Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Why Keokuk?

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Why Keokuk?

Article excerpt

Why would a small, Midwestern community become the founding city for a national music educator's organization? In 1907 Keokuk, Iowa, was no different from many prospering river towns. There is no particular reason that the Music Supervisors National Conference (MSNC) was founded there, except for the rather towering presence of Philip C. Hayden, the music teacher in the Keokuk public schools.

At the turn of the century, Keokuk was a flourishing community of around 11,000, with a good education system, located on the Mississippi River at the extreme southeastern tip of Iowa. The Des Moines River, which dips south before emptying into the Mississippi, forms the border between Iowa and Missouri, which lies to the southwest. Illinois is across the river to the east. The first white settlers came to Keokuk in 1828 and made it a shipping center in the days of the steamboat. During the Civil War, Keokuk was a supply center for northern troops and its proximity to the South made it a departure point for northern troops going into Missouri, as well as a major hospital center. (1) Northeastern Missouri was decidedly Southern-leaning at the time of the war and a battle was fought in 1861 in Athens, Missouri, just a few miles from Keokuk. (2)

The July 1904 population estimate for Keokuk was 10,845, with an African American population of around 2,000. Most of the residents were native-born. (3) The city acquired electricity in 1885 and a few years later had an extensive street-car system. Keokuk was also a railroad center where farm products arrived by train, were loaded onto barges, and shipped down the Mississippi to St. Louis.

In 1907 there were two daily newspapers. The Daily Gate City, founded in 1847, is still published each day. The Keokuk Constitution, later called the Keokuk Democrat, and finally the Constitution-Democrat, is no longer published. In reading the Keokuk newspapers from around 1907, one is struck by the optimism of the community. They reported healthy growth in industry and population. Keokuk citizens were proud of their school system and the music program led by Philip Hayden. As an indication of the city's importance, Theodore Roosevelt came to Keokuk three times: first in 1903 and the last time in 1912. (4) Unfortunately, one must also take note of the racism expressed in the local newspapers, which read like papers from the South during the Jim Crow period. African Americans were not treated fairly in those two Keokuk papers and that must have reflected the sentiment of many in the community at the time.

Philip Hayden and his work in Keokuk

Philip Hayden came to teach in Keokuk on a part-time basis in 1892 from Quincy, Illinois, where he had taught since 1883. (5) He continued to teach in Quincy, which is about forty miles south of Keokuk, until 1900 when his position there was discontinued due to lack of funds. He became a full-time teacher in Keokuk in 1900 (6) and taught there the remainder of his career. (7) Though Hayden was born in Ontario, Canada, while his mother was visiting relatives, he grew up in the small town of Skaneateles, New York, in the western part of the state near Syracuse. He attended Oberlin College in Ohio, where he studied both music and the ministry. (8)

In Keokuk, Hayden was in charge of music in six elementary schools and at the high school. As was the practice at the time, he supervised classroom teachers in the elementary schools. He provided regular music instruction to students, which was supplemented by daily work with the classroom teachers. At the high school he taught the Boy's Glee Club, described in the 1907 Keokuk High School Yearbook as "... a large chorus composed of every [male] member of the school who could sing," and the more select Girl's Glee Club. (9) In 1911 he started an orchestra at the high school--first with only violins and later adding winds--based on the model started by Will Earhart, music supervisor in the Richmond, Indiana, schools. …

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