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Lowell Mason) offered to give instruction gratuitously in one of the schools, in order to test the experiment; and, the next year, the School Committee, well satisfied with the results of that experiment, were prepared to dispose of the subject finally by the introduction of music as one of the regular exercises of the public schools. This they did by their vote of August 28, 1838. And this vote of the School Committee of Boston, say the Academy of Music in their report of July, 1839, may be regarded as the magna charter of musical education in this country.
At the annual meeting of this Association, beld in Lowell in August, 1838, Mr. Joseph Harrington brought the subject, a second time, to the attention of the Institute, in a lecture, for which he took for his text, “ The practicability, and expediency of introducing vocal music as a branch of education in our common schools.” The experiment to which I have already alluded had now been tried, and successfully tried, in two of the Boston schools. Still it was the task of the orator to convince his hearers of the usefulness of this instruction as a part of our common education, and of the possibility of its general introduction into our schools. To this end he adduced the example of other nations,—of Germany especially, -as having already solved the problem in their ystems of national education. He argued the pr
practicability of such instruction from the universality of the musical ear,-from the attractiveness of the study, to young children especially,—its healthful influence upon the physical and moral development of the pupil,—its favorable effect in the discipline of the school,—its economy and the ease and simplicity of the inductive system of instruction as applied to music by Pfeiffer, Nageli and others, at the beginning of the present century. This interesting and scholarly discourse of Mr. Harrington, as that of Mr. Woodbridge, was alike honorable to its author and to the Institute, and did much in preparing the way for an intelligent understanding of the subject and the continuance of systematic and determined efforts on the part of its friends to engraft the teaching of music as a feature upon our public school system.
So far, the action of the School Committee of Boston in this direction had been only partially successful. For ten years but little substantial progress was made, notwithstanding the disinterested and almost superhuman efforts of Dr. Lowell Mason, on whom for most of that time the burden of such instruction mainly rested. At no time within this period was the study of music dropped from the schools ;-but it sustained, at best, a feeble and fitful life, and was not entirely free from the rivalry and jealousies of those whose profession it is to uphold and teach the art divine. Moreover, in all this time the subject was ignored in the primary school, —the place of all others where such instruction, if we would ever expect it to attain to anything like a satisfactory result, ought to begin.
In February, 1848, the Rev. Charles Brooks, as chairman of the music committee, presented a report recommending certain changes in the musical instruc
tion, made necessary by, the abandonment at that time of the double-headed system, so called, in the grammar school plan, and the substitution of the system requiring one master at the head of each school in its steadHe proposed that thereafter instruction in music be given in each department of those schools where the departments have a separate and independent organization; that the superintendents of such department be requested to give instruction in music to all the female teachers of the grammar schools and also to all the teachers of the primary schools who might choose to attend. These recommendations were, after considerable discussion and with some modification, adopted by the Board. At this time also, as on several occasions previously, efforts were made for the introduction of music into the primary schools, but without success.
In the year 1849, the plan of electing a Superintendent or Superintendents of musical instruction by the School Board was discontinued, and the subcommittees of the several grammar schools were instructed to procure a teacher of music for the districts under their charge. This was decidedly a step backward.
Nothing further appears to have been done in this direction till February, 1857, when a committee was appointed to take into consideration anew the subject of music in the public schools, and report what action, if any, would be expedient. A report was shortly submitted by this committee which, with its requisite orders, was adopted. Under the operation
of the plan then determined upon, teachers of music were assigned to the several school districts. The teaching was mainly confined, however, to the two upper classes of the grammar schools ; the lower grades of that department, as well as the primary, although included in the letter of the school regulations, receiving practically but little, if any, attention. Pianos were placed in each grammar school by the music teachers, at their own risk and expense, and such text-books were permitted to be used as the teachers of music might prefer, subject only to the approval of the standing committee.
A radical defect in this plan, was, as it seems to me, the retention of the district system of instructión, so called,—that is, the employment of a certain number of professional 'teachers and assigning to them each their separate and distinct field of labor, comprising all the grades of schools within that field. Such a plan is fatal to any systematic, uniform and progressive 'work. The committee excuse themselves by saying it was the then existing system of musical teaching, and it required time and patience to change it. And in the report of this same committée, in 1860, the following important considerations were suggested to the Board. It was recommended that thenceforth especial effort be made by the music teachers in the Girls' High and Normal School to qualify the pupils of that institution to instruct in music themselves ; that the teachers of the primary and the lower classes of the grammar schools be reminded of their duty, under the rules and regula
tions, to give instruction in music to the several classes under their charge, and the importance that such instruction shall commence with the lowest classes of the primary schools, was emphatically
The desirableness, in addition to, but by no means in place of, the printed charts and the blackboard,of some comprehensive and appropriate manual of music, in three parts, adapted for primary, grammar, and normal school instruction, was suggested. It was urged, moreover, that the requirements of this department of study in the Girls' High and Normal School be enlarged so as to include, (to some extent,) the mathematics of music, and some knowledge of harmony and the laws of musical composition, and that music should be recognized in the English High and Latin schools, so far, at any rate, as to require in the curriculum of their academic studies some attention to thorough-bass and counterpoint. It was recommended that pianos of the best construction be purchased and possessed by the city and kept constantly in tune. The article in the rules and regulations requiring the pupils to be examined in music and receive credits for proficiency in that, in common with the other branches taught, and the propriety of strictly enforcing this rule was brought to the notice of the Board. The importance of attention to physical training, to the proper position of the body while singing, and the careful study and practice of vocalization as an art was urged.