Rock Me, Amadeus: How Mozart Helped Me Become a Rock and Roll Preservationist

A guest post by Sheryl Davis

Travel played a big part in my journey to become a historic preservationist specializing in rock ‘n’ roll landmarks. In May 2006, ten years ago this month, my twin sister Sherry and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the three music capitals of Vienna, Salzburg and Prague for the “Mozart Year,” a worldwide celebration of Mozart’s 250th birthday anniversary. It was when literally walking in Mozart’s footsteps and hearing his music played with his own instruments in the places where he lived, worked and played, that I first realized how I might combine my interests in music history and architecture into a unique career path all my own.

Sheryl in Salzburg_May 2006

Sheryl in May 2006 overlooking Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg, Austria, from Hohensalzburg Fortress (c. 1077)

I thought, while we do not have nearly the depth in years of music history or indeed architecture as European, African or other indigenous countries do, from those ancestral influences we have created many genres of American popular music such as rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, blues, country, gospel, bluegrass, zydeco, Cajun, soul and R&B which have arguably been some of our country’s greatest contributions to the world. Who’s to say that in 250 years, people will not want to see and experience the places that tell those stories, to have that authentic sensory experience just as we had during our Mozart pilgrimage? It was a formative moment in my life to be sure, and at that point my career path was set ablaze,

When we returned home I immediately set out to explore the field of historic preservation while remaining conscious of my specific interest in the places significantly linked to American popular music, especially rock ‘n roll, for which I’ve had an affinity since childhood. It led to an internship, field school, a graduate degree in historic preservation and now, approaching four years out of school, first efforts in documenting and preserving rock ‘n’ roll landmarks in the US.

My first site visit to Circle G Ranch_May 2013

Sheryl in May 2o13 at the “Honeymoon Cottage” at Elvis Presley’s Circle G Ranch, opening to the public this summer after an international effort to preserve it

Last month I accepted the position as Interim Museum Director at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association (IRRMA) in Arnolds Park, Iowa. IRRMA, now nearing its 20th anniversary in 2017, was the first state non-profit created to preserve its rock ‘n’ roll history and the first to induct its landmarks into its Hall of Fame. That pioneering legacy and vision for expanding the landmarks programming in the future is what really drew me to the job.

So as I celebrate National Preservation Month with so many others around the country, I will also be taking to Facebook and Twitter to celebrate this ever-important anniversary and hallmark year in my life and the composer who inspired it. Come join me!

Sheryl Davis is a historic preservationist dedicated to documenting, preserving and interpreting the architectural legacy of rock ‘n’ roll, and more broadly, American popular music. In addition to her new position as Museum Director at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association, Sheryl provides consulting services for music heritage projects in the US and abroad. You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


About Adventures in Preservation

Huge fans of the world's architectural heritage, making it a point to seek out historic buildings wherever we travel. Bloggers include co-founder of Adventures in Preservation, a non-profit organizing historic preservation-based volunteer vacations, and AiP interns.
This entry was posted in Cultural Heritage, Cultural Travel, Endangered Heritage, Historic Preservation, Popular Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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