FIRST MEETING OF MUSIC TEACHERS IN 1920NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
Who were these music teachers? Supervisors, elementary specialists, private teachers? How did they get to the meeting? By train, trolley, or horse and buggy? We don't know the answers to these questions, but historical records reveal that 1920 was the first meeting of school music teachers in West Virginia. Like other subject-matter groups, they met as the "music section" at the annual conference of what was then the State Education Association (SEA). The chair, probably assigned by the SEA, was Lucy Robinson, a music supervisor from Wheeling.
Just imagine the setting in 1920! It was the post-World War I era; Woodrow Wilson was President; acoustic record players and silent movies were prevalent; Henry Ford's "flivver" was leading the auto pack; radio was in its infancy; and your parents were probably in grade school. Music instruction, except in the elementary classroom, was not considered a responsibility of the public schools. Individual lessons by private teachers, paid for by the parents, was the accepted way to learn music. High school music groups - choir, glee club, madrigal singers, orchestra, mandolin club - met as an "activity" outside school hours.
The only music certificate available in 1920 was the music supervisor's certificate. A curriculum in Public School Music (PSM) was just being developed in West Virginia institutions of higher learning. With the limited number of positions available, the demand for a PSM degree was minimal. Of the 389 school districts in West Virginia at that time, only a few could afford or justify hiring a music supervisor who would assist the elementary teachers and direct the high school choral instrumental groups. Some districts would -employ a local musician part-time by obtaining temporary certification.
The WVMEA today is a conglomerate of affiliated organizations that serve music education from kindergarten through the doctoral level. It took more than forty years of persistent and dogged effort to make music a part of school/ community life. A real struggle it was, but more about that later.
Tacet . . . for now.