NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
November 1994

John Philip Sousa and his famous band stopped in Fairmont, West Virginia as part of a tour of the United States. Gustav Holst toured the United States as a lecturer and conductor of his own works. On December 31, Radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania successfully sent a "short-wave" program to England and Billy Rose wrote the hit song, "You've Got to See Mamma Ev'ry Night--or You Can't See, Mamma at All".

It was 1923, and West Virginia music teachers were meeting with college music educators to discuss the new Course of Study that was to be issued by the State Department of Education. J. D. Muldoon, Supervisor of the Division of Rural Schools, and George M. Ford, State Superintendent of Schools, had asked the teachers to work with other education groups to develop a booklet which would be issued to the 398 independent school districts in the state.

Music teachers have always been interested in promoting music curriculum in our schools. In 1904, music was included for the first time in the state manual for elementary teachers. As more school districts included music in their elementary curriculum and hired more music teachers, music courses of study were developed for each of the eight grades.

The Music Section of the 1923 West Virginia Course of Study was divided into four parts. The first dealt with a philosophy of music; second, Music In Rural Schools; third, a list of familiar songs which could be sung by memory; and fourth, an overview of the teaching of music by grades.

We do not know the names of the music teachers who contributed to the booklet, but we do know that they felt that the purpose of music in the elementary schools was not to make technical musicians but intelligent lovers of one of the noblest of the arts. They thought teachers should aim to give the child experience in music by bringing him in touch with songs of lasting value and to give him ability to stand the symbols of music and to interpret them in tones.

They felt that the curriculum should be divided into three periods. The first period, covering the first, second and third grades, was an experience-getting period; a great variety of rote songs being the chief feature of the work. The rhythmic work was to be carried out through imitation of rhythms in rote songs, through singing games, and through folk dancing.

The second period covering the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades was to be characterized as a drill period. It was to be the time for independent work; for facility in sight reading and for the working out of time problems. Rote singing was still continued, but in far less proportion.

In the seventh and eighth grades, a period of hero worship and strong ideals, the result of the preceding drill period would show the children's ability to sing and appreciate the best in music literature.

In all grades, constant attention was to be given to correct position, to the cultivation of the voice by the use of suitable vocalizes, to natural breathing, to enunciation and phrasing, to rhythm, to song interpretation and to individual effort. Written work was to be done throughout the grades at the discretion of the teacher.