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Editorial Notes

Why not call a meeting of all of the music teachers in your town and organize for mutual benefit ? Learn to know one another. Hear the best pupils of each teacher perform. Play and sing among yourselves. Give four- and eight-hand readings of the great symphonies, overtures, and concertos. Discuss current musical events. Plan ways to improve musical taste in your own town. Get up recitals and concerts by the greatest artists, all working together. Learn to see what is good in one another, and to overlook faults. Music teachers suffer from the lack of organization and of working together.

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In the teacher’s work there is nothing that demands more experience and judgment than the selection of pieces for pupils. As Mr. Edward Baxter Perry says:

“Why this particular piece any more than a thousand others?” Some of the guiding considerations are: the pupil’s individuality as to taste, technic, and musical peculiarities. The home influences must also be taken into account, for if the appreciation of music is on a low plane there, it is not well to give the pupil pieces that are too far above home appreciation, for parents have a moral right to enjoy the playing of their children. On the other hand, it is poor pedagogics to give pieces that are too far below the taste and understanding of the pupil. But there is much music that will meet the demands of a growing taste in the pupil and yet be acceptable to an uncultivated listener. Of course the teacher has to give careful consideration to the pupil’s needs in the line of a logical development as a student. Young teachers need to give their best endeavors to this supremely important point in their work, for not only does the best advancement of the pupil demand this, but a reputation for successful teaching depends upon this to a great degree.

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Amateurs need to know their possibilities in musical performance, and especially to know their limitations. It is the general fault of this class of music-lovers that they attempt music beyond their ability to perform well. Then, too, as they have no professional reputation at stake, they frequently perform in public without sufficient preparation. This is not giving due reverence to the composer, and is hardly just to the audience. But, perhaps, the worst sin of the amateur is that he ”plays” at playing the church organ on Sunday, taking the position from a good professional because he underbid him. The professional lives by and through his music, while the amateur lives by activities outside of music. Church music committees are not altogether without blame in this. It is an evil that needs correcting, for the professional has given years of preparation for organ playing as an important part of his life-work; it is an essential part of his opportunity to get an honest living, and for an amateur to underbid him and take the position is unjust.

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At a recent meeting of the Church Congress of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Pittsburg, Rev. H. D. Atchison, D.D., of Illinois, made some timely remarks on music of a certain character. We can not but commend his statements, although we do not mean to decry what is popularly known as “Moody and Sankey” music. It has often occurred to us to make an attempt to analyze this music, and to seek the factors upon which is founded the acknowledged strong effect these tunes have exerted upon the general church-going public, particularly of certain denominations. The study would certainly be an interesting one, and undoubtedly profitable as well. But to give Dr. Atchison’s remarks. In effect he said:

“It is a pity that the cycle of popular sacred song of the early Methodist Church has been so grossly caricatured. Every one knows that the style of music tolerated by the average revival and camp-meeting, Sunday-school and Epworth League convention is unworthy the history and genius of Methodism. Because of the vast market offered to musical trash, mercenary and ignorant writers have exploited the field to death, and Methodists have many musical sins to atone for. They should have an authoritative musical censorship.”

It is true that much meaningless, even bad, music has been forced on the religious public by greedy and incompetent composers (?); but the people who accept and sing this apology for music must be elevated, not in the church circle so much as in the home circle. We urge upon every Etude reader the duty of performing some missionary work in this direction.

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Candidates for the profession of music teaching need to be certain of one great essential. This is preparation for really first-class teaching. There is another point, which is this: best paying positions, in the long run, are in our smaller cities—places with from 10,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. To succeed in such a place, however, the teacher must be an expert in more than one branch. He should be an organist and a good choir leader as well as a good pianist. These smaller towns demand that their leading teachers be fine performers. If not an organist, he should be able to do good work on the violin, and capable of drilling an amateur orchestra aside from being a fine pianist, or he should be capable of doing good work in voice culture. In any case, he must be well up in musical theory, and enthusiastic enough about it to lead his best pupils into its study with earnestness of purpose.

All this presupposes a most thoroughly prepared and educated musician. The next twenty-five years will demand better preparation for successful music teaching in this country than has yet been demanded in the best European musical centers. Therefore, prepare to lead in the best new ideas, and not to follow in the “has been” ideas and ways of teaching. Furthermore, let it be a fixed policy in your art life that you advance yearly by much study and by careful and accurate looking into the best new ideas in music teaching. Never rest satisfied, but have an open mind for something better. And if you are thoroughly and solidly prepared, you have the scientific knowledge necessary for judging of the value of new ideas. Your growing experience will discover needs that you and other teachers will endeavor to give to the world through music journals and published methods. These ideas must be studied, or the teacher is soon left behind in the fast advancing musical demands of the times. In no possible way can money be made to give greater returns than to go on two or three years further with your musical education, so that you can be a leader in the music teaching profession instead of one of the rank and file.

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The cry to give the American composer a chance is heard periodically. It may be true that the public like best that music that has a flavor of -ski, -off, -ini, -ade, etc., but it is difficult for an impartially-minded judge to believe that it is only a predilection for “importations” that causes this state of affairs. But leaving these things aside, in what an attitude these “patriotic” people, these ”nationalists” in music, put the American composer! Give him a chance! That is all right. But looking back in the history of composition, is it not apparent to us that the great majority of composers were obliged to fight their way to the front? Trace the course of musical science. Did it not shift from the Netherlands to Italy, then spread to France and Germany, in the latter country to be broadened, deepened, under the transforming touch of the master minds of the great Teutonic spirit? The native-born musician in each case was driven to fight against the same influences that seem adverse to the American composer. And then a nationalized spirit was much more the state in the earlier days than now. The world is cosmopolitan. We ourselves are composite. Where is our national genius ?

The American possesses within him the stuff to go ahead when his equipment equals that which the composers of other nations enjoy. He need ask no pity, no charity, no favor from the public. His pride should teach him to do his best, to strive unceasingly, and to leave to time, the judge and leveler of all things, his standing among the men of the world.

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A correspondent asks why so much old music and so little new music appears on concert programmes. The answer involves several considerations. First, as a rule, concert programmes are not the same, in theory, as those of the operatic, vaudeville, and music-hall stage, in which “something new” is continually called for and sought with persistent eagerness. The result, as we all know, is that true excellence and real artistic work are sacrificed to the insatiable demand for novelty.

Perhaps the correspondent, unconsciously or otherwise, has not considered that his question conveys the implication that certain compositions are selected because they are old, to the exclusion of the new. This is, of course, not true, else excellence would be conditioned on antiquity, which no sane man will claim.

The fact that these compositions, being old, are still in use, is the best, the only, needful proof that they contain within them qualities which have met public approval and still continue to do so.

The reason that such pieces—if not classic, still accepted—meet the public taste of to-day, is owing to their content. And any piece of modern composition which can show true artistic excellence may live in the coming years.

Yet it is undeniable that the long-continued approval of years gives to certain works a popularity that is not easily to be diverted to newer works. The latter must fight for existence. The works that have come down to us, that we all cherish and revere, that we study and imitate, that we hear and then want to hear again—these works represent the well-known law, “survival of the fittest.” By all means let new works appear on the programmes. Let us strive to judge them honestly, and without prejudice one way or the other. This is the weeding-out process that will help to an increase in the rank of the classics.

 

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