Examining the Music Teachers National Association Papers and Proceedings 1906 to 1930

By Cooper, Shelly; Bayless, Robert | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Examining the Music Teachers National Association Papers and Proceedings 1906 to 1930


Cooper, Shelly, Bayless, Robert, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


During the summer of 1876, Eben Tourjee--a pianist, organist, and cofounder of the New England Conservatory of Music--led a summer normal music school at East Greenwich Seminary in Rhode Island. (1) Other teachers during that summer included Theodore Presser (who founded Etude Magazine, the music publishing firm Theodore Presser Company, and the Presser Foundation to provide scholarships for college music students), William Henry Dana, N. Coe Stewart, and G. M. Cole. Presser was a piano teacher at a girl's school in Delaware, Ohio. (2) Dana, a theorist and composer, founded his own music school in Warren, Ohio, in 1869, which later became the Dana School of Music at the University of Youngstown in Ohio. Stewart and Cole were public school teachers in Cleveland, Ohio, and Richmond, Indiana. (3)

The teachers and students attending this summer music session, recognizing the inadequacy and inconsistency of music teaching in the United States, discussed the possibility of forming an organization for music teachers. Presser and Dana began further planning assisted by Stewart and Cole, who had previously considered a similar idea. These initial discussions led to a three-day organizational meeting later that year. (4)

On December 26, 1876, male and female music teachers from Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania met in Delaware, Ohio to discuss organizing a music teachers association. By the end of the three days, the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) had been formed with Tourjee elected as the organization's first President. (5) Presser also played a prominent role and became known as "The Father of MTNA" because of "... his enthusiasm, determination and wisdom that gave form and vigor to our foundation at Delaware, Ohio, on December 26th, 1876." (6) Other notable MTNA charter members included George Chadwick, a prominent American composer; Luther Whiting Mason, a music education promoter and public school music superintendent in Kentucky, Ohio, and Massachusetts; and composer George R. Root, whose popular songs included "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" and "Battle Cry of Freedom."

Sixty-two names appeared on the first MTNA roll. "The little band of founders was made up of earnest and practical people," wrote historian Waldo S. Pratt. (7) These founders set annual dues at one dollar, held annual three-day meetings, and determined the main goal for MTNA should be presenting papers on various areas of music and music education to improve the profession.

In 1914, at an MTNA meeting, Dana commented:

 
   The necessity of such an organization, in the minds of both Mr. 
   Presser and myself, grew out of our experiences. Mr. Presser, up to 
   this time, had been connected as a music-teacher with two different 
   musical institutions, and there came under his guidance pupils from 
   various sections of the country, whom he found unquestionably 
   ill-prepared for any work which they might undertake. This was due 
   to the instruction of incompetent teachers or of teachers who were 
   too indolent to impart musical knowledge. 
 
   As for myself, I had traveled over seven States of the Union during 
   the three years previous, visiting music teachers in city, town, 
   and hamlet, and, in almost every case, I found them incompetent. 
   Many of them had taken up the calling as a matter of necessity and 
   others that they might acquire a little 'pin money.' ... The 
   voice-teachers were for the most part, charlatans or broken down 
   opera singers, who without rudimentary knowledge of music, were 
   turning to voice teaching as a means of livelihood. 
 
   Hence it would not be out of place to say that the deplorable 
   condition of music as a whole called into existence the Music 
   Teachers' National Association. (8) 

The MTNA encountered the expected growing pains of any new organization as it struggled to retain membership. …

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