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Remembering Oscar Peterson, One of Jazz's Greatest Musicians

Also: Listeners in Bosnia and Nigeria ask about state nicknames. And a report on efforts to restore Ellis Island, which was known as the ''Gateway to America.'' Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Bob Doughty. On our show this week:

We listen to some jazz music by Oscar Peterson …

Answer a question about the nicknames of American states …

And tell about a campaign to save Ellis Island.

Ellis Island


Ellis Island is in New York Harbor. It was once the main immigration center known as the "Gateway to America." Twelve million new immigrants passed through Ellis Island at the height of its activity between eighteen ninety-two and nineteen twenty-four. About forty percent of Americans have at least one family member who entered the country there. Faith Lapidus tells us about efforts to restore this important place.


The immigration center at Ellis Island closed in nineteen fifty-four. All of the buildings stood empty. They started to fall apart because of the wet air of the harbor. Then in nineteen seventy-six the nearby Statue of Liberty was restored. This followed a money-raising effort linked to the two hundredth anniversary of the United States. Ellis Island's main building was also repaired and opened to visitors.

It became America's immigration museum and memorial to honor all immigrants. For the past several years, a nonprofit organization has been trying to raise money so that the other Ellis Island buildings can be repaired and restored.

Now, famous and not-so-famous Americans are appearing on a Web site and on television in special public service messages asking for help. They are telling the stories of their ancestors' experiences at Ellis Island. For example, when ships from Europe entered New York Harbor, inspectors would sail out to check the documents of the wealthier passengers. But poor passengers got quite a different welcome.

They were taken to Ellis Island for intense examinations. As many as five thousand immigrants a day were required to walk up a flight of stairs to a group of waiting doctors. The doctors gave what became known as the "thirty-second medical" -- a fast physical and mental examination. For immigrants who failed the test, this was a quick end to their hopes of a new life in America.

Some of these people were sent to the Ellis Island hospital before they were sent back to Europe. The hospital is one of the damaged buildings that will be restored.

For those immigrants who were able to begin new lives in America, Ellis Island represents stories of hope, survival and success. People who support the Save Ellis Island campaign say they hope all the buildings can be completely restored. They want to keep the buildings alive in order to keep the stories alive.

Nicknames of American States


Our VOA question this week comes from listeners in Bosnia and Nigeria. Danijel Djordjic and Tarzaar Ishoon ask about the nicknames of American states.

First, a word or two about nicknames. A nickname is a word used in addition to the official name of a person or place. People with long names are sometimes called by a nickname that is shorter. For example, a woman named Elizabeth may be called Liz.

Every American state has an official nickname. But people may know the state by other names as well. For example, Pennsylvania’s official nickname is the Keystone State. Its Web site says the keystone is the part of an arch structure that holds the other parts together. One story says Pennsylvania was the keystone of the American colonies because it was in the middle and held them together.

Pennsylvania is also sometimes called the Quaker State. That name comes from the Quakers, the religious group who first settled the area. Pennsylvania is also sometimes called the Oil State, the Coal State or the Steel State because oil, coal and steel are three of its industries.

The nearby state of Ohio is known as the Buckeye State. That is because many buckeye trees grow there. The Buckeye is also the official tree of Ohio. The state Web site says people in Ohio have called themselves Buckeyes since at least the election of eighteen forty. That was when Ohio native William Henry Harrison was elected president. His friends in Ohio carved campaign gifts from buckeye wood to show their support for him.

So we have explained some nicknames of two American states. But what about the other forty-eight? If you want to know about their nicknames, listen to the Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES for the next four weeks. The first one airs on Sunday. Then, all your questions will be answered.

Oscar Peterson

(MUSIC: "Backyard Blues")


One of the all-time great jazz musicians died last week at the age of eighty-two. Some say Oscar Peterson was the most famous jazz musician in the world. Katherine Cole has more.


Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal, Canada, and learned jazz from musicians in that city. He later said his jazz education came from listening to the radio. Oscar Peterson played piano and wrote music. He recorded more than one hundred albums, won eight Grammy awards and performed all over the world.

Some of his most famous recordings were with his group, the Oscar Peterson Trio. In nineteen ninety, the group played for three nights at the Blue Note nightclub in New York City. Two of the albums recorded at those shows won Grammy Awards. Here is the Oscar Peterson Trio from the album "Live at the Blue Note" playing "Let There Be Love."


Oscar Peterson loved Canada. In two thousand, the government asked him to write music for the nation's Millennium celebration. The result was "Trail of Dreams: A Canadian Suite." Here is one of the songs from that recording, "Open Spaces." Peterson said he wrote it to give the listener the feeling of endless prairie land.


Oscar Peterson also wrote music resulting from racial discrimination he experienced. One of those songs became a battle cry for the civil rights movement. We leave you now with Oscar Peterson playing "Hymn To Freedom."



I'm Bob Doughty. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Shelley Gollust and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

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Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.