1927: AN IDEA IS BORN! -- The All State Groups

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
November, 1990

As a few West Virginia music teachers sat down to breakfast at the Hotel Jefferson in Richmond, Virginia on 5 April 1927, several thoughts ran through their minds. They were attending a sectional conference of the National Conference of the Education Association and were combining business with the pleasure of having breakfast together.

They were troubled by the fact that of the 300 music supervisors and teachers in 389 school districts in West Virginia, only 25 were members of the National Conference, and they discussed ways to raise that total to one hundred per cent of West Virginia music teachers. As a way for improving West Virginia music instruction, Marie Boette, serving as secretary, reported, "It was suggested that every normal school require two hours a week for music, and this amount of time [was] to include laboratory work, as frequently work done outside the class room was found to be incorrect and inadequate."

These teachers had traveled a long way to Richmond, probably by train. The ideas they exchanged would affect West Virginia music students from then until now. Minutes of the meeting do not indicate who thought of the idea, but they discussed plans for an all-state orchestra and an all-state chorus of school children who would perform at the next meeting of the State Education Association to be held in the senior high school building in Charleston. Did music teachers from other states first discuss the idea of all-state groups, or did someone among the West Virginia teachers think of the plan? Did other states already have all-state groups or were they discussing the new plan, also?

J. Henry Francis, supervisor of music in Charleston, was appointed to make plans for the afl-state orchestra. He and other unknown co-workers labored long hours assembling the orchestra, which performed on 4 November 1927 at the State Education Association meeting in Charleston. Plans for the all-state chorus were not developed in time for the Charleston meeting, so the group recommended that it be organized for the meeting in 1928. However, Richard J. Scarton noted in 1962 that the first performance of an all-state chorus was 7-9 February 1929 in Parkersburg.

An All-State Orchestra, Band, and Chorus Association was organized in Charleston 7 November 1930 to sponsor and promote the three groups. This association was endorsed by the State Education Association Music Section when they met at the First Methodist Church in Charleston on 14 November 1930. One year later, however, the Music Section voted to dispense with the association and replace it by a board of directors consisting of five members.

While an all-state band was included in these discussions, it was not organized at this time. On 5 November 1937 Dr. Frank Cuthbert" dean of the School of Music at West Virginia University, expressed the desire to have an all-state band represented at state music meetings. Thus, the present "AWMEA All-State Band is the youngest of the three high school all-state groups.

(Activities of today become the history of tomorrow. Please send current or past items of West Virginia music history--ineluding photos--to John L. Puffenbarger, P.O. Box 6, Buckhannon, WV 26201).