Florida can proudly boast a diverse musical identity. Every new group that has set roots in Florida has shared its unique rhythm and sound, creating a harmonious blend of musical expression.

From opera to gospel, Latin and bluegrass, we celebrate music as a bridge connecting our state’s unique cultures. At the Florida Department of State, we are excited to help you cultivate those connections by offering plenty of resources for exploring Florida’s wide range of musical traditions.

You don’t have to look far to learn about Florida’s musical past. Streaming music around the clock, Florida Memory Radio is a free online music player featuring recordings from the State Archives of Florida audio collection. Programming includes bluegrass and old-time, blues, folk, gospel, Latin and world music. Through the work of folklorists and archivists, the music on Florida Memory Radio lives on for our enjoyment. Visit Radio.FloridaMemory.com to stream anytime!

If you want to dig deeper to find Florida’s musical roots, the Florida Memory project offers curated playlists that paint a panorama of Florida’s musical landscape. Combined with in-depth liner notes and detailed track listings, these playlists are treasured collections of live and unforgettable performances. You can hear songs like “Amazing Grace” by the Florida-Alabama Progressive Seven-Shape Note Singing Convention, “Orange Blossom Special” by Chubby Anthony and Claude Bedenbaugh, or a 1939 recording of  “Shove it on Over” by Zora Neale Hurston.

While our recorded music collection is a great window into the past, live music in the Sunshine State is fresh and bountiful. Since 1953, the Florida Folk Festival has been celebrating Florida’s many folk cultures and traditions. (You can read more about it on page 24 of this issue of Forum.)  Held every spring at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, the festival treats visitors to an immersive weekend of music, dance, stories, craft and food representing Florida’s rich cultural tapestry. While you’re there, seek out the Department’s Florida Folklife tent for performances and demonstrations celebrating the diverse living traditions of Florida, including music traditions.

The show doesn’t stop there. FloridaMusicTours.com can help you hit the road on a musical journey to discover Florida’s iconic venues and historic sites. These specially crafted tours will guide you to the locations in Florida with connections to Florida’s blues legends, iconic rock stars and the location of the lone Beatles concert held in Florida. More than just memories, Florida Music Tours can point you to the many festivals and concerts that are keeping the spirit at these venues alive and well.

If you are interested in learning about the legendary musicians who have called Florida home, look no further than the Florida Artist Hall of Fame online. Spotlighting a deep talent pool of successful musicians, the Florida Artist Hall of Fame honors the lives of rock and roll pioneers Ray Charles and Bo Diddley; country music singer and songwriter Billy Dean; the mayor of Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett; the renowned opera composer Carlisle Floyd; and the legendary pop singer Gloria Estefan, to name only a few. Soaked in Florida influences, their work continues to reach listeners across the world.

While we show pride for our hometown heroes, we are just as proud to support your community’s local opera, symphony, chorus and music programs. This year, the Division of Arts and Culture awarded grants totaling $6.3 million to more than 90 of these entities across the state. These programs are strong builders of Florida culture, and we look forward to reviewing new applications each year.

Music continues to be a powerful force that bridges Florida’s diverse cultures. Musical expression is a universal way to share stories of celebration, hardship, ritual and tradition. To learn more about the deep roots and evolving sound of Florida’s music, visit DOS.MyFlorida.com.

Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as Florida’s 36th Secretary of State. She was previously the Circuit Court Judge in Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County. Secretary Lee received her bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida, where she was a member of Florida Blue Key. She was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame in 1999.

Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee was previously the circuit court judge in Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Court in Hillsborough County. Secretary Lee received her bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida, where she was a member of Florida Blue Key. She was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame in 1999.

FORUM Spring 2022 Cover

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.