Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke, and the Gennett Studios

Historical Background

This unit introduces Hoagy Carmichael, one of the most important songwriters of the 20th century. Some of his most popular songs are “Heart and Soul” and “Georgia,” made popular by Ray Charles. Hoagy Carmichael was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana and has a law degree from Indiana University! He made considerable contributions to jazz music, and his legacy is found in more places than one might think.

A statue of Carmichael playing the piano is found on the campus of Indiana University near the main auditorium, and there is  also a “Hoagy Carmichael” room that contains things like recordings, photos, scrapbooks, even his desk and an Oscar award. Another Hoagy location to visit is Buffa Louie’s, a restaurant in Bloomington. The restaurant was originally called the Book Nook, and Carmichael wrote a lot of his music there. Finally, a place to experience a bit of Carmichael is at the Indiana Historical Society. There is a flight of stairs that contains all of the lyrics to his song “Stardust.” Stardust is one of the most recorded songs ever! He wrote it in 1927, and lyrics were eventually added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. His inspiration for the tune came from his experiences at his alma mater, Indiana University. Stardust is a “jazz standard” and considered a slow, sentimental song. A jazz standard is a composition written in the style of jazz that is generally well known amongst jazz musicians and has played an important role in jazz history. 

During his time at Indiana University, Carmichael met musician Bix Beiderbecke. They became friends and Carmichael hosted Bix and his band for many performances. Using musical terminology, this is called a “gig” – a live musical performance, recording session, or some sort of (typically paid)  engagement with a musician or musical ensemble. Beiderbecke ultimately invited Carmichael to join him in recording music at the famous Gennett Studios located in Richmond, Indiana. Many early jazz recordings were created at Gennett Studios by prominent artists such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton. Carmichael went on to write and perform in the Hollywood Studios.

Enrichment and Activities

Primary Grades

Heart and Soul

Students talk about the jobs of musicians and recording engineers, then do some improvisation and recording of their own over a piano track of “Heart and Soul.”

Lesson Plan

Intermediate Grades

Heart and Soul: Recording Then and Now

Students learn more about Gennett Studios and making records, practice improvising and playing different parts in a jazz ensemble, then do their own recording.

Lesson Plan