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Woman’s Hour of Glory in the Music World

How many of us ever stop to think that it has come within our span of years to live through the most thrilling moments of all the centuries?

When the world sleeps, as sleep it did during all the long years of the dark ages that followed the debauch of Rome, life was, for the most part, a bitter struggle for mere existence. Personal advancement was next to impossible, and excepting the patient monks in the monasteries, the stream of learning was wholly stagnant. War after war was waged, not for humanity and ideals but for superstition and greed. Save for the Crusades, which turned the attention of man now and then to Bethlehem, the world was spiritually dead.

The position of woman was that of a domestic necessity, a pampered pet, or the tool in a life of cunning, trickery and ignominy. The compassion, the sympathy, the keen feminine intelligence, coupled with woman’s sixth sense of intuition, the mother heart, the belief in the best, which are natural attributes of the sex and which have made women so important in the musical field, were, for the most part, repressed as a matter of course.

Music was then the toy of a few women in high positions. When “good queen Bess” played at the Virginals the courtiers listened and applauded, as they would at her coarse comments and oaths. Was she not the queen? And if the queen would play or would swear who would fail to help her?

Centuries are minutes in the chronometer of the ages.

It seems a leap of only a few minutes to our own day, when women are playing an all-essential part in the music life of the world. In America, if we could, in imagination, remove what the women have done for the musical progress of our country, we would probably find ourselves some fifty years behind the times. America is musically great to-day, not because of the splendid efforts of a few earnest men of ability and fine training who have given their lives to the art, but rather because of the co-operation of a vast army of women who, through their high ideals and well-organized efforts, have brought music in far greater measure to every city, town and hamlet on the continent.

America is proud of its musical women, proud not only of those who promote music, through such wonderful organizations as the hundreds that are included in the National Federation of Musical Clubs, but to the fine body of women music teachers, the women performers, and to the greatly increasing number of women composers, many of whom have gifts of which any nation might be proud.

Credit to Music

Dr. Wydow and Dr. Fairfax,—did you ever hear of them? They were among the first musicians whom Oxford University, England, chose to distinguish as Doctors of Music. The distinction proved a very slender shield against oblivion, and Dr. Wydow, who received his degree in 1499 (?) and Dr. Fairfax, who assumed his title in 1511, are now historical mummies in encyclopedias.

Since then, however, the collegiate aspect of music in Great Britain and America has held to the British plan with the same tenacity that Great Britain holds on to the pounds, shillings and pence currency, despite its cumbersome time-wastefulness.

In the larger English universities the musical degrees are frequently different from all other degrees granted by the institution, in that they are non-resident (the student need not do all his work within the university walls), and “the university takes practically no cognizance of their holders, who are, indeed, members only in a very limited sense.” Those holding musical degrees were felt by some quite beneath the retrouseé noses of the academic fathers of the university. This attitude is changing in recent years, and British universities are coming to have more and more respect for music and musical education.

America has modeled her musical collegiate matters largely after British models, as though we were incapable of doing any particular thinking of our own. Thus we find in many great universities that music is entirely a matter of theory. It is affected by the old-time college president’s prejudice against anything that had to do with skill rather than learning. That chemistry, mathematics and literary composition required skill seems to be forgotten. Skill with the hands was taboo, and for that reason we find in our universities little attention paid to anything but musical composition, history, etc. Meanwhile the university builds huge hospitals, mechanical-engineering electrical-engineering and chemistry buildings, although the plan of having a first-class conservatory as a regular part of the institution seems to be something which only the most progressive and helpful universities possess. As a matter of fact, many smaller colleges, secondary schools and seminaries are doing far more to foster real musical development than many great universities.

Our War Music Department

Let it be everlastingly to the credit of the present government of the United States that it had the prevision to realize the wonderful power of music in the present world crisis.

Nothing has been left undone to aid music, in and out of our military life. The manner in which the musical resources of the country have been mobilized is analogous to the mobilization along all other lines, nothing short of the phenomenal.

The one American weapon which our enemies had not counted on is speed, marvelous speed. It has been necessary for us to readjust our whole scheme of living in many ways.

Our Army was, only a few years ago, less than 50,000 men. Now in one encampment (Camp Lewis, Washington) there are 76,000 men. To provide the all-essential musical inspiration needed by such immense groups in all parts of the United States has been such a huge task at a time when the whole world has been working at double speed that the achievements of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, the Drama League of America and the Liberty Sing workers, to say nothing of the immensely increased Army and Navy bands, are truly amazing.

America is going to Victory, strengthened by the moral consciousness of right, the spirit of fairness and justice, the power of clean, manly living, the unrelenting will, not to conquer but to see that our lofty American ideals of Liberty shall not be lost to the world, all fortified and uplifted by the inspiration that comes through music.

The Etude is, therefore, proud to inaugurate its Department of War Music—which will continue during the war— proud to have this means of helping in a very important and significant work in the world’s greatest moment.

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