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A History of Music Education in the United States

James A. Keene  –

James A. Keene’s treatment of this interesting and unique history represents a deep and penetrating look at a subject that until recent years has been largely neglected by teachers and scholars. A large population of music teachers have taught and acted with only the vaguest of insights about those special teachers who have accepted the formidable job of introducing music to the children of the United States from the earliest colonial times to the present day.

The history of music education cannot have an independent existence, however, and is inextricably linked both to the history of education in this country as well as to the history of music as an art, both popular and high. Paralleling the history of education, music education is also the history of reform. Our founding fathers considered their efforts to be rooted in an idealism whether it be expressed in terms of religious or political liberty, and from such beginnings Americans have tended to regard themselves as reformers from that day to the present. It is less important to approve or disapprove of each reform than it is to observe the consistent efforts of Americans to cast aside the old way and adopt that which appears to be new and different. This national trait prevailed throughout the history of music education in America, resulting in our music educators changing methods and philosophies sometimes thoughtfully, and sometimes capriciously.

Parts of this history deal forthrightly with various historical and philosophical tendencies, while relating them to the prevailing thoughts and movements in music education. It was necessary for society to accept the idea of a general expansion of the school curriculum before the arts could gain a foothold as part of the school curriculum. And with each degree of acceptance, from the introduction of vocal music into the curriculum to the rise of instrumental music and a cappella choirs, negative as well as positive reactions germinated requiring continuing defenses of the art even though the practices were ordinarily extremely popular with the children, many of whom discovered their talent for the first time while others could and did develop an appreciation brought about by exposure and practice of the art form.

The nation’s music teachers as well as an educated public deserve to know and to understand something of the history of these struggles and accomplishments. Keene’s book traces this history with clarity and sensitivity.

 “The tremendous amount of information gathered by the author makes this an extremely valuable work. No one else has accomplished as much. Keene’s scholarly treatment of the very complex story of music education in the United States will stand for many years as the standard source of reference.”  ALLEN P. BRITTON, Dean Emeritus, School of Music, University of Michigan

“Tripled with a highly readable writing style, a meticulous treatment of the subject matter along with an excellent chapter-by-chapter series of bibliographic notes, this book will stand as the standard source of reference for the historical foundations of music education in the United States. . . a truly impressive undertaking.” INTERNATIONAL TRUMPET GUILD JOURNAL.

“Keene’s history of American music education is well known to music education majors at numerous universities. The merit given it is well deserved. Keene is precise yet thorough, comprehensive yet accessible. The book is not a difficult read, and leaves the reader well informed.. . .”  R. Adams,

James A. Keene has served as professor of music and chairman of the Music Departments at Western Illinois University and Mansfield State University in Pennsylvania and as a faculty member at the University of Vermont and Montana State University. He received degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan. He is the author of numerous articles in music journals, served as editor of The Vermont Music News and Music Chairman of the Vermont Council on the Arts. He has performed as a violin and viola soloist, in chamber music, and as a conductor. In addition to the History of Music Education in the United States, he is the author of Music and Education in Vermont, 1700-1900, andGiants of Music Education to be published by Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. in 2010.


Paper 434 pages, 6×9
ISBN 978-0944435-66-3
LC 2009900069


List price $27.95
Our price $20.97


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