MUSIC IN THE ELEMENTARY GRADESNOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
The teaching of music in the elementary schools of West Virginia has been - and still is in some areas - quite vicarious. In 1849 Wheeling became the first independent school district in the state and was one of the first to include music in the elementary schools. By the turn of the century other independent districts such as Parkersburg, Charleston. Huntington, Ceredo, Morgantown, Fairmont, Ravenswood, Clarksburg, and Bluefield began to teach music to some extent. The control of the educational program by the local school board created great variation, not only in music, but in all subjects.
The philosophical principles initiated by Lowell Mason in the Boston schools in 1838 were used in many states, including West Virginia, to justify the teaching of music. Lucy Robinson, supervisor of music in the Wheeling schools, stressed the physical, mental, and moral values of music in a report to the State Education Association in 1897.
When a school board decided that music should be taught in the elementary grades, administrators were faced with the responsibility of finding qualified music teachers. What happened in most instances was the appointment of a special music teacher who, in some districts, was given the title of supervisor of music. This position might be compared to that of the traveling music teacher of today. As music gradually gained more recognition and as courses of study were developed. the classroom teachers began to teach what music they knew or traded the music class with a more talented colleague.
In rural schools of West Virginia there was almost no teaching of music prior to 1900. There were no statewide requirements and no institutions within the state offered preparation for teaching school music. In 1904 music was included for the first time in the state manual for elementary teachers. In that same year only eight music teachers were listed in the West Virginia Educational Directory, and all eight had obtained their preparation outside the state.
As more school districts included music in their elementary curriculum, music "courses of study" were developed for each of the eight grades. A further recognition of music was indicated when the state manual of 1914 listed an adopted text for music, the Congdon Music Reader. In many districts there were inadequate funds to hire special teachers, even if they had been available. (To be continued in a future column.)