Dr. W. H. Stone says in his " Elementary Lessons on Sound," that he
and other scientists have experimented on a large number of persons with-
out finding a single defective ear. There were many devoid of practice
in estimating sounds and there were great differences in the amount of
delicacy they could acquire, but all without exception, he states were sus-
ceptible of education.
While, then, it has been proven that all are susceptible of some aural
education, it is desirable that it should be begun as early in life as possible,
for in childhood the sensitiveness of the ear increases rapidly with use.
The attention of the child may be directed to many sounds of the inani-
mate world. Let him sing the pitch of the church bells, car l)ells, school
bells, steam whislles, a gong, a bottle, or even of a creaking door. Even
the smallest children will enjoy these common-place object lessons in
We have too many imitative singers ; indeed we have but very few who
are not 8u«h. In nearly every house there is a piano or organ, and sing-
ing without this accompaniment is hardly thought of. Many who are
considered excellent readers of music are quite helpless without an instru-
ment ; they themselves do not realize to what an extent they are imitators.
I hope that soon instrumental aid to singing will be considered old-
fashioned and then we will have more independent singers. No piano,
however tine, can add to the beauty and sweetness of little children's
voices and they should be spared the hindrance in their musical education
of having an instrument do their thinking for them.
If all of our School Boards could afford it, if they really had mor«
funds than they knew how to use, it might be allowable to have a piano
or organ in each room for calisthenics, marching solos at rhetoricals, and
so forth, but ev«n then the risk would be great. The temptation to learn
the new songs from the instrument would very likely be yielded to, and
thus they would only " gain a loss."
How, then, can the average teacher succeed? First , by the help of a
systematic series of textbooks, supplied either in the form of books and
charts or both. Something that contains music of a high order, for little
children will soon learn to appreciate such, and their taste for the best in
musical as in other literature should be cultivated. In connection with
these a pitch-pipe and simple pendulum or metronome should be provided.
Seeondly, by carrying on the work with the same care and in accordance
with the same principles that she conducts her other recitations.
678 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION
It may not be out of place for me to say that having used in my work
various series of books, I find nothing so perfectly adapted to the needs
of both the experienced and inexperienced teacher of vocal music as the
so-called Normal Music Readers and charts by J. W. Tufts and H. E.
Holt of Boston.
The teacher who makes intelligent use of these according to the sugges-
tions in the Teacher's Manual accompanying will find her work clearly
outlined step by step, and an abundant supply of the best material for
practice. By following out these simple directions it is my conviction, as
the result of observation and experience, that the average teacher can
succeed in teaching music.
I am aware that various other suggestions have been made and that
there are those who believe that a simplified notation would greatly
facilitate the work of the unmusical teacher. My own observation and
experience, however, have not convinced me that a change in notation
would be either helpful or desirable. Some six years since, as the result
of a letter from one of the most earnest advocates in this country of the
system of notation well known as the Tonic sol-fa system, I was induced
to investigate carefully the methods and claims of this system with the
view of employing it in my own teaching if convinced of the advantages
claimed for it by its advocates ; and while I did investigate the subject as
carefully as I was able at that time, and have made special effort to inform
myself through the published literature of the system, and through listen-
ing to the discussions and addresses that have been given from time to
time at the great educational and musical conventions, as well as following
the discussions through the press, and through the educational papers, I
still believe that neither the average teacher nor the special teacher who
understands the simple principles of teaching and is willing to apply
them to teaching music can derive any possible benefit or assistance from
either the permanent substitution or temporary use of the Tonic sol-fa,
system of notation.
No teacher can apply to music the true principles of teaching who does
not teach invisible sounds instead of their visible signs, and if these in-
visible things are properly taught together with their relations to each
other — both in point of duration and pitch — the staff notation will be
found, in my judgment, the most convenient, the most reasonable, and
the most satisfactory expression of these invisible objects.
I am aware that the J advocates of the Tonic sol-fa system claim freely
that no one who has tried both would prefer the staff. One of the best
primary t^achsrs of my acquiintance writ3i me from a Ne^ Jersey town
as follows: "Having taught both I am much better pleased with the
s':aff notation than jwith the Tonic s :)l-f a. I never will go back to the
latter unless the powers that reign above m? demand it.'' Another
WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO IN MUSICAL INSTRUCTION. 579
writes : "It seems to me that persons who have taught both the Tonic
sol-fa and the staff notations can come to but one conclusion with regard
to them, that the latter is much the better. I find the mind of the child
oan be trained to musical effects as thoroughly by the staff notation as by
the other, and at the same time give quicker results."
The average teacher, then, certainly need not be deterred from under-
taking the work through fear of the difficulties of the staff notation, nor
need she feel it to be essential to her success in teaching vocal music to
familiarize herself with any other system of notation than that furnished
by the staff, whose difficulties will vanish the moment she undertakes the
work in real earnest.
My confidence, then, in the educational and moral value of music and
in the ability of the average teacher to teach it leads me to believe that
the time is not far distant when music shall have its place in all our public
schools, and shall be taught by our regular teachers. The inestimable
advantages that will result from this recognition of vocal music in all our
public schools are among the best of the many good things which the
future has in store for us as citizens and teachers.
The proper teaching of vocal music in our public schools will prove one
of the most valuable moral and intellectual forces, and the appreciation
and love of good music which will be thus generally cultivated will refute
forever the oft-repeated statement that we Americans are an unmusicial
people. But the effect upon our teachers themselves will be helpful and
encouraging. The intelligent study of music will come as a relief and a
recreation to relieve the monotony of the more taxing and irksome school-
room duties, and to the " average teacher " as well as to her more brilliant
and conspicuous brethren and sisters of the great teaching profession will
be opened up new opportunities of usefulness, pleasure and self-culti-
WHAT MUSIC INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
BY N. COE STEWART, CLEVELAND, OHIO.
Mr, President, Ladies and Gentlemen : —
There is much said nowadays about music instruction in the public
schools. Honest people vary widely in their opinions respecting its value.
Most persons have either known or heard of something which seems to
indicate that music was universally valuable, or have thought that per-
haps it might be made so. Yet in many cases their observation has failed
to confirm the conviction. Hence in many places where music had gained
a foothold in school it has either been discontinued or allowed to dwindle
to insignificance, because the effort made did not prove satisfactory, and
the school managers are still in doubt. In very many other places music
has not been introduced as a study, either because people have not thought
much about it — which means that what they have thought and seen of
music instruction has been very superficial and limited, — or because their
appreciation of it has led them to think that they could not afford it.
Still again, where fair, but nothing like universal results have been
reached, although there were willing pupils and hard-working teachers, it
has been thought, foolishly, that something was wrong with the notation.
Hence patent notes, tonic sol-fa and other unnecessary, yet well-meaning,
efforts to simplify notation have been made. While in the absence of
good teaching, or no teaching, these have done and may do some good,
yet it is a sort of fireworks or novelty which attract attention to a '^sys-
tem " rather than that it is a fact that a new notation is necessary. All
this may be well, provided people are induced thereby to think. Only it
seems too bad that honest people should strive to turn the musical world
upside down that a new notation may prevail, when there is no more
necessity for it, than there would be for a child whose food and manner of
living prevented his growth to have a new skin. Not much wrong with
the existing notation, only with methods of teaching.
Visit some schools during a music lesson and you will hear the children
screaming away, going over a song or exercise again and again, with more
or less meaning (usually less), and when they have covered so many songs
and exercises, and answered so many questions, they call their work fin-
ished, and really suppose they have been having good musical instruction.
WHAT MUSIC INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE. 581
lu short, scarcely any two teachers have the same ideas when musical
instruction is talked of. Hence it was thought to be a good thing that
*' WJiat is meant hy viusic instruction,^^ should be discussed, until all had
an adequate notion of what was meant, and all had approximately the
same ideal. Then our discussions and consultations will be to ^better
The present effort, while not presuming to be infallible nor to be set up
as a model, is well meant, and is intended to militate toward a conclusion
as to what music instruction should be, and also to answer in part the oft-
repeated question, " Will it pay to make the effort and to undergo the
expense necessary to place music instruction on a substantial footing ? "
Does it make any difference whether an individual is refined or coarse ?
intellectual or ignorant ? sympathetic or selfish ? pious or wicked ?
whether physically and mentally strong, healthy, and vigorous, or weak,
sickly, and nerveless ? Does it make a difference whether there is the
beaming eye, the glowing cheek, the elastic step, and the charming pres-
ence, which make lovable companionship, helpful association, appreciative
sympathy, and causes one to exclaim, " There is health " ; there is a " fine
specimen of education '' ; there is your Christian ; there is your friend
that seems to have within himself the elements which produce happiness,
the power to help others, and to charm away the cares and troubles of all
with whom he comes in contact, both with his presence and by his song.
Does it make a difference whether he is a whole, half, or one-fourth of
a man ?
Does it make a difference whether my bounding and joyous child shall
sing or not sing? And whether he shall voice pure sentiment, in legiti-
mate melody, or sing the ribald song of the dance house ? Songs which
speak of God, home, nature, affections, and happy play, or the senseless,
vulgar, and vitiating song of the clown and the brothel ? Does it make a
Does it matter whether my pupils in school sing songs that will make
them more cheerful, happier, and better in school and at home, songs to
be pleasantly remembered throughout life, and songs which will tend con-
tinually toward the wise and majestic building of body, mind, and charac-
ter ?, Does it matter whether this cheering, life-giving, glorious sunlight
of song is theirs to show, to encourage, to help, and to cheer ?
A short time ago while visiting in a refined and cultured home in Bos-
ton, where the classic song, the sonata, and the best of music, sung and
played in almost faultless manner, were among the frequent employments
and enjoyments, I asked myself, does this make a difference* ? Is this
home better because of this? A few evenings later on while strolling with
a friend by a humble dwelling on Old Orchard Beach, I was attracted by
the sound of music within. We looked and saw the father with a fiddle,
682 THE NA TIONAL ED UCA TIONAL A S80CIA TION.
and the son with a banjo, playing march, waltz, and jig, while occasionally
it would be a song, in which mother and children would unite in the
chorus. Even baby would crow and clap his hands. While looking at
this picture of simple joy, in the rough frame of an Irishman's shanty, I
could blit ask, '* Does music make a difference in this home? "
I went to church where the worshipers old and young, large and small ^
all united heartily in singing the stately stepping choral and well modu-
lated anthem, accompanied by the full organ playing rich harmonies.
This joyous, hopeful singing filled the whole house with music, which
seemed to put the jars, the disappointments, the sorrows of the past week
and past life into tune with the present, and with Grod's purposes, plans,,
and glory, thus lifting up the soul and giving it strength, hope and joy in
preparation for subsequent labor and trial. Does it make a difference ?
(Can all mankind be thus brought under the influence and dominion of
music ?) ,
That the right study of vocal music will effect all this and more, there
can be no doubt. It is true there may be counteracting elements and
influences which may hinder, and even divert legitimate results into wrong^
channels, but the primary law remains, that " a healthy organism, under
proper conditions, fed with appropriate food at stated times and for the
necessary period, will develop into maturity or full gi'owth. And after
maturity will sustain the body during the limit of its natural life."
A condition of good singing is, that " the singer shall appropriate the
sentiment of the song as his own, and shall express it with the earnest-
ness and naturalness which the occasion may require."
Another condition is, that '^ he shall sing with pure tones, and so phrase
his song that its musical meaning shall be expressed." Now in this man-
ner let there be sung regularly throughout school life, patriotic songs^
moral songs, religious songs, home songs, songs of the affections and
purest sentiments, and children will as surely develop in these directions^
as that they will live and thrive by proper use of healthful food. That
such development is necessary no one doubts. And that music best gives
it all must consent.
To sing well good songs, songs which contain the various sentiments^
songs which are intended to excite the emotions, and thus to develop the
children in these various directions, and at the same time as a consequence
of such training, develop a fondness for music, and for music of a l^iti-
mate kind, with the aesthetic cultivation and emotional development con-
sequent thereto, is oxe of the items included in " What music instruc-
tion in public schools should be." I may state also what is doubtless
evident to all that this instruction is imperative in view of a well-rounded
or symmetrical education ; and also that there is no other study that caa
substitute music's place.
WHAT MUSIC INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE. 583
Also the importance of teaching this subject correctly, and the great
danger that is imminent from careless handling of this vital matter^ will
evidently be in. your minds.
It will likewise be inferred that the method of teaching is of paramount
importance, but of this more will be said subsequently.
My seven-year-old child comes to me after having been in school a i/ear
and says, ** Hear me sing this pretty song." He sings his little song and I
discover that he produces his tones correctly; his breathing is correct?
the vowels are right; the tone is well sustained or sung nicely ; he attacks
the tones well ; his pronunciation is good ; the articulation is distinct,
and in every way he uses all the organs which make up that wonderful
instrument we call the " voice " correctly, just as he uses his little feet
and legs in walking as perfectly as a man, although not yet a man, nor
required to carry the burdens and perform the labors of a man.
It will not do to say to him, " Do not run too hard nor too fast, use
your legs carefully, and after you are older and the muscles are firmer and
stronger, then you can learn how to use them intelligently and well. Till
then it makes but little difference, my boy, how the legs are used so that
they are not strained." No ! No ! ! it is the function of the voice that is
to be considered, as in the use of the arms or other members of the body.
Nature has here as in other parts of the body placed l)one, muscle, and
ligament in just the right place, and it is merely a question of usinff theni
correctly from the first, and of giving them such exercise as will strengthen
and develop, until they can perform easily and well the demands of intel-
ligent and legitimate song singing.
Thus to train the voice is another item included in " What music teach-
ing in public schools should ba." (And this may be done, too, by the
average teacher, and in the usual school course.)
My curiosity being aroused by my child's singing, I visit his school^
and find to my surprise that the little fellows are singing at sight, — time,
tune, reading, and all correct, — the first time new exercises, within certain
limits, which are written upon the blackboard. Thinking perhaps that it
is a case of one supporting the other, like the bundle of sticks, I test the
pupils separately and find that all can thus sing independently, varying
only as they may vary in any other exorcises. I am inclined to doubt
my senses, so I investigate an I find to my surprise that they have correct
notions of what they are doing. That they understand the notes as
things for the eai', the various marks or characters as things for the eye,
and which either stand for or represent tones, or direct or tell the pupils
what they are to do; and the pupils have practiced telling what they, the
marks, say to them, and doing as they direct until they have acquired their
present proficiency. I go on to higher grades and find that their study is
like the child growing into the bigger boy and so on to the man, a process
584 TBE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
similar in kind, but only taking on the new items rendered necessary by
advancing grades, and the demands of older years. It is only the little
tree growing into a big one, although as perfect in organization and func-
tion while little as when large.
I find this work carried on in our well-graded school until graduates
from the high school sing part songs, anthems, and glees readily at sight,
and are qualified to take their places in church choirs and musical socie-
ties, and this, too, every pupil can do.
This likewise is another item of " What music instruction in public
schools should be " ; and it might truthfully be said that with this thor-
ough knowledge of the elements of music, so that pupils can write cor-
rectly their own> musical thoughts and write a song when they hear it,
can sing at sight, and have a taste or fondness for music, which must be
consequent upon such drill, that the pupil is ready for life — musical
speaking — and is qualified to go on to build up the character which right
use of music will give, to discharge all musical duties, and thus to become,
to do, and to influence without any further special musical study. Just
as in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the ordinary school course should
qualify him for the ordinary duties of life without private and special
To summarize: Creating and cultivating a fondness for music; learn-
ing songs and proper study of the same ; moral and aesthetic development
consequent upon such study ; correct cultivation and training the voice ;
thorough knowledge of the elements of music ; and acquiring the ability
or power to sing new music readily at sight ; with the mental development
and other correlative benefits which necessarily result from such
study, are what is comprehended, dlrerfhj^ by " teaching music in public
That all this can be done is without question. And that every child,
having intelligence and proper use of its senses, if beginning young, can so
learn, is just as certain. It is then a question of how to teach, and how
to practice, and I would finish in the wrong place if I did not show in a
measure how it can be done, and point out the underlying principles both
of instruction and practice. For good results from music teaching in the
public schools mean that the pupils, the teachers, the parents, and the
public must be in a proper condition to facilitate learning. The two for-
mer as the direct or immediate factors, and the latter as the legislative
and moral support. In general it may be said that none of these parties
universally have yet reached a desirable condition. There are of course
some exceptions, hence preparing or working up the conditions is an im-
portant p&rt of what -'Music teaching in the public schools means."
First; your speaker desires to emphasize that these things are not and
cannot be don^' by merely wishing that they were so ; nor by cora-
WHAT MUSIC INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE. 585
plaining that Boards of Education and the people are short-sighted re-
specting their vital interests, when they make no provision for music.
But it must result from a protracted series of wi:ie, well-directed, ^\id per-
sistetit efforts. In other words, all these things, like the several items of
the individual subjects, must grow, and like growth, demand first, life, sec-
ond, healthy conditions, third, nourishment, and fourth, timej for the
building of elements to cumulate or culminate in a natural stature. Spas-
modic efforts will not suffice, but all willing and available forces must be
unlisted ; these must be added to when it is made possible so to do, and
all must mai-ch steadily forward, until success is reached. This is nature's
way of building up. No other way ought to be expected.
Already there is a great awakening throughout the land ; many persons
have found situations, and much good work is being done. So if those
who already have positions do the right kind of work, if the matter is
agitated through educational and other journals, if musicians, teachers,
and the people already "imbued with the spirit," advertise and agitate,
by word and deed, ere-long all civilization will see its value, and accept
music as a necessary part of education, and will attend to the necessary
legislation and other matters connected with its management.
It will be seen, then, that while conventions, musical revivals, and all
intelligence reaching agencies are to be employed, nevertheless it is the
kind and quality of work the teacher does, and the material that he turns
cut that will determine soonest the universal acceptance of music, and
give it its proper place and fullest function among the great educational
The children, then, are to be brought into the proper attitude for learn-
ing, and to be induced to make the required effort to learn, and to be
guided in the necessary practice. For if they have and do these things
they will as surely learn, and as surely acquire power or ability to do, as
that young animals or vegetables will grow if they have the proper sur-
roundings and the necessary food.
All children, whatever their present condition and standing in music,
can be placed in the most favorable condition for them to learn, if the
teacher is in every way qualified for his work. For children, like clay,