Travels with Charlie

By Rideout, Roger | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Travels with Charlie


Rideout, Roger, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


When Peter Tiboris asked if I would contribute to this afternoon's event, he said that he needed a title for my comments for the advertisement announcing it. I said I'd call him back and did so that very day. I wanted to title my comments "Travails" with Charlie, adding the "i" to the word "travel," but thought that such a pun might seem too negative. So I chose Travels with Charlie with apologies to John Steinbeck for stealing the title of his book.

The reason I preferred travails is that hardly a week has gone by since I first came to Urbana that I haven't thought of Charles Leonhard. He is a specter who haunts me every time I enter a classroom: Is this the best I can do? Is this what Leonhard would have wanted? Would he approve? Leonhard is the only person in my life other than my parents who continues to admonish me from the grave. He has been in my head through good times and bad, occasionally yelling, "Judas Priest, Rideout! Every mother's son and daughter can do better than that." Sometimes I just hear a big belly breath of a laugh.

Peter is responsible as well for the celebration he hosted for Professor Leonhard in Urbana in 2000. At the banquet he presented Leonhard with a bound volume of letters written by students reflecting on his importance in their lives. I'd like to begin by sharing my short note in that volume because it summarizes my relationship with him.

   Dear Professor Leonhard: I often tell people that I am the luckiest
   person in the world because I have had three fathers. They look at
   me peculiarly and I rush to explain that I had the father who
   reared me to be an honest man. My second father was a German Jewish
   musicologist who taught me to value knowledge. But my third father
   was Charles Leonhard and he taught me to what end that knowledge
   should be put.

Looking back over the last 166 years of music education in American schools, one can identify certain individuals who rose to national prominence based on their theories, methods of music instruction, or the programs they implemented in their schools. The MENC Hall of Fame was created with the express intent of calling attention to those individuals whose accomplishments affected professional practice in this country. These individuals form an elite circle of music educators who have defined our sense of our selves as professionals with a history, with standards, with foundations and principles, and with the lofty intent of service to music and to society.

We are not alone in this approach. In the same decade that Edwin Bailey Birge first noted the accomplishments of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century music educators, Edwin Boring was doing the same thing in the field of experimental psychology. (1) As MENC formed its Hall of Fame, Watson published his biographical history of the great psychologists. (2) Similar histories exist in medicine, law, sociology, anthropology, and all other twentieth-century "ologies." Each identifies those individuals of extraordinary accomplishment who helped shape professional practice in a discipline.

Yet, for all of their efforts, very few authors capture individual personalities or provide anecdotes that illuminate the manner in which these individuals demonstrated their greatness through teaching, research, workshops, seminars, or by inspiring colleagues. Such things are remembered by students and admirers who knew the individual, worked with the individual, and who were changed through that interaction-and they share their stories over coffee, at dinner parties, and on weekends such as this one. So, with that introduction, I would like to share some ways in which Charles Leonhard affected our profession, and I want to pepper this narrative with some personal observations based on my two years here as a student in the doctoral program.

When one looks at the third quarter of the twentieth century two figures come to mind most vividly: Charles Leonhard and Allen Britton. …

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