John Troutman

Curator, Division of Culture & the Arts
Smithsonian Institution

John Troutman is Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. His first book, Indian Blues: American Indians and the Politics of Music, 1879-1934, won the Western History Association's biennial 2011 W. Turrentine Jackson Prize for a first book on any aspect of the American West. His latest book (2016) is Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music. In 2017 Kīkā Kila won the Organization of American Historians' Lawrence W. Levine Award for the "Best Book in American Cultural History," the Western History Association's Sally and Ken Owens Award for Best Book on the History of the Pacific Northwest, and the ARSC Award for "Best Historical Research in Recorded Popular Music". Troutman's essays have been featured in several anthologies, magazines, and journals. ​ Before working at the Smithsonian, Troutman was a professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he taught courses in public history and museum exhibition development, music history, and indigenous studies. He has also served as the assistant director of the Newberry Library's D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies in Chicago, and was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Americas at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT). He has won numerous short- and long-term research fellowships, and in 2014 he received his former university's highest honor for teaching, the Ray Authement Excellence in Teaching Award. ​He is featured in several documentaries and recently served as a consultant on American Epic, a Robert Redford/ Jack White/ T-Bone Burnett executive-produced PBS/BBC documentary on American music, as well as on the prize-winning Rezolution Pictures documentary, Rumble: the Indians Who Rocked the World. He has served as exhibit curator or coordinator for several exhibits, including most recently Sounding American Music at the National Museum of American History, and an installation for the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. As a national speaker, Troutman has been interviewed on several media outlets and has delivered invited public talks at institutions and universities such as the Royal Hawaiian Center in Honolulu, the University of Washington, the University of California, Berkeley, Wesleyan University, and Columbia University. Troutman was raised in Dothan, Alabama. He studied anthropology at Emory University, and earned a master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. He earned his PhD in history from the University of Texas at Austin. A semi-professional musician on pedal steel and guitar, he contributed steel guitar to the album Grand Isle, by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, which was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for "Best Regional Roots Music Album." He has performed on stage with numerous musical luminaries including CC Adcock, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Dr. John, Willie Nelson's Band, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Ani DiFranco, Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine), Doyle Bramhall II, Billy Squier, Lazy Lester, Lil Buck Sinegal, and his eight year old son, Jack.

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Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.