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Charlemaud Curtis Collection of Southwestern Music, Interviews and Programs

Identifier: MSS-847-BC

Scope and Content

The original Curtis field recordings have been reformatted to CDs from reel to reel tapes. As in the goal of the Robb archive, Curtis and her associates at the Fine Arts Library have captured part of the rich musical heritage and history of the people of New Mexico. The collection includes both music and oral interviews.

Among the recording are Navajo morning songs and blessing ways, a Navajo music and dance workshop, Keresan children’s play - game songs, Laguna and other Pueblo songs, and All American Championship Indian powwow dances in the Mescalero Reservation and Ruidoso, New Mexico. The collection contains Native American recordings made in New Mexico by Philip Encino and Lorenzo Aragon. In addition, there are songs from the South Cheyenne, other Plains Indians and the Indians of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Ayacucho, Peru. Among the Hispanic or Spanish pieces are traditional and original New Mexican and Mexican folk songs, alabados and matachines from San Jose parish, Albuquerque and Spanish Christmas shepherd pageants in Albuquerque. There are also songs from Holy Week passion celebrations in Villanueva and Tome, New Mexico; Cordova, Spain; and among the Tarahumara Indians, from Cusarare, in Chihuahua, Mexico. These recordings feature the native instruments of the Tarahumara - flutes, drums and the chapareque. Other recordings contain Spanish music at a UNM campus Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Catholic masses and church music programs, Spanish wedding music, and popular Spanish dance bands. Included also are recorded lectures by Cleofes Vigil on New Mexico Hispanic music traditions and on New Mexico territorial corridos or ballads by Ruben Cobos. Represented also are Anglo American old time fiddle contests in Portales, New Mexico, country western music from Clovis, and cowboy songs performed by Steve Cormier. There are also recordings of African American religious gospel music from Mount Olive Baptist Church and Grant Chapel, in Albuquerque.

Charlemaud Curtis and her associates also conducted interviews with old timers from Albuquerque, Santa Rosa, Clovis, La Joya and Lordsburg. Sometimes they did them during the music events they were taping and other times made special trips to record people. Individuals were also making interesting comments within the various musical programs as they were being taped. Some were individuals that Curtis knew through her family or were folks she met in her recording trips. The interviews represent the views of a Mexican American immigrant as well as several Hispanics and Anglo Americans.

One set of interviews covers the history of the development of music institutions in Albuquerque, including the UNM music department and local community concerts, opera, and the civic orchestra. Another group of interviews deals with Santa Rosa, New Mexico - giving both the Spanish and Anglo American view of the town’s development. They tell about the town and area history, cattle and sheep ranching, the first water and electric facilities, and the impact of the railroad and interstate highway on the town (Route 66) and the depression. There are also accounts of early American pioneers in Santa Rosa, doctors and the 1918 flu epidemic, Hispanic distrust of Santa Rosa bankers, trading at stores on credit, and the working of the sheep partido system in the area. Also included are stories of the early New Mexico Spanish settlers’ hardy faith, team spirit, foods and songs. Others describe making santos with a machete and local dyes, Spanish place names, the Santa Fe Trail and San Miguel County politics. In a 1976 interview, Judge Moise, from Santa Rosa, comments on Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, a novel based in Santa Rosa . We also learn about early Anglo American ranch families in Clovis and an Anglo American pioneer woman’s life in Quay County. Covered, too, are the views of a Mexican American man in Lordsburg on migrant farm labor, working for the railroad, local foods and getting his first social security checks from the government. There are also discussions of the origin and characters of the Los Pastores performances at San Jose parish, in the south valley of Albuquerque and the history of La Joya land grant, Thomas Campbell, the church and school, and that town’s fiesta traditions.

There are program flyers and/or notes from a couple of these events in Box 2. This collection is part of the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music.


  • 1960-1987

Language of Materials

English Spanish

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biography / History

Charlemaud Curtis was a music librarian at the University of New Mexico Fine Arts Library from the 1950s to the 1980s. In addition to her work in the Library, Charlemaude went out into the countryside and taped a variety of music performances, programs and interviews. She came from an old Clovis, New Mexico family. Her mother was a teacher in Eastern New Mexico schools and her father, Charles A. Curtis, was a well-known veterinarian and cattle inspector, hence her knowledge and interest in pioneer life and early music in New Mexico. Curtis graduated from Albuquerque High in 1940. She received her Bachelor’s in Education at UNM in 1946. She played the piano, sang in local choirs and lived in the East Heights of Albuquerque. She also taught music among the Indians of New Mexico.

Curtis was working at UNM during the time that Donald L. Roberts was Head of the Fine Arts Library (1963–1968). Roberts was the first part-time, unfunded, unofficial director of an emerging collection of field recordings that came to be called the Archive of Southwest Music. The beginning and core of the music archive were the folk music recordings, compositions, and papers donated to the UNM Fine Arts Library by John Donald Robb upon his retirement in 1957. Donald L. Roberts established the Archive of Southwestern Music by name in 1964 to preserve Robb’s collection. Roberts continued to gather material to preserve the musical heritage of New Mexico and the Southwest until he left UNM in 1968. Helping in the endeavor was Charlemaud Curtis. In September 1971, James Wright joined UNM as the Assistant Head of the Fine Arts Librarian. In the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis and Wright continued to collect field recording. This collection represents the work done by Curtis, who was also involved with some of the material in Wright’s collection.

Wright saw the need for a full-time archivist for the UNM Archive of Southwestern Music and funds to cover traveling, recording and processing expenses. In 1981, at a ceremony held in Keller Hall, UNM celebrated the renaming of the Archive of Southwestern Music as the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music, with Wright named as Director. Charlemaud Curtis became the Associate Director. Although no funding was included. Wright and Curtis continued their recordings with occasional small funds from the General Library. They were the last to do field work for the Southwest music archive.


3 boxes (.45 cu. ft., including 89 CDs and 5 folders)


The Curtis collection contains a wide variety of recordings including music, programs and interviews. They range from Navajo, Pueblo, Keresan, Laguna and Mescalero Apache and songs and dances, Spanish alabados, Christmas plays, and wedding dances and popular music, to Anglo American fiddle and cowboy tunes and African American gospel music. Also included are some songs from the Cheyenne and Plains Indians, the Tarahumara of Chihuahua, the Indians of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru, and a Holy Week program from Spain. There are also interviews with old timers from Albuquerque, Santa Rosa, Clovis, La Joya and Lordsburg. The interview topics range from the evolution of classical music culture in Albuquerque, the history of Santa Rosa and pioneer life in Clovis and Quay County, to discussions of the San Jose Los Pastores Christmas play, a short history of La Joya and views of a Mexican American migrant farmer and railroader from Lordsburg.

Select Recordings Available Online

Recordings of "Asi es Nuevo Méjico" by Amadeo Lucero and Ruben Cobos lecture on New Mexico Territorial Spanish and Mexican corridos, decimas and inditas, song type histories, descriptions and recorded musical examples, part 1 and part 2 are available via New Mexico Digital Collections.

Related Material

James B. Wright Collection of Southwestern Native American and Hispanic Music, Interviews and Literary Programs. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico James S. Griffith New Mexico Popular Music Collection. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Juan S. Lucero and Lora L. Chavez Collection of New Mexico Hispanic Religious and Traditional Songs. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Tim Greer Collection of Hispanic Catholic Church Music of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Richard B. Stark Collection of New Mexico Religious Songs. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Shirley Ann Griffin-Martin Collection of Recordings of Albuquerque African American Music and Programs. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Alan Paine Radebaugh Collection of Country Western Music and Interviews. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico Shirley Ann Griffin-Martin Recordings of Albuquerque African American Music and Programs Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Ken Keppeler and Jeanie McLerie collection of Northern New Mexico Hispanic music Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Original reels housed with John Donald Robb Archive Masters.

Processing Information

Original reel to reel recordings reformatted to CD in 2011.
Finding Aid of the Charlemaud Curtis Collection of Southwestern Music, Interviews and Programs, 1972-1987
Edited Full Draft
Nancy Brown Martinez and Andrew Saletta
© 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131