Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Sing, Play, Dance! Music and Music Education in Industry

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Sing, Play, Dance! Music and Music Education in Industry

Article excerpt


Music in the workplace is nothing new. Songs and rhythms have always eased the drudgery of work, and organized musical ensembles have been part of the industrial workplace in many countries since the late 1800s. (1) This research focuses on music in industry in the United States.

Over the years, music in industry has ranged from live performers to Muzak, from radio broadcasts and recorded music to employee ensembles. (2) Research on this music has covered a wide array of topics including job safety, production enhancement, fatigue on the assembly line, and employee attitudes toward music in the workplace.

Music in industry began as an entertainment and recreation for the workers. Progressive companies often provided musical activities for their workers at company expense. One of the oldest examples of musical activities for employees can be found in the department store industry, where as early as 1876 Wanamaker's in Philadelphia held employee sing-a-longs before opening. (3) Other industries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had bands and choruses as well. In 1915 the Bulletin of the American Iron and Steel Institute published one entire issue on music in their industry. Thirty-four companies responded to the Bulletins survey, including Bethlehem Steel, the Ellsworth Collieries Company (a coal mining company, subsidiary of Lackawanna Steel), and the American Rolling Mill Company. Nearly every one sponsored a band or chorus, and many employed a music director, provided music for the local community (often their own mill towns), and sometimes even contributed to general music education for their employees' children. (4)

Performing ensembles were the ultimate win-win situation for both management and workers. From the management's point of view, music on the job increased production, provided a common meeting ground for executives and workers, improved morale, cut down on turnover, and provided free good will advertising and a public service to the community. From the employees' perspective, music counteracted monotony and fatigue on the job, provided an avenue for self-expression, widened friendships, and offered a social outlet. (5)

Although some ensembles were formed in the late 1800s, the preponderance of these organizations performed during the twentieth century. Therefore this research is focused primarily on that time period, with the acknowledgement that some performing groups existed earlier and some have continued into the twenty-first century. I examine these performing groups in regard to music education. In addition, I will address specific music education classes whenever companies provided them.

Review of Literature

Two surveys provide a historical overview of music in all types of industry: Kenneth Clark's 1929 Music in Industry and Ray C. Kooi's 1950 thesis "Music in Employee Recreation." (6) Clark reported the musical activities of 625 respondents and found 492 instrumental ensembles, 376 vocal groups, and 43 other groups such as musicals or clubs. He also described many early experiments that proved the value of music in keeping production and morale high, providing relaxation for employees, and helping to avoid industrial accidents by keeping employees awake, energized, and focused on their jobs.

Kooi sent out 120 questionnaires to an assortment of industries and received 64 responses. Only 48 companies reported having any music activities; however, with 33 vocal groups and 46 instrumental groups reported, it was obvious some companies had both types of ensembles. Because Kooi was an employee of the Ford Motor Company, he had an insider's perspective on its musical activities. His research included a short history of the music activities at Ford in the 1940s, including the Ford Motor band, chorus, and orchestra, and contained a list of the other musical groups affiliated with Ford, including an old-time orchestra. …

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