College Teachers Band Together -- Part One

"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

November 2000

The Second World War was drawing to a close. Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin attended a Big Three meeting on July 19, 1945 in Potsdam. Truman invited the brilliant young pianist, Eugene List, to play Russian, American, and British music, as well as a little Chopin at the meeting. Although Churchill was a great writer, orator, and artist, he was not particularly a music lover.

Also during the summer of 1945, teachers and administrators from all over West Virginia traveled to Jackson’s Mill for a State Department of Education conference. During a break, seven music teachers began a discussion about the status of music at higher education institutions in the state. The seven teachers involved in the discussion were: Marie Botte, West Virginia Wesleyan College; P Ahmed Williams, West Virginia State College; Gem Huffman, Roane County music supervisor; Mary B. Price, Fairmont State College; Bertha Olson, Glenville State College; Miriam Gelvin, Marshall College; and Clifford Brown, West Virginia University.

During the discussion, they observed that WVMEA was comprised mainly of choral and elementary teachers, and that ninety percent of the membership were women. The Bandmasters Association was larger than WVMEA, but its membership wished to remain independent, even though MENC recognized WVMEA as the official state unit.

The group discovered that there were great differences in requirements and degree programs among institutions, and that all institutions had inadequate facilities. They decided that college teachers needed to get together to discuss educational programs and to establish professional standards to assist administrators and governing boards in making decisions. They planned a meeting of higher education teachers for the following October.

The first meeting was held October 29, 1945 in Clarksburg. Surprisingly, twelve institutions were represented. Bertha Olsen of Glenville State College presided and Marie Botte of West Virginia Wesleyan College served as secretary. Others in attendance were: Mary B. Price, Fairmont State College; Katherine W. Church, Potomac State College; Gladys B. Johnson, West Virginia State College; Luetta L. Spenser, Bluefield State College; Ella Holroyd, Concord State College; Lucy Woodford Lowry, Alderson-Broaddus College; Harry Mueller, Marshall College; W. H. Ehrich, Salem College; Carl J. Farnsworth, Shepherd College; Richard C. von Ende, Bethany College; and Clifford W. Brown and Frank Cuthbert, West Virginia University.

Bertha Olsen gave the participants time to become acquainted and then announced that the main purpose of the meeting was to identify the aims and purposes of the group. After discussion, the group decided that standardization and unification should be the organizations immediate objectives.

A second meeting of the Music Section of the Higher Education Group was held October 28, 1946 at West Virginia University. The teachers in attendance decided to change the name of the group to West Virginia College Music Educators. They thought that the organization should meet twice annually - the fourth Monday in October and during the spring meeting of the Higher Education Group of the State Education Association.

When the group opened a discussion of eligibility, the meeting began to bog down. Several participants thought that only department chairmen should belong, while others believed that it was important to include all college instructors.

(In the next issue of Notes A Tempo, part two of this article will reveal the group's decision about eligibility, the group's additional goals and objectives, and the ways in which it became a vital part of WVMEA.)