String and Music Education Associations on Long Island, New York, 1950-1960

Article excerpt

Introduction

String education was a neglected area of music education in the mid-twentieth century. This resulted in the founding of many important organizations to promote string education. One of the most influential, the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), developed at a Music Educators National Conference (MENC) annual meeting in 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio. (1) In 1948, at the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) conference, over a hundred string teachers were present for ASTA's formal inauguration. (2)

Traugott Rohner, founder of The Instrumentalist magazine, voiced his concern about the need for an orchestra organization in the Music Educators Journal, as he believed school orchestra directors were ignored. (3) In 1959, eighty-eight school directors of the 133 ASTA chartered members united to develop the National School Orchestra Association (NSOA). ASTA and NSOA operated independently but often held spring conferences in conjunction with MENC. Also in 1959, the American Federation of Musicians sponsored the first International String Congress in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to encourage the professional lives of young musicians in the United States and Canada. (4) These organizations would soon be of major importance to string education and help solidify string teaching in America.

America in the 1950s

Thousands of young service men, recently returned from World War II, were ready to start new lives with new homes and jobs in the 1950s. American industry began to expand, jobs were created, and the baby boom was underway. In 1952, the World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president. President Eisenhower stated that "America is today the strongest, most influential, and most productive nation in the world." (5) During Eisenhower's administration (1952-60), the nation experienced multiple changes. Segregation ended (1954), the highway interstate system was created (1956), and America grew from a nation of forty-eight states to fifty (1959).

In the music world, rock and roll was in its infancy: the voices of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Johnny Cash were still heard on the radio. (6) In the music education field, several important events occurred during this decade. MENC established the Child's Bill of Rights in Music in 1950, to ensure that every child had the right to learn music. In 1953, the Journal of Research in Music Education published its first volume, and the International Society for Music Education had its first postwar meeting in Brussels, Belgium. MENC celebrated its fiftieth anniversary at their annual conference in 1957 and adopted the Golden Anniversary Resolution, which was intended to support music education in a postwar world and look toward the future. These events demonstrated the importance of music education in American lives.

The future of American string education began to strengthen during the 1950s. The formation of ASTA strengthened string teachers' knowledge through workshops and annual conferences that provided networking opportunities. The ability to share knowledge about string education in the Music Educators Journal and the establishment of a national orchestra association could not have occurred at a better time. The formation of national string organizations also led to the formation of regional, state, and local groups that supported string education.

Research Purpose and Questions

The purpose of this study is to examine the history of music and string education associations on Long Island, New York, from 1950 to 1960. Through the use of artifacts, websites, and interviews with two former Long Island string educators, answers were sought for the following research questions: "What organizations existed to support string education during the 1950s, and how did the economy on Long Island in that decade affect string education?

This study explores the evolution and progress of five associations in New York State and on Long Island and how each was affected by the population boom of the postwar suburban era. …