Czech accordion player from Seymour, TX
Imagesshow all 13 images
Jim Vita talks about Julius Vita growing up. Phone interview with Alan Govenar, 2010.
Jim Vita talks about where Julius Vita used to play accordion. Phone interview with Alan Govenar, 2010.
FOR THE TEACHER
Julius Vita’s story presents a good introduction to immigration and diversity in Texas. Ellis Island dominates our nation’s immigration story, yet the Port of Galveston was also a vital entryway for immigrants from around the world. Likewise, students may not realize how many immigrants from different parts of the world have made Texas home. Czech immigrants, like German immigrants, contributed significantly to traditional music in the state.
The earliest Czech immigrants came to Texas in 1852 and settled in the Coastal Plains not far from the Port of Galveston. In their homeland most of the immigrants had been farmers and sought land that would be suitable for agriculture. By the 1870s, Czechs had moved into Central and Northwest Texas in the area near Seymour in Baylor County, where Julius Vita lived and worked.
This story also brings a variety of gathering places to life to spark students’ awareness of the importance of such places to communities. From Facebook to food courts and football games, students also gather, just as the Czech community assembled at the Old Settlers Reunion, feed store, VFWs, barn dances, and Knights of Columbus halls.
Julius Vita is a good role model for students to discuss earning privileges and giving to community.
- Improve listening skills and note taking
- Explore diversity and immigration in Texas
- Research Czech immigration to the state
- Learn about Czech music and the button accordion
- Consider the importance of gathering places to building community and passing along traditional culture
- Catalog and analyze their own gathering places
- Reflect on the relationship between language and the transmission of culture
- Examine the values of hard work and volunteering
Immigration and Diversity
- Texas has a long history of immigration from many nations and regions of the world.
- The Port of Galveston played an important role in American immigration history.
- Nationality and ethnicity are only two of many elements that contribute to cultural diversity. Others include occupation, economic class, religion, gender, and age cohort.
- Language and culture are intertwined.
- Non-English speakers have always immigrated to Texas.
- Being aware of language, both oral and written, makes us aware of various cultural groups and social issues.
- Like the feed store, VFW, Old Settlers Reunion, and dances in Julius Vita’s story, gathering places help define communities.
- New media makes virtual gathering places possible.
- Schools are important gathering places.
Julius Vita’s story and photos
Everyday Music Field Notes
Everyday Music Listening Log
Traditions Venn Diagram
Release Forms (optional)
1-2 class periods
Texas history, social studies, English language arts, music
Review Julius’s story and the audio clip. Choose Big Ideas that you find relevant to your curriculum and your students. Copy Everyday Music Field Notes and other worksheets students will need and cue the audio clip.
Students may read the story and listen to the audio story independently, in groups, or as a class. Using the Everyday Music Field Notes worksheet will help them focus more closely. In a class discussion, raise some of the Big Ideas above, depending upon your curriculum and students’ needs and grade level. Here are questions to spark discussion:
- Julius Vita told Alan Govenar that he could interview him “if you got nerves enough to stick with me.” What do you think this statement says about the musician?
- Julius’s son Jim describes his father as “a true volunteer.” What qualities make a good volunteer? What evidence do you find in Julius’s story that he was a good volunteer? What interests you enough to become a volunteer?
- What sacrifices have you made to earn a privilege?
- Where are gathering places in school? In the community?
- What do you know about the accordion?
- How does language influence everyday life and the passing along of cultural traditions?
Students may work independently or collaboratively to:
Investigate how local radio stations, both FM and AM, contribute to a sense of place and community history. Although many stations play mainstream popular music of various genres, plenty of stations also feature local music programming in a number of languages. For example, every Sunday KSEY-94.3 FM in Seymour, Texas broadcasts a Czech polka show. Adapt the Everyday Music Listening Log to research what local radio stations say about your community. Summarize your findings in a report, chart, or classroom radio show. Listen to KSEY at www.radioksey.com and find other Texas polka shows at www.radio4polkas.com/polkaradio_files/state/TX.html.
What are gathering places in your community? Your school? Use the Traditions Venn Diagram to compare Julius Vita’s gathering places with your own. Choose one of your favorite gathering places and work with a team to document it to create a multimedia presentation. Elements to research include the following: age groups, layout, landscape, sounds, who’s in charge, activities, rules, private versus public spaces, rituals, customs, traditions, meaning to those who gather there, meaning to the overall community. If you include interviews, be sure to use a Release Form.
Research Czech immigration to Texas and the importance of Galveston as a port of entry for thousands of immigrants (see Resources). When did Czech immigrants arrive, where did they settle, and why did they leave Europe? Write a report summarizing your findings and include photos and maps.
As you listen to Julius Vita play Czech accordion, make an accordion book where you can sketch your reflections, his portrait, or his button accordion. You may also use the book to sketch the instruments that all the artists in this book play as well as the artists. To fold pages, take a piece of paper and fold it in half, then fold the edges back, toward the centerfold.
The accordion is a very popular instrument among many types of Texas musicians. Research the button accordion, the piano accordion, or both. Present your findings in a class presentation or Web page that includes illustrations and, if possible, sound files.
Radio listening logs
Local radio reports, charts, or radio shows
Multimedia presentations on gathering places
Port of Galveston
Use and create primary sources
Immigration and migration
Galveston Historical Foundation www.galvestonhistory.org
KSEY-94.3 FM www.radioksey.com in Seymour, Texas broadcasts a Czech polka show every Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.
Texas polka radio show list and schedule www.radio4polkas.com/polkaradio_files/state/TX.html