About Freight Train Frank Strong

My name is Frank Strong and I am an artist with VSA arts of Iowa.  I was born in Council Bluffs, the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific railroad.  From my early years I acquired an interest in the historical, cultural and economic effects of the building and operation of railroads.  This has motivated me to develop a residency and performance program around this exciting topic.  I have always been interested in music and railroads.

I began to play guitar and harmonica when I was 18 years old.  In preparing for this presentation I have had the opportunity to learn many railroad songs.  These songs record and celebrate the colorful history of building, maintaining and riding the railroad system throughout the United States.

The music of the railroads documents a part of U.S. history which contains a unique heritage from our forefathers.  The songs tell the story of the struggles, challenges, and achievements of the builders of the railroads.  The railroad songs were written and first performed by folks who had little, if any, formal musical training.  The need to express ourselves artistically is older than recorded history.

The purpose of my residency or performance is to educate, engage and motivate the audience to learn more about the history of the railroad and the people affected by the railroad.  These people expressed themselves artistically to record the events of the day, and passed the songs and stories down through the generations.

Overall, the residency or performance conveys the richness of the experiences documented through song – and how we can similarly tell our own stories through words and music.  Each residency includes a demonstration of the wide array of musical styles and interpretations.  The artist will demonstrate guitar methods and the combination of harmony with the complimentary sounds from a harmonica.  Follow up activities include the review of concepts and reemphasis on the value of music and its importance in American culture.

Guitars & Equipment for Performances