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REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON MUSIC.
In School Committee, September 10, 1868. THE Committee on Music ask leave to submit the following report:
Ten years ago, in the month of September, 1858, the Standing Committee on Music presented their first report to this Board. A partial review of the progress of the department of instruction under their charge during the decade now closed may not be uninteresting.
At the time this Standing Committee was instituted no instruction in music was given except in the Girls' High and Normal School, and the two upper classes of the Grammar Schools. The responsibility of such instruction was divided among four teachers. Two half hours in each week were required to be devoted to the study and practice of vocal music.
The Committee in their first report, submitted a programme for the regulation of the branch of education under their care, providing that, in addition to the time heretofore given in the upper classes of the Grammar Schools, some elementary instruction and exercises in reading simple music shall also be had in the lower classes, under the direction of the regular teachers; and that in the Primary Schools, likewise, singing form part
of the opening and closing exercises of every session, and such time be devoted to instruction in music as the Sub-Committee of each school might deem expedient. No change was then proposed in the existing administration of the musical instruction. The four incumbent teachers continued to exercise their functions as before, using such text-books as they preferred, subject only to the approval of the Standing Committee. On observation and experience it soon appeared that this plan did not work favorably. There was a want of unity and uniformity in the method of teaching, and the variety of text-books caused difficulty and confusion. In saying this the Committee do not mean to reflect upon the devotion and assiduity of the then existing corps of instructors in music, who were certainly zealous and attentive to their work. But the plan was in itself defective.
The first change was the appointment of a separate teacher in the Girls' High and Normal School, and the requirement, on his part, in addition to his ordinary duties, to give such instruction to the pupils of that institution as should qualify them, in their turn, to become teachers of vocal music in our Public Schools. It was recommended, likewise, that thereafter in deciding upon the qualifications of candidates for the office of teacher in our schools, of whatever grade, their ability to instruct in music should be taken into account and insisted upon by the Examining Committee.
Under the more extended supervision of the Standing Committee on Music, progress was manifestly made; but defects and deficiencies resulting from the want of
some simple, thorough and progressive plan of instruction soon became apparent. It was evident that the requirements of the rules in regard to musical teaching in the lower classes of the Grammar Schools were, for the most part, a dead letter. It was equally evident that in the Primary Schools the singing exercises at the opening and closing of the session were, oftentimes, a meaningless and routine performance, and that the time devoted to musical instruction in that grade of schools was next to nothing.
With these convictions the Committee, in their Report of September 1861, urged upon this Board the necessity of the more extended introduction of musical instruction into the Primary Schools. In their Report of 1863, they again referred to the subject, and recommended the appointment of a special instructor of music for this grade of schools. It was a measure that would have been sooner pressed upon the consideration of the Board, but for the difficulty experienced, on the part of the Music Committee, in finding a teacher competent to assume a post of so much responsibility and importance.
In June, 1864, Mr. Mason received his appointment, and in September of that year he entered upon his work. In due course three years must elapse before the fruits of this primary instruction could appear in the lowest grades of the Grammar classes. Three years subsequently, therefore, (in the autumn of 1867) an extensive examination was made in these lower grades of the Grammar Department, with a view more especially of witnessing the effect of the progressive instruction in
music in the Primary Schools. The result was gratifying and surprising. Making due allowance for the deficiencies, which could not but be expected in so large a field under the supervision of a single teacher, the legitimate effects of this systematic and general in struction among the Primaries were almost everywhere apparent. The Committee had hitherto endeavored to encourage the regular teachers throughout these two lower classes in the Grammar Schools to act up to the letter of their requirements, in giving to the pupils under their charge such instruction in music, aided by its special teacher, as lay within their power. Now, for the first time, the pupils appeared to be prepared to receive such instruction understandingly, and a corresponding interest was manifested by the teachers.
About this time, likewise, the operation of the rule passed by this Board some time in the preceding year, giving to each Master the position of Principal over all the Grammar and Primary classes within his District, went into effect. This, in the minds of your Committee, was a fortunate coincidence. The interest of the Masters in carrying out the requirements of our rules and regulations, in regard to all the studies of the schools, became unmistakably aroused, and, with their cordial coöperation, in a majority of cases, and the aid of the intelligent and assiduous teacher of music, some real progress began to be made in this hitherto fallow field of effort. It now became apparent that the time had come for special attention to these classes, in order that the progressive steps of musical instruction should not here be arrested. The subject had been prominently brought forward in
the Report to this Board, under date of March 19th of that year (1867), in which the Committee say "it is evident that the plan of instruction, which in its progressive march has now reached up into the highest class of the Primary Schools, and is ready, in its regular order, to be carried into the lowest class of the Grammar Department, should not be allowed an interregnum of a couple of years before it is again taken up in the upper classes of this grade."
Hitherto no specified time had been marked out for daily attention to music in the classes under consideration, and, as a first step towards the insuring of a better compliance with existing rules and requirements, an order was submitted by the Committee, and passed by this Board with great unanimity, requiring that fifteen minutes each day should be devoted to this study.
What was evidently further needed was that a special supervisor should be provided for the musical instruction of these lower classes, in like manner with the provision previously made for the Primary Schools. Your Committee have only hesitated to make such definite recommendation before, because of their unwillingness to seem to precipitate any additional expense in this department of public instruction. They believe, however, the time is now fully come for such action, and hence their request, which is now before the Board, for authority to nominate a suitably qualified person to take charge of the musical instruction of these classes. They feel also, that the events of the past year have shown that the Board are now ready for such appointment.
It will thus be seen that it has been the effort of the