Taking the ‘stage’ at the historic Pump House, managed by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area this past June, Tom Breiding recorded the PHC’s Humanities on the Road episode Steeltowns, Coalfield and the Unbroken Circle, which airs this weekend.
Times are rough for the working class. Families are struggling. People who are willing to work hard are outraged over the abuses of the elite and have chosen now as the time to stand their ground. No, that scene is not an Occupy Wall Street demonstration, but the situation preceding the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892 at the now historic Pump House in Munhall, PA. The Pump House is an architectural reminder of the struggle of labor in the building of America.
History’s value partially comes from its ability to contextualize current events, but each story requires a storyteller, and musician Tom Breiding’s work gives a voice to the steelworkers and coalminers who helped make this region what it is today. While Tom typically performs in schools and stages across the region, this collaboration with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PCN) brings him to the small screen in your living room.
Taking the ‘stage’ at the historic Pump House, managed by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area this past June, Tom Breiding recorded the PHC’s Humanities on the Road episode Steeltowns, Coalfield and the Unbroken Circle, which airs this weekend. (Watch a video clip & find your PCN-TV channel.)
For this performance, songwriter-recording artist Tom Breiding delivered unique musical stories of life in Pittsburgh and towns in Western Pennsylvania over the last century, followed by a question-and-answer- session with the audience. From the forgotten steel mills to the countless coal towns of western Pennsylvania and to points in between, Tom’s original compositions and traditional folktales emphasize the importance of American folk music and this region’s key role in building and shaping America.
“Pennsylvania Humanities Council is delighted to present folk musician Tom Breiding as part of our Humanities on the Road series,“ said spokeswoman Pam Shropshire. “His episode Steeltowns, Coalfields and the Unbroken Circle is a thoughtful and engaging tribute to the sacrifices of those industrial workers who built our country. In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve come from.”
The objective of Humanities on the Road is to be an opportunity for audiences all over Pennsylvania to take a closer look at history, the arts and the important ideas that shape our world. The presenters, including Breiding, are all members of PHC’s speakers bureau and are passionate about the need to engage community members in discussions that enrich our understanding of the human experience.
In addition to the recorded performance at the Pump House and as part of his role for the Humanities Council, Tom Breiding performed at other community events across the state.
“The Humanities Council has allowed me to reach so many interested people whom I would not have otherwise been able to connect with. Many of these people have stories of their own that they want to share," said Breiding. “It is reassuring to know that so many people still carry the legacy of early laborers and their families who built our country.”
“One of our many goals at PHC is to bring humanities programs to audiences in all 67 counties for free or little cost,” said PHC Board Chair Ann Benzel. “Particularly during these economic times, people are making difficult decisions about what to give up. We don't want the exposure to arts and culture, history, literature and philosophy to be one of those things.”
Tom Breding with Humanities on the Road host Tracey Matisak.
These objectives overlap with Tom Breiding’s. “It is so important to remember the history of our work force in America. The sacrifices that they made long ago have allowed most of us to live comfortable lives in America. It is important to remember these sacrifices while we look ahead at the future of our work force, the middle class, and at the state of our labor unions today.”
“I am honored to have shared my stories and songs at such an important site in our labor history. I am grateful to Rivers of Steel and the PA Humanities Council for allowing me this opportunity,” Breiding continued.
Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation conserves, interprets and develops historical, cultural and recreational resources throughout western Pennsylvania, including the eight counties that comprise the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.
Indeed, the collective missions of the Humanities Council, Tom Breiding & Rivers of Steel have uniquely coalesced and resulted in not-to-miss episode of Humanities on the Road. PHC invites viewers to continue the conversation that began at the Pump House in Munhall through the show blog at www.humanitiesontheroad.org.
The episodes will air on Pennsylvania Cable Network, Friday, November 11 at 6pm, Saturday, November 12 at 2pm and Monday, November 14 at 10am.
For information on the performance and artist residency programs Tom Breiding offers for schools, visit gatewaytothearts.org or call Heidi at 412.362.6982.