K-12 educators to create educational and curricular materials.

Our Commitment

We are actively advancing the University of Colorado Boulder’s commitment to building diversity, inclusivity, and equity by sharing the diverse histories, experiences, and perspectives of American musicians broadly, through thoughtful research and promotion, community programing, and archived music collections.  The Soundscapes of the People research initiative is a response to these core values. In collaboration with communities who have been traditionally underrepresented in music studies, this initiative aims to document and preserve unique stories and sounds from Southern Colorado and the Borderlands region.  Through its diverse labor force and rapid industrial expansion in the late 19th and early 20th century, Pueblo had an integral role in establishing the American West.  This project examines the city’s social and labor history as experienced through music and sound and also follows musicians and their music into the present as the city transitions into a post-industrial future.

Pueblo’s Role in Shaping Narratives of the American West

Pueblo’s story is integrally tied to the nation’s. The city can be thought of as occupying a double “borderland,” both between North and South–as it once stood on the U.S. border with Mexico–and between East and West–the “rails and nails” produced at the city’s steel mill and the region’s quite literally provided the key to open Colorado’s Gateway to the West. Pueblo’s industrialization and importance of the Colorado Fuel and Iron steel plant made the city a beacon of 20th century modernism and also a draw for waves of immigrants from Europe, the eastern United States, surrounding rural areas, and Mexico and Central America. Pueblo is surrounded by quality farmland and the city’s economy and culture is marked by both industrial and agricultural labor and the struggles of workers to secure and retain their rights. In spite of the region’s centrality in the U.S.’s economic, geographic, and military development and its role in shaping narratives of the American West, Pueblo’s own cultural history and its contributions have largely been lost and overlooked. Looking to music as a tool for community building and activism, and as the soundscape for Pueblo’s experiences of industrialization and cosmopolitanism as well as economic decline and isolation, this project aims to shed light on the role of music in shaping the city in the past, helps us to better understand the present, and suggests new paths for the future.

    Sponsoring Units

    • College of Music

    • American Music Research Center

    Program Partners

    • Xochitl Chavez, Co-PI and Assistant Professor, Ethnomusicology, University of California, Riverside
    • Austin Okigbo, Co-PI, Associate Professor and Chair, Musicology, College of Music, CU Boulder
    • Arturo Aldama, Associate Professor and Chair, Ethnic Studies, CU Boulder
    • Patty Limerick, Professor and Director, Center of the American West, CU Boulder
    • Natalie Mendoza Gutierrez, Assistant Professor, History, CU Boulder
    • Jason Romero Jr., Director, Latino History Project, CU Boulder
    • Patty A Erjavec, President, Pueblo Community College
    • Deborah Espinosa, Interim Director, Aztlan Center, CSU Pueblo
    • Juan Espinosa, Artistic Director, Song of Pueblo
    • Dennis E. Flores, Representative at Large, Pueblo City Council
    • Karen Foglesong, Executive Director, Pueblo Arts Alliance
    • Rhonda Gonzales, Dean of Library Services, CSU Pueblo
    • Nicholas A. Gradisar, Mayor, Pueblo, Colorado
    • Katie Magby, Impact Youth Program Coordinator, Pueblo Arts Alliance
    • Ann Oreskovich, Chair, Arts and Humanities, Pueblo Community College
    • Garrison M. Ortiz, Chair, Board of Pueblo County Commissioners
    • Pueblo City Council
    • Cynthia Ramu, Artist Activator, Pueblo Arts Alliance
    • Steven Trujillo, President & Chief Executive Officer, Latino Chamber of Commerce of Pueblo
    • David Volk, Professor of Music, Music Theory and Composition, CSU Pueblo

    Audiences Served

    • Adult Learners
    • Alumni/Parents/Friends
    • Business
    • Families
    • General Public
    • Government
    • Media
    • Minority Group(s)
    • Non-Profit Organization
    • Rural Communities
    • Senior Citizens
    • Socio-Economic Disadvantaged
    • Urban Communities