Dennis Stroughmatt

Musician and Historian
About the Speaker

Fiddler and cultural historian Dennis Stroughmatt became acquainted with the historically French Creole community of Old Mines, Missouri, as a student three decades ago and learned the community’s music and folklore from its tradition-bearers. He is now recognized as one of the foremost experts on French Creole culture of North America, especially that of the old Illinois Country (encompassing much of present-day Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana). He has made numerous recordings and received awards from national cultural institutions. He travels extensively throughout the country as both a musical performer and an educational speaker, and teaches at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.

In French Fiddle Tunes and Tall Tales: The French Creole Story of Missouri

Beginning in 1699 with the building of villages like Cahokia and Kaskaskia, and later Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis, along the Mississippi River, French colonists from western France and Quebec merged with the native populations in what is now Missouri to create a Creole culture that is still unique from its cousins in Louisiana and Canada. As this early Missouri population grew throughout the mid- and late eighteenth century and changed the wild Missouri landscape to one with a distinct French flavor, it would eventually leave its legacy, not only through town names and landmarks but also in songs, language, stories, and food. Via 300-hundred-year-old traditions like the annual “La Guillannee” French New Year tradition, this exciting program will take the listener on a fascinating trip through the French Creole history of Missouri from both a historical and cultural perspective, highlighting the enduring French identity of places like Ste. Genevieve and Old Mines through ancient French folktales, haunting ballads, and foot-stomping fiddle tunes.