A Brief Look at The History of Teaching Music in the United States
Music has long been considered an important academic subject studied by scholars and musicians alike. In fact, music was considered so educational that the Ancient Greeks used it to study and teach mathematics and philosophy. Americans have also expressed a similar interest and devotion to teaching and learning music, so much so that the U.S. Department of Education includes music as a core subject in the curriculum. To better understand the history and importance of music education, lets take a look at the history of teaching music in the United States.
Early Teaching Styles
In 1717, America’s first music school opened up in Boston, Massachusetts, with the goal of helping children improve their singing voices for religious celebrations. The teaching style of America’s first music school was fairly straightforward as teachers would provide students with music tablature or textbooks and together the class would practice singing religious songs while focusing on proper singing techniques and phrasing.
Singing classes were the primary form of music education for over a century until Boston opened up a new school in 1832 – the Boston Academy of Music. With the Academy, music scholars sought to expand the current curriculum of singing techniques to include the study of music, as well as theoretical concepts. Although a private institution, one of the Academy’s founders, Lowell Mason, published the textbook Manual of Instruction which proved so successful that he was invited to teach music at the local Hawes School, thus becoming America’s first ever public school music teacher. Lowell’s first year of public school teaching was so successful that the local school board successfully sought to have music included within the syllabus. Boston’s success with music education inspired other districts and states to implement music into their educational curriculum, and by the 1900s music was an accepted and well-respected subject of study in both public school and secondary education.
Although the main teaching styles of the 1900s remained performance instruction and studying theory from a textbook, there were a number of advancements within the study and application of music during this time. With this advancement came an extension of how music can be taught and studied. The school orchestra and marching band are a great example of how music education expanded during this period, as both programs were developed in efforts to incorporate more modern – and more enjoyable – aspects of music within the curriculum. Another valuable advancement during this period is the implementation of phonographs and music libraries in public schools. With the advancement of teaching and studying opportunities came a wide array of public and private grants for music schools, programs and students.
Important Figures in the Development of Music Education
Lowell Mason – Considered by many to be the father of public music education, Lowell Mason was a successful Boston banker who enjoyed music as a hobby outside of work. Initially starting out by learning traditional hymns, Mason soon began writing and developing his own, the performance of which found much success within the Boston music scene of the time. In fact, Mason became so successful with music publishing and performance that Boston’s Hawes School asked him to teach music to students, making him the first public school music instructor in America.
Frances Elliot Clark – Starting his teaching career in the town of Ottumwa, Iowa, Frances Elliot Clark was a strong proponent for the academic and emotional benefits of music education. In fact, Clark spent much of his teaching sessions not only educating his students on how to properly sing, but also spiking their intriguing with his stories and insights on performers, composers and artists.
Phillip C. Hayden – Anointed the first supervisor of music in Quincy Illinois, Phillip C. Hayden was one of the leading contributors to establishing the Music Supervisors National Conference (also known as MENC). As if that was not enough, Hayden also started The School Music Monthly at the beginning of the 20th century to help expand the appreciation of music education.
The Ingenues – Although men receive a majority of credit for helping expand the appreciation of music education, the all-girl jazz band The Ingenues had an unmistakable influence as well. Throughout the 20s and 30s, the Ingenues achieved wide acclaim for their musicianship and inspired many women to become interested in music and music education.
Current Teaching Methods
With the advancement of technology, more music instructors have been leveraging technology to help improve and expand music teaching. There are a number of excellent music programs that can help with a student’s understanding and identification of music theory, some of the most popular include Nota, Karajan and Music Theory Pro. As classrooms and curriculums continue to become more tech-oriented, don’t be afraid to incorporate some of these technologies and applications in the classroom. Students may enjoy the change of pace.
Are you passionate about music and education? Well, why not share your passion with others by becoming the next graduate of Kent State’s online Master of Music in music education program. You can study entirely online and graduate in as few as 23 months – find out more today!