NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
March, 1985

The idea of having a state music consultant within the State Department of Education was new to West Virginia in the 1950s, but not to our neighboring states. Claude Rosenberry in Pennsylvania, Edith Keller in Ohio, and Clarence Hesche in Virginia were promoting and assisting statewide activities in addition to consulting with individual school districts about their music programs. The title of the position varied from state to state: supervisor, consultant, specialist, chief, or coordinator, but the responsibilities and duties were similar.

When compared to the present, the State Department of Education operated with a very small staff in the 1950s. Neither the administrative philosophy nor the budget provided for any personnel to cover single subject-matter fields. Although the WVMEA had been urging the state superintendent to add a music position, it was rejected on the basis of "no funds." As state and federal demands increased, the department had to be expanded, including specialists in curricula, finance, government grants, subject- matter fields, and so on.

The proliferation of music classes and activities - choruses, bands, orchestras, radio broadcasts, festivals - apparently persuaded the superintendent, R. Virgil Rchrbough, that a music consultant was needed. He invited individuals within the WVMEA and the College Music Educators to recommend qualified candidates from within the state. There was a general consensus that Dr. Nlyllan Smyers, chair of the music department at West Virginia Institute of Technology, should be offered the position. Although Dr. Smyers did not aspire to the position, he accepted it as a challenge and as an opportunity to serve the state.

Dr. Smyers was uniquely qualified as the initial appointee, having taught instrumental and vocal music in the public schools. He was a respected conductor and adjudicator, a former high school principal, an author and speaker, a college teacher and administrator, and was actively involved in state, division, and national MENC projects. One of his first commitments was to confer with each of the 55 county superintendents. Another commitment was to unify the various professional music groups, each one strong in its own area, into a parent organization with greater professional recognition and influence. He was not here when this commitment was realized in the early 1960s, due in part to his efforts.

No one, including Dr. Smyers, could predict that an unusual opportunity would appear the next year for him to return to his native area as a professor at Southern Illinois University. In a short period of 18 months Dr. Smyers succeeded in elevating music as a curricular subject, earned the respect of students, teachers, and administrators, and moti- vated all of us to work together. In retrospect, he was the right man for the right job at the right time.

Tacet ... for now.