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The state song of Nevada is “Home Means Nevada.” It was composed by Nevadan Bertha Raffetto in 1932. Also a singer, Raffetto had been asked to find a song to sing about Nevada for a club function. When she found none that she thought captured the spirit of the state, she recalled an unfinished one of her own. Her completed composition was made the state song by the Nevada legislature in 1933.
Nevada is one of the western states of the US. Its principal border states are Utah to the east and California to the west. The name Nevada is derived from the Spanish word “nieve,” meaning snow-capped. The state is a mixture of mountainous and desert regions. It is nicknamed the “Battle State” because it gained statehood in the Union during the American Civil War.
Bertha Eaton Raffetto was born on 15 March 1885 and lived in Reno, the capitol of Nevada. Growing up, she was surrounded by books and music. Religious music particularly was part of her daily life. Raffetto wrote ballads and poetry as well as music. She was asked by the Native Daughters of Nevada to find a song about Nevada that she could sing at the group’s annual picnic.
Raffetto found some suitable songs, but none that she thought expressed the real spirit of Nevada. She decided on completing a song about Nevada that she had left unfinished some years before. Working for almost 18 straight hours, she finished the composition the morning of the picnic. She played and sang what would become the state song of Nevada from notes hand-written in pencil.
The song speaks mainly of the beauty of the land. Raffetto calls Nevada the “Land of the setting sun.” It is also a place of “desert gray” where the wind “blows wild and free” with “mountains tow’ring” over the landscape. She concludes that Nevada is the one place that means “home sweet home.”
After “Home is Nevada” became the state song of Nevada, Raffetto continued to write music, poetry, and ballads. “Her Ballad of Katie Hoskins” received wide critical acclaim and was used as a text at Columbia University in New York City to teach the ballad form. One of her concert marches, “The Spirit of Democracy,” was performed by the US Marine Corp Band and broadcast nationally from Washington, D.C.
Among the honors she received, Raffetto was named poet laureate of the Nevada Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was also active in many literary and musical groups. Reflecting on her career, she called writing the state song of Nevada “the most rewarding experience of my life.”