"J. Henry Francis: An Early WVMEA Pioneer."

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
October, 1992

Many individuals have contributed to the growth and success of the WVMEA; one such person was Dr. J. Henry Francis. Dr. Francis retired as director of vocal music for Kanawha County Schools in 1947 after 44 years of service, and his influence is felt not only in that county, but also throughout the state.

Dr. Francis was a native of England and received his early training in music there. He once recalled that "as in all European countries there was much interest in singing. Members of our family used to assemble around the harmonium [a reed organ] on Sunday and sing hymns and anthems that were popular in that day and age. Grandfather would sing bass. Mother would take the soprano. Father the tenor, and I would sing alto and play the harmonium. We had some good times back in those days. and it was largely those song lessons that gave me my lasting love for music."

His family moved to America when he was 17 years old. and he continued to study music. For over five years he lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he studied organ. Later he moved to Cooperstown. New York, where he became choirmaster and organist of Christ Church.

In 1902 he moved to Charleston, West Virginia, and assumed the organ and choir work, at St. John's Episcopal Church, holding that position until 1945. His work with the public schools began in 1903, when he was named director of music in the Charleston schools, where he instituted instrumental music--first with a small orchestral ensemble and later a band.

When West Virginia established the county unit school system, Francis became music supervisor of Kanawha County. Three years later another instrumental music teacher was employed to assist him.

Dr. Francis was active in state music activities and helped organize the All- State High School Orchestra in 1927, In 1928 he assisted with organizational plans to form the State High School Chorus. He also contributed his influence with ideas for a State High School Band Festival the same year.

Over the years Francis became well known for his administrative work, his teaching, and by his hundred or more compositions that were published nationally. Among these was the Christmas carol-anthem, "Sleep! Dear Christ Child," which was published by the Arthur P. Schmidt, Co. of Boston.

During 1912 and 1913 Francis served as chair of the Music Section of the State Education Association. He later helped to organize it as the West Virginia Music Educators Association. He served as WVMEA president in 1938 and 1939, and remained active in the WVMEA in later years. He was elected president of the Southern Conference for Music Education (now the MENC Southern Division) in 1931, and he served in that position for four years.