NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
January 1995

Prior to the county system being introduced in 1933, education was managed by local school districts. Music was taught in rural schools primarily by the classroom teacher. The Course of Study issued in 1923 by the State Department of Education was of great help to the teacher in one-room or two-room schools.

It was advisable to separate the pupils into at least two groups, placing Grades I, II and III in one group, and Grades IV to VIII in another, if pupils in Grade IV were capable of working with the older children.

The Course of Study recommended that the students should sing a lot of unison songs. The older boys and girls were to have an opportunity to sing alto and, if the boy's voices had changed, they would be encouraged to sing tenor or bass. They were not to sing an octave lower until their voices changed. It was thought that boys would enjoy singing and whistling songs which had a good swing.

This was about four years after World War I, and in 1923 Lieutenants Kelly and Macready in May made the first nonstop transcontinental airplane flight from New York to San Diego, California - 2,516 miles in 26 hours, 50 minutes. "The Charleston", a new, fast fox-trot captured the fancy of ballroom dancers. Edwin Franko Goldman introduced On The Mall march to the Washington crowd.

So rural music teachers in West Virginia were encouraged to teach the standard hymns, patriotic and folk songs. Songs of the seasons and those which correlated with the work in history and geography were to be the most interesting. The text was to be used for technical work.

Plenty of rote work (songs, scales and short melodic and rhythmic phrases) was to be given to Grades I, II, and III, which would lay a firm foundation and would lead up to sight reading by easy stages.

In upper grades, cards of greeting at special seasons such as Thanksgiving and Christmas were to be composed, with the music set to short sentences or couplets. The study of the lives of the great musicians was to be correlated with the study of English.

Since pupils in rural schools did not have the same opportunities to attend fine concerts and recitals which were open to children living in the cities, it was important that these musical experiences were supplied in so far as possible through a "talking machine". It was hoped that every school would be supplied with a number of better records and that teachers would tell the students something about the composers, artists, and music.

Teachers in 1923 thought that instruction of the standard familiar hymns, national, patriotic and folk songs "should be begun even in the first year,, and carried forward through -succeeding years until all the best of such songs are known by each child and he is able to sing them from memory". Some familiar songs to be taught included "Come, Thou Almighty King", "Abide With Me", "Holy Night, Silent Night", "Tenting Tonight", "Rally Round the Flag", "Old Folks At Home", "Blue Bells of Scotland", and "Last Rose of Summer".