Education

One of the first school music text books, John Turner’s “Manual of Instruction in Vocal Music”, was published in 1833.  This was followed by Sarah Glover’s “Scheme for Rendering Psalmody Congregational” in 1835 and WE Hickson’s “The Singing Master” in 1836.

From 1836 singing classes for Parisian labourers had proved extremely popular, and the idea was brought to London by John Hullah, who published his “Method” in 1841.  Hullah’s adaptation of the systems used in France proved successful.  Estimates of the numbers taking his classes vary from 25,000 up to 1860 and 50,000 in July 1842 alone!  Joseph Mainzer held similarly popular classes under the title “Singing for the Million” and the two men contributed to what could be considered a “singing mania” during the early part of the Victorian era.  Their work countered the belief that educating the lower classes would lead to an increase in discontent and subversion:  Hullah believed that music should form part of a liberal education, encouraging a sense of value and worth within the community.

Teaching had traditionally depended on “rote-learning” of facts, and this was also applied to music teaching.  Glover had argued instead that music teaching should be more similar to teaching speech, with theory deduced from practice rather than practice from theory.  John Curwen employed a similar method with his “Look and Say” reading method, where pupils learnt to read whole words rather than spelling them out letter by letter.  He sought a simple way of teaching to sing by note and developed his own Tonic Sol-fa system, incorporating aspects of other methods.  He believed that music should be easily accessible to all and ran evening classes for adults as well as Sunday School classes.  In 1851 he contributed a series of articles to John Cassell’s “The Popular Educator”, as part of the growing demand for self-improvement and by 1855 it was estimated that 186,000 people were learning his method.  When the new Board Schools were introduced by the 1870 Education Act Curwen’s was the method of choice.

In contrast to massed singing, which came to be associated with the working classes, music instruction in British public schools tended to follow the route trialled by Uppingham, of individual and group tuition only for those pupils who chose to take part.  Teachers differed too – the generalist teacher in the Elementary and Board schools, and the graduate musician in the public schools.

In 1905 a sign of change was seen with the offering of violin lessons in elementary schools, made possible by a London dealer making instruments available through hire purchase at low rates.  In 1910 a massed orchestra of pupils benefitting from this scheme performed at the Crystal Palace.

This tradition of individual instrumental tuition, alongside whole class teaching of music, especially singing and listening, is continued in many schools today.

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