Susanne Langer, Charles Leonhard, and Augury

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

Susanne Langer, Charles Leonhard, and Augury


Colwell, Richard, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


We owe thanks to Peter Tiboris, who awakens us from our natural hebetude with his reminder that we owe much to Charlie Leonhard and that Charlie's legacy should be associated with the further improvement of music education. It is not easy to conjure strategies to perpetuate that legacy; tossing unrestricted money into the antaean University of Illinois (UI) would not portray the uniqueness that was Charlie. Graduate fellowships would require that students have very special qualities-I thought maybe that candidates should, like Charlie, have no middle name. In a sense Charlie did have a middle name, as the U.S. Army required that he have one. During his stint in World War II he was Charles Nmi Leonhard: the "Nmi" oxymoronically standing for "no middle initial." Focused publications, journals, monographs, and the like in his honor have permanency and can be visible internationally. However, I did not come to Urbana to solve this puzzle, but rather to peek into music education's future to see if some of Leonhard's spirit can become pervasive. I will compare my guess at the future he might want or predict, based on an analysis of his speeches given over a period of more than thirty years, with a few insights of my own. There are at least two ways to think about the future. What is most likely to happen and what we would like to happen.

First a bit of context: My theme tonight is that Charlie cared and cared deeply. Nell Noddings, Debbie Meier, Carol Gilligan, and a host of other caring education philosophers could learn from watching Charlie on a daily basis. (1) He cared about each student in the doctoral program. You might have thought him a bit forward when he got up, closed the door, and probed into your personal and professional life, but he used this information to better understand one's academic progress and one's potential in the profession. I'm sure every alumnus can relate. In my own case, Charlie and his wife, Pat, traveled to LeMars, Iowa, to "give away" the bride, Ruth, at our wedding-leaving their children, Chase and Alissia, with a babysitter for the first time in their young lives. This caring was not limited to current graduate students. During our tenure at UI, he and I met several times a year to review known position vacancies and match them with past, present, and future graduates.

Equally important was that Charlie also cared about music education and often devoted his considerable talent and energy to prodding the profession to act positively. Caring about students is one thing; caring about the profession is special. Charlie, like many of us, found himself in music education as a result of hitting the default button. One question that Charlie must have put to me (modestly) thousands of times over our more than forty-year association was, "Dick, how in the hell did you and I end up in music education when we have the smarts to excel in so many fields?" He hid this feeling from his students, however, as his caring for the music education profession meant he thought it worthwhile, and he was determined to make it the best it could be-a profession staffed with bright musicians enthusiastic about pedagogy.

Because of this concern for the profession, Charlie followed closely the careers of those graduates in positions of influence. Peter Tiboris is certainly one. Early graduates of influence included Frank Crockett, supervisor of music for the state of Georgia, and Bill Worrell, supervisor of music in Cincinnati. Joe Prince rose through the ranks at Murray State and eventually landed in the federal bureaucracy of the National Endowment for the Arts. Indeed, each of you has been influential. Charlie and Harold Decker, director of choral activities at Illinois, attracted very special students.

This one example, I hope, is sufficient for me to focus on professional concerns based on Leonhard's personality, talent, and achievement. Those outside our fraternity have difficulty understanding C. …

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