Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Two Brothers, Two Cities: Music Education in Boston and Cincinnati from 1830-1844

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Two Brothers, Two Cities: Music Education in Boston and Cincinnati from 1830-1844

Article excerpt

The birth of American music education is often attributed solely to Lowell Mason in Boston. His younger brother Timothy, however, was also active at the same time in Cincinnati. This study traces the roots of music education in both cities, but highlights the rarely cited accomplishments of Timothy Mason and his colleagues. Using historical method, the study compares efforts in each city through early advocacy speeches, parallel innovative work by each brother, and actions of local school boards who provided support for music in the schools. Unique features and findings of the study include consideration of selected early education meetings and music presentations, bringing lesser-known music meetings and advocates to light, and the important proclamations that resulted. A most compelling element, however, is further detail about how Timothy Mason succeeded in bringing music education to Cincinnati schools, perhaps even ahead of his more famous brother.


Music educators have often studied the beginnings of their profession through events that occurred in Boston during the first half of the 19th-century. Although those developments are most widely studied, music education advocates were active in other areas of the country during the same period. This is especially true in Cincinnati, which was known as the Boston of the West.1 As the nickname suggests, citizens in both cities were offered comparable musical and cultural opportunities. Many of the early citizens of Cincinnati were graduates of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and other schools who brought their traditions and values with them. Therefore, a purpose of this study is to highlight the similarities between the school music movements of Boston and Cincinnati.

Edward Bailey Birge stated that the efforts of early advocates promoted the introduction of music instruction in the public schools, "especially in Boston and Cincinnati, giving the subject a prestige which helped to accelerate the movement."2 From 1830-1844, the initial steps toward inclusion of music instruction into the curriculum can be organized into three themes: (1) advocacy speeches sponsored by educational organizations; (2) the work of the Mason brothers; Lowell (1792-1872) in Boston and Timothy (1801-1861) in Cincinnati; and (3) the actions of each school board as they worked through the process that led to recognition of music education as a part of their curricula.

By tracing the progression of events within each theme, this study will reveal the similarities and differences between the movements and will highlight the contributions made to music education by those active in Cincinnati. Within each theme will be a description of events that happened in Boston, followed by an analysis and comparison of related occurrences in Cincinnati. To avoid confusion when discussing the work of the Mason brothers, they may be referred to by their first names or as L. Mason and T. Mason.

The common school and public school movement had just begun to develop in the 1820s, and terminology for the schools and their governing boards was inconsistent. Throughout the literature cited in this study, the terms common school and public school are used interchangeably. Except when found as a direct quote or title, the term public school will prevail here. Schools in Boston were served by the Boston School Committee and the Boston Primary School Board, while the Cincinnati Schools were governed by the Board of Trustees and Visitors of the Common Schools. In both cases the present day terminology will be used: Boston School Board (BSB) and Cincinnati School Board (CSB).

Igniting a Movement

The genesis of the school music movement may be traced to a speech given by William Woodbridge, a prominent advocate for reforming the system of music teaching. He presented one of the first public advocacy speeches for the cause to the American Institute of Instruction during their meeting in Boston on August 24, 1830. …

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