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Lynn Ellen Burkett

Lyn Ellen Burkett is Assistant Professor of Music at Western Carolina University. She holds a Ph.D. in music theory from Indiana University and has taught courses including analysis of rock music and women and popular music in the U.S. An accomplished pianist, she specializes in performing 20th- and 21st-century repertoire. She has presented her research at several national conferences including Society for American Music and the Gender and Authority Seminar at University of Oxford.

Seventeen"Magazine’s Musical Canon for the Teenage Girl"
In her writings on teens, society, and culture, Paula Fass observes, “It was less possible to protect the young from the growing influence of popular culture with its strong homogenizing Americanizing trends as the twentieth century progressed. Music, clothing, movies, teen magazines, slang, dating patterns—these were all ways in which the young became another estate in America …” (Fass, Children of a New World, 37). Magazines played an important role in the codification of teen subculture in the 1940s, especially in regard to the shaping of teens’ tastes in music.  Seventeen, the most widely circulated magazine for American adolescent girls,  has a history that predates the rock ‘n’ roll era: the first issue was published in September 1944, and circulation had reached two-and-a-half million by July 1949 (the magazine is still in circulation). On the cover of the earliest issues of Seventeen, one finds the words, “Young fashions & beauty, movies & music, ideas & people.” Seventeen’s founder and editor-in-chief from 1944 to 1953, Helen Valentine, hoped to create a magazine that took teenage girls seriously, educating them on the arts and current events as well as fashion and beauty. At the same time, Seventeen’s promotion director Estelle Ellis worked to make the business world aware of the new and lucrative female teen market. These dual emphases on educating and advertising, two distinct approaches to relating to the reader, led to the creation of what can be understood as a cultural canon (encompassing, for example, clothing, slang, and dating patterns), and a more specific musical canon for teenage girls that exemplifies what Fass describes as the “growing influence of popular culture.” Through a study of forty-seven feature articles on music that appeared in Seventeen under Valentine’s editorial leadership (1944-1950, the magazine’s first six years), I will illustrate Seventeen’s approach to the formation of a musical canon for American teenage girls, critiquing relationships between issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and musical genre included in the feature articles.