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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000008.txt from 1998/03

From: Lee Hickling <hickling@-----.Net>
Subj: Re: School music
Date: Sun, 1 Mar 1998 08:09:10 -0500

Roger Garrett wrote:
>> Do you know WHY music was
>> put in the public schools - accepted as a part of the curriculum - to
>> begin with?

and Bruce Caslinger said
>Please tell me, I am curious.

As a musician whose graduate degree was in school administration, and who
has seen a lot of changes in education since he decided it was not the
career for him, I can offer one explanation of why music was originally to
the curriculum.

At one time, within living memory (mine, for instance), not everyone stayed
in school through the 12th grade. The curriculum for those who stayed was
almost straight academic, although some schools had tracks for commercial,
industrial and in rural areas agricultural students.

Cutting to the chase, fewer students and a less varied curriculum meant
that most districts' budgets for secondary education had some slack in
them, even at a modest tax rate. There was room for a music teacher, or
even a music department, without having to make hard choices about what
would be offered and what dropped.

This was toward the end of an era in which a piano in the parlor was
normal, and many people knew how to play it, more or less. Community bands
were common. News and entertainment media were not as omnipresent and
intrusive. From the nineteenth century through the first three or four
decades of the twentiest, music was one of the commonest kinds of
recreation for many people, and that meant playing and singing, not
listening to records or the radio or watching music videos.

So learning music was considered part of education, not an optional extra.
There was even music in the classrooms, at least in the elementary grades.
Every room had a piano, and teachers had to know how to play it to be
certified, at least in New York State.

No one would have thought of justifying music education by its public
relations value, or any other irrelevant reason. It was considered a good
thing in itself. If any rationale had been thought necessary, it might have
been that a school band and chorus were activities in which non-athletic
students could take part and excel.

In many schools, instrumental instruction past the beginner level was often
on an individual basis. This was possible partly because the school day was
longer, often running from 8 a.m. to nearly 5 p.m., even in rural areas
where most students rode a bus.

Sound incredible? That's the way it was, not so terribly long ago.

By the way, this is my first post to the list. I subscribed a few weeks
ago, but I've been lurking and enjoying it a lot.

Lee Hickling <>

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