Bound Volume Number


Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2015

Capstone Advisor

Prof. Theo Cateforis

Honors Reader

Prof. Jenny Doctor

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component



Musicology, New Orleans, Music History

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Audio Arts and Acoustics | Ethnomusicology | Musicology | United States History


“When the Saints Go Marching In” has never been subject to a sustained study of its origins, disseminations, and current manifestations. A study like this, focused on a song’s perceptions via various viewpoints through time, is typically referred to as a song profile; a form of reception history specifically concentrated on a single musical composition. “When the Saints Go Marching In,” also known as “Saints” or “The Saints,” is an African-American spiritual typically listed as a traditional in most songbooks without a composer.[1] I have laid out this paper into four sections, one for each period of the song’s history. The first chapter discuses the origins of the tune; examining spirituals, brass bands, claims to authorship, and its early recordings. Chapter two describes Louis Armstrong’s contribution to the song, and its rise in popularity during the Dixieland Revival of the 1940s and 50s. The following chapter comments on the emergence of “Saints” as a New Orleans cliché and the growth of tourism and economic disparity in the city. The final chapter explores the song’s use in children’s music education in the United States. I used Sheryl Kaskowitz’s book God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song, a song profile on Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” as inspiration for this study.

[1] I will refer to “When the Saints Go Marching In” as “Saints” frequently in this paper, as it is a common shorthand for the tune, used by both musicians and scholars.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.