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'The Beat Goes On'

Chicago’s house music pioneers honored at Northwestern University

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Robert Williams, the legendary owner of the The Warehouse, the nation’s first house music club, and Lori Branch, one of Chicago’s earliest female disc jockeys, will be among the pioneers of house music celebrated in “The Beat Goes On: The Evolution of House Music in Chicago,” an exhibition at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery opening June 18 and running through July 2.

A 6 p.m. opening reception at the Dittmar Gallery, located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus, will include panel discussions at 6 and at 7:15 p.m. about house music, an electronic dance music genre that originated in Chicago in the late 1970s. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public. Two additional panels are scheduled for 1 and 2:15 p.m. Saturday, June 28. 

The exhibition includes items from the private collection of disc jockey and Grammy Award-winning record producer Frankie Knuckles, who died earlier this year. Knuckles was the first disc jockey and music director of The Warehouse, often dubbed the birthplace of house music.

Co-presented by the Modern Dance Music Research and Archive Foundation and Northwestern’s Dittmar Gallery, the exhibition will explore house music’s origins, its future and its evolution to electronic dance music (EDM).

The exhibition also will examine the contribution of Northwestern University radio station WNUR to the spread of house music internationally. “Streetbeat” is a popular electronic music radio show broadcast in the Chicago area from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., week nights and from midnight to 3 a.m. Sundays on Northwestern’s WNUR (89.3 FM). For more, visit WNUR.

The panel discussions will feature students, scholars from Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music and Weinberg College’s department of African American studies and other institutions and house music enthusiasts. They will discuss this popular music genre in depth to encourage remembrances of Chicago’s dance scene and examine the transformation of house music to EDM (electronic music produced primarily for dance-based entertainment, such as nightclubs and created for disc jockeys).

“House music is a spiritual force that was birthed in Chicago’s underground music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s in the iconic Warehouse and brought together cultures, races, ages and alternative orientations like no other medium of the day,” said Lauren Lowery, head archivist of the Modern Dance Music Research and Archiving Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation based in Chicago. Lowery, a Northwestern alumna and former WNUR disc jockey, co-curated the exhibition with Charles Matlock, the foundation’s executive director.

“The Beat Goes On” highlights:

“The Beat Goes On” opening panel, House Music in the Continuum of African American Music Forms, 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 18. Panelists will include Meida McNeal, artist, educator and scholar; Mark Butler, associate professor of music theory and cognition in Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music and author of “Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music; disc jockey Charles Matlock, executive director of the Modern Dance Music Research and Archiving Foundation; Nicholas Harwood, Northwestern School of Communication senior and WNUR “Streetbeat” program director; and Alexander G. Weheliye, professor of African American studies at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. David Stovall, associate professor of African American studies and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago, will moderate the discussion.

“WNUR Streetbeat: Local and Global Impact” panel, 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, June 18. Panelists include former and current WNUR disc jockeys Meredith Johnson, “Sweet MD” (1988), Ira Brown, “The I” (1988), Clifford Morehead (1992), Tim Harris, “T. Chablis” (1985); Gerald Scott McCarthy, “Scott on the Box”; and Northwestern senior Ed Ingerman (2014). WNUR alumna Lauren Lowery (1989), chief archivist of The Modern Dance Music Research and Archiving Foundation and Dittmar exhibition co-curator, will moderate.

• “The Beat Goes On” Closing Panel Discussion 1, “The Red Dog DJ Legacy,” 1 p.m. Saturday, June 28. Invited and confirmed panelists include disc jockeys from Chicago’s iconic Red Dog Club, including Lego, DJ Heather, Freddy Bain, Just Joey and Diz. Charles Matlock will moderate. 

• “The Beat Goes On” Closing Panel Discussion 2, “The Embodiment of House: Chicago dancers from the early 1980s to present,” 2:15 p.m. Saturday, June 28. Invited panelists include Chicago Club regulars Charles Parnell (1982 to present), Dave Risque (1979 to present), Diane Duarte (1976 to present) and Joey Guidry (1979 to present). Charles Matlock will moderate.

The Modern Dance Music Research and Archive Foundation documents and preserves house and dance music artifacts, scholarship and memories to reveal the genre’s significance and impact. For more information, visit Modern Dance Music Research and Archive Foundation, Twitter and Facebook.

The foundation recently partnered with Shorefront Legacy Center in Evanston, which houses the foundation’s archives. Established in 2002, Shorefront collects, preserves and educates people about black history on Chicago’s suburban North Shore. For more, visit Shorefront Legacy Center.

For more information, visit Modern Dance Music Research and Archive Foundation and Dittmar Gallery or email