Presentation 1 - Illinois Creoles, French Canadians, and Louisiana Cajuns: A Continental Story

New France once stretched from the St. Lawrence River of Canada to New Orleans, and within its’ territory lived a vast population of French colonists almost as diverse as they were strong.  With the coming of new borders and the formation of new countries like Canada and The United States, these French founders would find themselves divided and even isolated.  But their cultures have remained, still existing after two centuries of isolation.

This program will take audiences on a journey of discovery where they will hear the history of their arrival, the French dialects they still speak, and the unique music they still perform.  And most important, through story and song, played on “Creole Fiddle,” audiences will have fun learning how the French of “The Illinois Country” serve almost as a time capsule for their cousins to the north and south.  With a “dash” of Cajun and a “pinch” of Quebecois this program will show how Illinois Creole culture bridges the continental expanse from Canada to Louisiana.

Program Topics

  • Music
  • History
  • French Creole

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Dennis via email or phone at 618.713.3260, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


Back to the 2021 – 2022 Road Scholar Roster

Presentation 2 - Play That Hot Fiddle: Old Time Radio and the Life of Southern Illinois Swing Fiddler “Pappy” Wade Ray

Born in 1916 in southern Indiana from a southeastern Illinois family, the child prodigy fiddler and singer Wade Ray, developed into one of the most endearing entertainers in country and western swing music. Through the medium of radio on shows such as “The Pappy Cheshire Show” on KMOX in St. Louis and the “National Barn Dance” on WLS in Chicago, Wade Ray gained national prestige along side performers such as Patsy Montana and Rex Allen.

Presenting the fast swing fiddling and humorous stories of his mentor Wade Ray, Dennis Stroughmatt will lead audiences through the early years of Old Time Radio and share how music brought America through The Great Depression, WWII, and beyond.

This presentation will also be accompanied by rare video of Wade Ray and personal memorabilia from the Wade Ray collection.

Program Topics

  • Country Music
  • History
  • Illinois

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Dennis via email or phone at 618.713.3260, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


Back to the 2021 – 2022 Road Scholar Roster

About Road Scholar Dennis Stroughmatt

From the Wabash River region of southeastern Illinois, Dennis Stroughmatt was taught to play fiddle by a mixture of tradition bearing stylists including southeast Missouri French Creole fiddlers Roy Boyer and Charlie Pashia in the tradition of their fathers and the southern Illinois Western Swing fiddle legend Wade Ray. He became an adopted son of the French Midwest Creoles who settled near St. Louis and Cahokia by playing at weekly house parties or “bouillons” and later made journeys that have included studies in Louhisiana, Quebec, and Tennessee. Dennis finds himself in a unique position as one who can speak knowledgeably of and play in a variety of French Creole and Old-time Western musical styles. With a master’s in history from SIU-Carbondale and a Certificate of French Quebecois Studies from The University of Quebec, Dennis is not only a musician but a passionate educator who entertains and teaches his audiences at the same time. Speaking engagements, residencies and performances include The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, The Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center, The Missouri Folklore Society, and Festival Acadian in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Learn More and Follow Dennis

Back to the 2021 – 2022 Road Scholar Roster

About Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

Since 1997, our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau has invited Illinois writers, storytellers, historians, folklorists, musicians, and living history actors, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout our state. It also supports local nonprofit organizations – including libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, civic groups, and many others – in presenting free-admission cultural programs of high quality to their communities for a modest application fee, which can be waived if your organization is experiencing financial hardship.

Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster features speakers hailing from many different communities across Illinois who offer presentations on topics in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, theater, film, music, politics, and other subjects that are thought-provoking and engaging. The breadth of these offerings reflects our conviction that the humanities can help us to examine the world in all its varied shades and discover in it the remarkable, the strange, the fantastic, the tragic, the humorous, and the beautiful.

Quick Links

How to Book a Speaker

How to Become a Speaker

Frequently Asked Questions

Back to the 2021 – 2022 Road Scholar Roster