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Woman's Work in Music


As the season opens the editor of this column desires to be of whatever benefit she can to the clubs and to the women-workers in music in general. To this end she is always glad to receive communications, programs, club-schemes, and to answer questions pertaining to matters of the foregoing nature. All such communications may be sent to The Etude in Philadelphia or to the editor of this department at 128 West Eighty-fourth Street, New York City.
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There is no force which is growing more noticeably and rapidly than that of the clubs; just how far the influence reaches it is entirely impossible to estimate. But it is safe to say that every branch of art, science,—especially domestic science,—and every avenue of improvement feels the swelling into greater things and the more advanced thought that come with the advent of the clubs.
In no art has this been more keenly sensed than in music, and, if the clubs but realized their own importance and made the effort to become of still greater importance, there is no question but that they might hold the key to the musical situation in this country. The time is ripe for this, and every day is bringing still greater necessity for them to stand firmly as a great body capable to control the great things which confront music in America.
Of course, in order to become a body of such influence and importance the clubs must be conducted upon most dignified and business-like lines. In all literary clubs, in clubs of all kinds in fact, we no longer hear of their femininities; even comic papers have ceased to find them material for their columns. This means that women are meeting women on a happier basis; they are broader-minded and they are able to see life from a natural standpoint rather than from the exaggerated, affected, narrow point of view which we will hope is really of the past.
However, it is all too frequent a story that bickerings, jealousies, and caprices reign in the music-clubs. While this cannot be really excused, it can be understood; for music seems to be one field where harmony can only be found in its pedagogic relation to the art. If this can be obviated in no way,—that is to say, if it is really a temperamental matter inherent to the musician,—the music-clubs can never hope to do more than they are doing to-day; but, indeed, if the clubs can be carried on forcefully and with business-like precision, there is nothing that they could not hope for, if banded together as a power with which to be reckoned.
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It is not my intention at the present time to go into details as to how the following suggestions could be carried out. Suffice it to say for the present that the proper organization and co-operation of the clubs could, without doubt, achieve anything which they might undertake. The music clubs of America might:
1. Establish homes, which would really be clubhouses, in New York, Chicago, and Boston, where thousands of young women come for study and have no possible way of knowing into what home-life and surroundings they will fall,
2. Keep in America thousands of pupils who go to Europe because of the difficulties which surround the study of music in America.
3. By association reduce the cost of foreign artists, thereby giving the artists many more appearances and the clubs the opportunity to hear them.
4. Eliminate charlatanism from the music-teaching in their own communities and promote all that is best and noblest in the art.
5. Better the conditions of music in the churches and in public schools where music is taught, and introduce it where it has not yet been done.
6. Establish sight-singing classes among the lower classes of people, and by intelligent treatment awaken in them an appreciation of music, and its elevating influence over them will well repay the trouble. It will make them better citizens and raise the community in general.
These are but a few examples of what can be done by the musical clubs. It is also evident, from the foregoing, that they are in the infancy of their power.
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One of the most colossal achievements of any woman either recently or perhaps ever was the writing of music and libretto of a one-act opera entitled "The Forest," by Miss E. M. Smyth. Miss Smyth is of English birth, the daughter of an officer of artillery. Her study, however, was pursued in Germany, where her opera received somewhat harsh treatment. But in London, where it was produced at Covent Garden just before the close of the season, it aroused such enthusiasm that one of the most important critics declared that, with the exception of Richard Strauss, Germany had not one composer who could write more virile music, and that it was a genuine outburst of melodic inspiration which is absolutely fascinating; in short, he further states that for the first time in the history of music a woman has written an opera of exceptional merit. Miss Smyth is well known in London and Germany as a successful writer for orchestra.
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For those who believe that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" there are many moments in club-days which may be given over to games with good results. While in San Francisco not long ago, at a social reunion of the San Francisco Musical Club, then called the Chaminade, a delightful afternoon was spent in musical games originated and put into execution by the very efficient and talented president, Miss Maud Smith, at whose home the meeting was held.
At the door of the drawing-room the guests were handed paper and pencil with which to record their impressions of what piece of music or composer might be represented by each of the members, who all wore some article which represented the name of a composer or the title of a composition. One of the most impossible to solve was a warm roll worn as a badge. Be it understood the name of Chopin had been intended by use of the French words chaud pain (warm bread), pronounced Sho-pan, the n being nasal. There were butterflies and violets galore—there were four-leafed clovers all representing well-known selections as Grieg's "Butterflies," "Sweet Violets," "The Four-leafed Clover," etc. Prizes were given, of course.
Another game was played by some one sitting at the piano playing four measures of the most familiar melodies; they were only played once, and if they were not caught they were gone forever, and with them the guest's chance of winning the prize.
A musical salad is not a bad dish to set before one's musical friends. This salad is made of the names of musical selections, of operas, and oratorios written upon strips of colored papers and served to the guests, who must supply the names of composers of aforesaid compositions.
A table is brought into the room. Upon this table is placed twenty articles, which the guests are supposed to remember after gazing upon the contents for ten minutes, after which the table is removed and the company is left to write down the name of instrument, composition, or composer whose names were represented by the articles upon the table.
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At the International Exposition of Women's Arts and Trades which opened in Paris, June 26th, a program was given to the works of Mile. Alice Sauvrezis which met with much success.
Mrs. Theodore Sutro, well known in musical and other club circles, has just completed a new musical version of the national anthem "America" to compete for a prize offered by the National Federation of Women's Musical Clubs and Societies, of which she is the founder. The object of the competition is to change the anthem so radically as to make it easily distinguishable from the British anthem "God Save the King" and yet so slightly as not to sacrifice any of the characteristics of the time-honored music. The words "Land where my fathers died" have an exultant sound in the anthem. Mrs. Sutro has changed this to a mournful strain. She has also reversed the "Land of the Pilgrims' pride" from a sad air to one of jubilance and has infused into the concluding "Let freedom ring" a tone of real, ringing command.
Abastenia St. Ledger Eberle is working on a model of the statue of Feminine Progress to occupy the center of Madison Square Garden during the Woman's
Exhibition to be held in New York in October.
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On the subject of genius perhaps no one has ever come closer to the kernel than we find the Druids to have done in an almost tabulated manner. The following quaint lines are older than it would be possible to estimate. In 1813 they were regarded as ages old, and they bear a message that one cannot afford to overlook if interested in art or its fountain-head—genius.
"The three Foundations of poetic genius are: Gift of God, Human Exertion, and the Accidents of Life.
"Three primary Requisites of poetic genius are: An Eye that Sees Nature, a Heart that Feels Nature, and a Hand that Dares Follow Nature.
"Three Indispensables of genius are: Understanding, Feeling, and Perseverance.
"Three Properties of genius are: Fine Thought, Appropriate Thought, and Diversity of Sentiment.
"Three things that Ennoble genius are: Vigor, Fancy, and Knowledge.
"Three Supports of genius are: Strong Mental Endowments, Memory, and Learning.
"Three Marks of genius are: Extraordinary Understanding, Superior Conduct, and Uncommon Exertion.
"Three things that Improve genius are: Proper Exertion, Frequent Exertion, and Successful Exertion.
"Three Results of poesy are: Generosity, Courtesy, and Benignity.
"Three things that Enrich genius are: Content of Mind, Cherishing of Good Thoughts, and Exercising the Memory.
"Three things that insure Success are: Appropriate Efforts, Dextrous Efforts, and Extraordinary Efforts.
"Three things that will insure Acquaintance are: Courtesy, Ingenuity, and Originality.
"Three things that will secure Applause are: Amiable Deportment, Scientific Skill, and GoodBehavior."
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We have asked for quantity teachers, and they have come by the tens of thousands. Now let us demand the artist teacher, the teacher trained and skilled in the science of education—a genuineleader of little feet.—Francis W. Parker.
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The plan for class-study as outlined in the Study Club department in The Etude for September and October has attracted the attention of many of our readers, teachers, and students. We are very glad that our effort to promote the organization of circles of earnest pupils, seekers for a knowledge so necessary to their work, shows signs of acceptance. As was said in these columns in last month's Etude, a great need of the musical work of to-day is united effort, the strength and stimulus that comes from working with some one else, perhaps even the friendly rivalry that grows out of study in a class.
Private teachers have complained that the conservatory cuts into their business, and the claim has foundation. It is not always a question of price alone, but superior organization and advantages. The private teacher who contents himself with work with each individual pupil is in no sense in a position to compete with a conservatory, with the prestige that the latter is able to gain from its recitals, concerts, lectures, and special classes. Then why not take a leaf out of its book and do at least part of what is done there? The private teacher, in his work at home, is on a par with the teacher at the conservatory who gives private lessons, quite as often as class lessons. If the private teacher can get his pupils together for class-work covering the same ground as conservatory courses, he may reasonably expect to meet the competition of the latter.
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Aside from the question of competition between private teachers and conservatories, classes for study such as The Etude has been advocating, develop an admirable social quality, an esprit du corps among the pupils that redounds much to the advantage of the teacher. Pupils learn to know each other better, friends and parents may come in, and, as a result, the teacher becomes the focal point of a radiating influence that is felt and appreciated by a large portion of the community. This is a direct force in leavening the public support of music and musical interests. Unless many persons in a small town are ready to give support to music, there can be no wide field, for a teacher.
Once again we say that the teacher who will give to this class-work a little of his time, once a week, twice a month, or even once a month, will have a good return in the end. It will strengthen his hold upon his pupils, draw in others, and make every one of his pupils better musicians and better players and singers, because they will know more about music as an art and as a science, will learn those things that are not technic-builders, it is true, but which make pupils truly musical and truly appreciative of music. We want to know that every teacher who reads The Etude has gathered his or her pupils together in a class for study of such subjects as The Etude is offering to its readers.
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The concert season is now on. The great orchestras of our large cities have begun their series of concerts; famous artists, foreign and American, have started on their tours; the oratorio societies and choral clubs are rehearsing; so that we can truthfully say the musical season is in evidence. What we suggest is very simple. The great advantage of a good concert is the stimulus that hearing a master-work played or sung by competent artist will give to the earnest musician. It is needless for us to expatiate on the advantages and necessities of hearing good music; we simply say: hear as much as you can. The teachers and students who live in the large musical centers, or near by, may resolve to hear at least one concert more this year than last. It represents but an outlay of twenty-five cents to one dollar more. We can say with truth that practically no teacher, no matter where living, will be cut off from opportunity to hear at least one good concert this winter. It will pay to go some distance rather than to stay at home and rust; the stimulus of hearing an artist is necessary, particularly to those who labor away from the cities and larger towns. Let us all hear good music this season.
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There is a saying of Oliver Wendell Holmes which seems particularly applicable to musicians and students of music: "The human race is divided into two classes: those who go ahead and do something, and those who sit still and inquire: 'Why wasn't it done the other way?'"
From the very beginning of musical life these two classes are strongly in evidence: the one which goes ahead, accomplishing something, and the other which pauses, seeking a different and perhaps easier way. In the case of students the one class accepts instruction without question, endeavoring by diligence and application to accomplish the tasks assigned, and attacking each new subject with vigor and enthusiasm; the other is inclined to be captious, wanting to know the why and wherefore, indulging in quibbles, and wasting valuable time in futile discussions.
Among teachers these two classes are readily distinguished: the one class goes out seeking pupils, meeting them more than half-way, welcoming all, treating all impartially, and striving cheerfully for the advancement of all; the other is prone to sit still, wondering why pupils are not crowding in, wondering why such pupils as do come are not all highly talented, why some are so slow, others so clumsy, finally coming to look on teaching as an unmitigated boredom and themselves as unappreciated individuals.
Among professional musicians and concert performers these classes are equally well defined, the one accepting with cheerfulness and satisfaction such engagements as may offer and exercising the highest efforts in their fulfillment; the other endeavoring from the very beginning of the artistic career to pick and choose, haggling over terms, giving but halfhearted efforts in performance, and lamenting over genius unappreciated.
It is not difficult to determine which of these classes of musicians will achieve final success. In these days of close competition, business strife, and overcrowded professions one must either go ahead or fall behind; there can be no standing still, and there is little time for mere theorizing and none for the inquiry: "Why wasn't it done the other way?"
The great need of intelligent, well-planned primary education in all branches is obvious, and the preparation and training of teachers for this work is an ever- present problem. The increasing interest in the art of music and its more general cultivation are creating a demand for the well-equipped primary teacher, not readily fulfilled.
The mistaken idea, apparently possessed by a large portion of the general public for many years, that any teacher is good enough for the beginning is rapidly giving place to the opinion that the very best of all teachers is the successful elementary teacher. Elementary teaching, in addition to personal fitness, demands a special equipment and preparation only to be attained by experience and the most careful observation, although, as in public-school work, a systematic course of study may lay a good foundation.
The question arises: what are our schools, conservatories, and private teachers doing toward the training and development of the elementary teacher? The average conservatory graduate, or one having completed a finishing course with a private teacher, is, as a rule, quite unfitted for plunging immediately into this sort of work. The recent experiences and observations of such students have been cast in lines too widely divergent. All the study has been on the sonatas of Beethoven, the fugues of Bach, the etudes of Chopin, the concert pieces of Liszt. Does that prepare one to begin the simplest, elementary work with a pupil whose greatest need, is foundation work, simple, clear instruction? Thorough drill in the highest forms of music is as essential to the success of the elementary teacher as for the one who wants to give finishing lessons, but the former needs something more,—special work, under a teacher or at her own initiative, into the best methods for teaching beginning pupils.
The normal courses now established or about being established in many schools should do much toward the development of the elementary teacher. A school of practice, or at least the opportunity for observation in primary work, seems a crying necessity.
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"O no, I shall not go abroad again; in fact, I don't see the use of spending money for further study," said the teacher with a large bank account and an "eye for business."
It is not possible for a teacher to help pupils to grow when she herself stands still. One needs the freshening influence of concerts and lectures and the occasional contact and instruction which are obtained from the best artists. The professional bank is the best investment, and study means added power and culture. As to the money side, one has no right to go on saving the profits of teaching to the detriment of one's own musical growth. The teacher who looks at her profession as a mere means of livelihood and who values her art from a money standpoint ought to give up teaching. There is no heart in such an attitude. There is a common saying that musicians are spendthrifts. Some may be, but others are good financiers and good musicians as well. I have a profound respect for the musician who understands business principles.
There are musicians who go abroad to study, who prefer to study with "vorbereiters" or assistants instead of with artists themselves. It is a mistake, unless one is a decided amateur. There is no use in going abroad, if you cannot afford to study with the best. If you are too much of an amateur to study with the best, remain at home.
The teacher who "knows enough" to teach the grade of pupils whom she has and who knows that she is "ahead of the community" is on dangerous ground. Some day she will be a "back number," and there is nothing as sad in the world as a soured, old- fashioned music-teacher who was not willing to keep up with the times. There is another thing: teaching what is best is better than teaching for popularity. The teacher with high standards will never suffer from the consciousness that her pupils have lost faith in her.

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