Lowell Mason Started It All.NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
Each of us needs to recall occasionally the events that led to the introduction of music into the public schools. The early settlers were so occupied with their daily existence that more than a hundred years passed before any organized musical activity evolved. It was in the religious services where a small group began the singing of psalms. Publication of The Bay Psalm Book in 1640, the first book printed in British North America, gave great impetus to music in the church. ne good singers grouped themselves together, forming a choir. The desire for improved performance and for more individuals to participate led to the establishment of the New England singing schools. The primary objective of these schools was the teaching and learning of music reading.
For the next 150 years the singing school was the most influential source of music learning throughout the East. My grandmother, born in Pennsylvania in 1858, only 20 miles from Morgantown, recalled quite vividly her attendance at a singing school in 1870. She sang some songs for me; she said she learned by the "fa-so-la's."
Contrary to widespread belief, Lowell Mason began teaching music to children in the grammar grades. He had taught extensively in the singing schools in the South prior to being responsible in 1827 for the music in three Boston churches. In 1836 Mason requested the Boston School Board to provide music instruction in the public schools. They did not accept his proposal, but released the following statement on the philosophical ideas of Mason concerning the values of music: "Intellectually, as an aid to memory, comparison, attention, and intellectual faculties. Morally, as leading to happiness, contentment, cheerfulness, and tranquility. Physically, as developing chest expansion and thereby strengthening the lungs and vital organs."
When the School Board did give approval for music, the city council would not grant the necessary funds. Mason then offered his services on a trial basis for one year. In 1838 a favorable report revealing the positive effects of music on the children prompted the Board to include music as a regular subject in the curriculum of the Boston schools. Other cities soon followed Boston's example.
As stated in a previous column, Mason's concepts were prevalent in West Virginia as revealed by Lucy Robinson, supervisor of music in the Wheeling schools, in a paper read to the State Education Association in Clarksburg in 1897. She claimed that unless music could be taught to serve as a valuable aid in the physical, mental, and moral culture of the pupil, it did not belong in the common schools. C.H. Congdon in 1914 likewise con- firmed the cultural and disciplinary values of music. By 1920 music was included in most high schools in the independent districts and was being gradually introduced as a curricular subject irk their elementary grades.
Hannah M. Cundiff of Marshall College, co-author of the widely used School Music Handbook, and Lydia 1. Hinkei at West Virginia University had promoted music as a curricular subject and were teaching classroom procedures and techniques to prospective music teachers and supervisors. No one could have foreseen the quantity and diversification of the present school music programs. As for its quality, subjective evaluations differ.
Tacit - for now.