A Biography of Lowell Mason: The Father of American Music Education (2023)

A Biography of Lowell Mason: The Father of American MusicEducation

September 4, 2009 by michaelpratt

byDr. Michael Pratt

(Video) Lowell Mason Video: The Father of Music Education

Lowell Mason, who many people regard as the father of public school music education, was born in Medfield, MA on January 8, 1792 into a musical family. Both of his parents sang in their church choir and his father played the bass viol. At a young age Lowell learned to play several instruments, attended a singing school taught by Amos Albee and studied composition with composer Oliver Shaw. At the age of 16 he became the choir director of his church choir and two years later directed the Medfield town band.

A Biography of Lowell Mason: The Father of American Music Education (1)

At the age of 20 Lowell moved to Savannah, GA (exactly why is unknown) where he worked and later became partner in a dry-goods store. After his partner’s death in 1817 Lowell became a successful banker. All-the-while pursuing a living, Lowell continued his musical career. Having led singing schools in Savannah, Lowell became choir director in 1815 of the Independent Presbyterian Church and five years later its organist. Establishing himself as a leader in his community Lowell was Sunday school superintendent at his church from 1815 to 1827 and, in 1826, opened the first Sunday school for black children in America. In 1818 Lowell was the founder of the Savannah Missionary Society.

(Video) American Music 1750-1825

During this time Lowell continued to develop himself musically by taking composition lessons from German-born Frederick L. Abel who had immigrated to Savannah in 1817. Using as his model a collection of hymns set to tunes of Mozart and Haydn by William Gardiner entitled Sacred Melodies, Lowell set about writing his own collection of hymns (also set to tunes of famous composers) under the guidance of Abel. Rejected by publishers in Philadelphia and Boston, Lowell submitted the collection to Dr. George K. Jackson, organist or the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, who published the collection as The Handel and Haydn Society’s Collection of Church Music in 1822 without Lowell’s name as author (it was his wish to remain anonymous as a musician since his profession at the time was that of banker).

To Lowell’s amazement his collection of hymn tunes became an instant hit (eventually encompassing over 20 editions and selling over 50,000 copies, an astonishing feat in those days). With this success Lowell negotiated positions as music director at three churches in Boston and returned there in 1826 (although still keeping his job as teller at the American Bank). Eventually the reputation of Lowell’s choirs at these churches grew to national proportions and in 1827 he revitalized the Boston Handel and Haydn Society as its president and musical director, a position he held until 1832 when he decided to devote himself to teaching. In 1829 Lowell compiled what is believed to be the first collection of Sunday school music entitled The Juvenile Psalmist and in 1831 followed that with The Juvenile Lyre a collection of school music for children. During this time he gave children’s vocal music classes at his churches, gave numerous children’s concerts, and started teaching music in private schools. About the same time a resolution was presented to the Primary School Board of Boston to introduce the systematic instruction of vocal music in the public schools. Apparently no action was taken and the matter was dropped.

Agitation continued for the inclusion of vocal music in the public schools. Finally, to promote music education for the masses (as opposed to the “talented few”), in 1833 Lowell, George James Webb, and Samuel A. Eliot (among others) established the Boston Academy of Music to promote the art of singing, raise the standards of church music, and to promote the introduction of music education in the public schools. The academy was immediately successful and by its second year had enrolled over 3000 students. It offered vocal and instrumental instruction, developed both choral and instrumental ensembles, and gave public concerts (among them the first American performances of Beethoven symphonies). In 1834 Lowell published The Manual of the Boston Academy of Music which was an edited translation of G. F. Kuebler’s Anleitung zum Gesang-Unterrichte in Schulen (Stuttgart, 1826). This book, supposedly based on Pestalozzian principles, was used for many years by music teachers.

(Video) Oh Music, By Lowell Mason

This book espoused seven principles of music education. The last principle, “To have the names of the notes correspond to those used in instrumental music”, was to have a profound impact upon American music. Prior to this time music in American was characterized by the music of composers like William Billings, Daniel Reed, and Justin Morgan who did not conform to the rigid European “rules of composition” but rather made free use of counterpoint and dance rhythms coupled with loose harmonic rules. This vigorous type of music coupled with “sacred harp” or “shape note” singing became an important part of early American music. Lowell Mason headed a movement labeled the “Better Music Movement” whose goal was to eliminate this type of music (which they regarded as “crude and lewd”). As a result of these efforts the music of original American voices like William Billings was largely suppressed. Many scholars while conceding Lowell Mason’s position as the “father of music education in the public schools” wish that his approach had been different.

Four years after the initial resolution to introduce vocal music into the Boston Public Schools, a special committee of the Board prepared a report to the full Board (based on a memorial from the Academy of Music) which recommended the inclusion of vocal music in the curriculum or the public schools of Boston. It is interesting to note the basis for the recommendation. “Let music be examined by the following standards – 1) Intellectually, 2) Morally, and 3) Physically” (this standard is especially interesting in that vocal music would “expand the chest and thereby strengthen the lungs and vital organs”). No mention of musical standards, aesthetic worth, or even why music is important to our lives. In 1837 Lowell Mason (volunteering his services and supplies) was accepted as the first music teacher in a public school in America in a one year experiment at the Hawes School of South Boston. There were exhibitions from time to time in 1838 at the Hawes school which satisfied the overseeing committee to the extent that in August, 1838 the school board passed a vote to the effect of establishing that vocal music would be taught in all the public schools of Boston. In its annual report of 1839 the Boston Academy of Music referred to this vote as the “Magna Carta of musical education in this country”. Lowell Mason was placed in full charge of the Boston Public School music program, a position he retained until 1841 when he retired to pursue composition and traveling.

Lowell traveled to England, Germany, Switzerland, and France meeting with many European musicians and educators. After returning to American he made New York his business headquarters and maintained an estate in Orange, NJ. His later years were occupied with occasional teaching and with publishing numerous articles and books. Among his more popular hymns were “Joy to the World”, “Nearer my God to Thee”, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, and “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”. In 1855 Lowell was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Yale University to whom he later gave his vast collection of books and music. Lowell Mason died August 11, 1872 in Orange, NJ.

(Video) Dr William McManus discusses Lowell Mason and growth of music education.MP4

Copyright 2010 by Pratt Music Co.


(Video) HymnBuilder: The Music of Lowell Mason for Solo Piano | Digital Reading Session


Why is Lowell Mason considered the father of music education? ›

Mason also set music to Mary Had A Little Lamb. He is largely credited with introducing music into American public schools, and is considered the first important U.S. music educator.

Why is Lowell Mason important? ›

Lowell Mason, (born January 8, 1792, Medfield, Massachusetts, U.S.—died August 11, 1872, Orange, New Jersey), hymn composer, music publisher, and one of the founders of public-school music education in the United States.

Who was Lowell Mason and what was his involvement in music education quizlet? ›

Lowell Mason (1792-1872) played organ, piano, flute, and clarinet, and had a strong New England musical heritage. Mason was a jack-of-all trades; he organized concerts and was the producer, director, performer, program-note writer, advertiser, ticket-seller, etc.

Was America's most important composer of the time was Lowell Mason? ›

Lowell Mason (1792-1872), American music educator, tune-book compiler, and composer, was called the "father of singing among the children." He was the outstanding American music educator for over half a century and was the leading reformer of American church music.

Who started music education? ›

Lowell Mason, considered the founder of music education in America, was a proponent of Pestalozzi's ideas, particularly the rote method of teaching music, where songs were experienced and repeated first and concepts were taught afterward.

Who is known as the father of all music? ›

Johann Sebastian Bach
Born21 March 1685 (O.S.) 31 March 1685 (N.S.) Eisenach
Died28 July 1750 (aged 65) Leipzig
WorksList of compositions
2 more rows

What was Lowell known for? ›

The city became known as the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution because of its textile mills and factories. Many of Lowell's historic manufacturing sites were later preserved by the National Park Service to create Lowell National Historical Park.

Who was the first public school music teacher in 1838? ›

Public education in the United States first offered music as part of the curriculum in Boston in the 1830s, and it spread through the help of singing teacher Lowell Mason, after he successfully advocated it to the Boston School Committee in 1838.

What made Lowell Massachusetts unique? ›

By the mid-19th century Lowell had become one of the country's major industrial cities; it was called the “spindle city” and the “Manchester of America” because of its large textile industries.

What was the Lowell system quizlet? ›

The Lowell system was a method of factory management that evolved in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, owned by the Boston Manufacturing Company. In 1814, the Boston Company built America's first fully mechanized mill in Waltham, Massachusetts.

What was Lowell Massachusetts famous for being quizlet? ›

In the 1820's, Boston Manufacturing Company created the "Lowell Experiment;" Lowell quickly became the US' largest textile center.

Who were the Lowell girls quizlet? ›

Lowell girls were girls between the ages of 12-14. Francis Cabot Lowell created the Lowell system, in which girls from local farms could come and work for money (very small amounts of money, but money never the less). Their main job was to work the power loom, by straightening the threads as they went into the loom.

Who was the first American music composer? ›

America's First Composer - Francis Hopkinson.

Who was America's first composer? ›

By the late 1760's, he had become America's first professional composer. The first American published composer of psalms and hymns and the inventor of “fusing songs,” William Billings was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 7, 1746.

Who was America's greatest composer? ›

Best American composers ever
  • John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
  • Amy Beach (1867-1944)
  • Scott Joplin (? 1868-1917)
  • Charles Ives (1874-1954)
  • Florence Price (1887-1953)
  • Ferde Grofé (1892-1972)
  • Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
  • Henry Cowell (1897-1965)
Jul 19, 2022

What is a music teacher called? ›

Also Called. Music Instructor, Music Educator. Music educators teach students how to sing and play instruments, instruct them in fundamentals such as scales and chords, impart knowledge about music history and theory, and lead school bands, orchestras, choirs, and ensembles.

What is taught in music education? ›

Classes can teach students to read and write music, to sing and play instruments, or focus on the history of music.

What was the first music school in the world? ›

The schola cantorum (papal choir) in Rome may be the first recorded music school in history, when Gregory the Great (540–604) made permanent an existing guild dating from the 4th century (schola originally referred more to a guild rather than school). The school consisted of monks, secular clergy, and boys.

Who first wrote music? ›

It all started with the Ancient Greeks.

Sadly, there are very few examples of written music from Ancient Greece – but we do know that the Greeks were crucial in setting the groundwork for music theory.

Who invented music and what was the first song? ›

The earliest fragment of musical notation is found on a 4,000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet, which includes instructions and tunings for a hymn honoring the ruler Lipit-Ishtar.

Who was the first music man? ›

Starring Robert Preston and Barbara Cook,the show opened December 19, 1957, at the Majestic Theatre. Meredith Willson wrote the book, lyrics, and score from a story he and Franklin Lacey devised. The production played a total of 1,375 performances before closing in April in 1961.

Who was the first teacher ever? ›

No one knows for sure. Many people think Confucius was the first teacher. He was born in China in 551 B.C.E.

Who is the father of public school music education? ›

Lowell Mason has been called the father of American music education. In 1838, he convinced the Boston School Committee that music should be part of the curriculum for all students.

Who was the first school teacher ever? ›

Horace Mann
Personal details
BornMay 4, 1796 Franklin, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedAugust 2, 1859 (aged 63) Yellow Springs, Ohio, U.S.
Resting placeNorth Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
18 more rows

What did Lowell invent? ›

What did Francis Cabot Lowell invent and when? Francis Cabot Lowell invented the use of a power loom based on his observation of factories in England. He incorporated the English designs into an integrated factory system to create a one-stop-shop for textile production in 1815.

What are some fun facts about Lowell? ›

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, but in 1880, the first city to use telephone numbers was Lowell. The 5.6 miles of hand-dug canals in Lowell channeled the Merrimack River's 32-foot drop to Lowell's mills, providing power for the mill machinery in the 19th century.

When was the Lowell System created? ›

Having developed the country's first working power loom, Lowell, with fellow Bostonians Patrick Tracy Jackson and Nathan Appleton, established the Boston Manufacturing Company along the Charles River in Waltham in 1814.

How did Lowell system change America? ›

The significance of Lowell Mills was crucial during the industrial revolution as it brought many changes. Dehumanizing conditions on the laborers were improved, and the laborers started to be paid better wages, and their working conditions were also considered to ensure they worked in better environments.

What ended the Lowell system? ›

The End of the Lowell System: Overproduction during the 1830s caused the price of finished cloth to drop. In response, the mills cut wages and increased work duties, forcing the workers to work harder at a faster pace.

What was the Lowell system called? ›

The Lowell system, also known as the Waltham-Lowell system, was a vertically integrated system of textile production used in nineteenth-century New England.

What did the Lowell girls want? ›

To find workers for their mills in early Lowell, the textile corporations recruited women from New England farms and villages. These “daughters of Yankee farmers” had few economic opportunities, and many were enticed by the prospect of monthly cash wages and room and board in a comfortable boardinghouse.

What did the Lowell Mill girls fight for? ›

The Factory Girls' Association was established to help workers cover the cost of boarding while they were not earning wages, and the mills were forced to work below capacity for much longer.

Who did the Lowell system mostly employ? ›

By 1840, the factories in Lowell employed at some estimates more than 8,000 textile workers, commonly known as mill girls or factory girls. These "operatives"—so-called because they operated the looms and other machinery—were primarily women and children from farming backgrounds.

Who were the Lowell girls simple terms? ›

The Lowell mill girls were young female workers who came to work in textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The workers initially recruited by the corporations were daughters of New England farmers, typically between the ages of 14 and 35.

Were the Lowell Mill girls immigrants? ›

After the Civil War, nearly 75 percent of the mill workers were immigrants, largely Irish.

Who were the immigrant groups in Lowell? ›

More than half of Lowell's foreign-born population is from Asia (54 percent), but there are significant shares from other regions of the world: Latin America (22 percent), Europe (16 percent), and Africa (6 percent) (see figure 2). Cambodians make up nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the foreign-born population.

Who is remembered as the father of public school music? ›

Stephen Foster
Foster circa 1860
BornStephen Collins FosterJuly 4, 1826 Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 13, 1864 (aged 37) New York City, U.S.
Resting placeAllegheny Cemetery
11 more rows

Who is the father of American classical music? ›

Charles Edward Ives (/aɪvz/; October 20, 1874 – May 19, 1954) was an American modernist composer, one of the first American composers of international renown. His music was largely ignored during his early career, and many of his works went unperformed for many years.

What is historically significant about Lowell MA? ›

The city became known as the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution because of its textile mills and factories. Many of Lowell's historic manufacturing sites were later preserved by the National Park Service to create Lowell National Historical Park.

How did music education start in America? ›

Public education in the United States first offered music as part of the curriculum in Boston in the 1830s, and it spread through the help of singing teacher Lowell Mason, after he successfully advocated it to the Boston School Committee in 1838.

What was the first music school in America? ›

1865: Oberlin College establishes the Conservatory of Music program, the first of its kind in the United States.

Which of these musicians is considered the father of gospel music? ›

Known for his many up-tempo blues arrangements of gospel music hymns, U.S. songwriter, singer, and pianist Thomas A. Dorsey was often called the Father of Gospel Music.

Which artists was known as the father of the blues? ›

For his efforts in making Blues famous, W.C. Handy is known as the “Father of the Blues.”

Who is the founder of music and memory? ›

In 2010, Dan Cohen founded Music and Memory, a non-profit dedicated to bringing personalized music playlists to people in nursing homes and other healthcare settings.

Who was the first American musician? ›

The first musicians anywhere in North America were Native Americans, who consist of hundreds of ethnic groups across the country, each with their own unique styles of folk music.

Who were the fathers of the American musical? ›

Jerome Kern is often called the father of American musical theater. Kern is remembered for the hundreds of songs he wrote for musical plays and movies.

What made Lowell unique? ›

The Lowell System was a labor production model invented by Francis Cabot Lowell in Massachusetts in the 19th century. The system was designed so that every step of the manufacturing process was done under one roof and the work was performed by young adult women instead of children or young men.

What was unique about the Lowell System? ›

The Waltham-Lowell system pioneered the use of a vertically integrated system. Here there was complete control over all aspects of production. Spinning, weaving, dyeing, and cutting were now completed in a single plant. This large amount of control made it so that no other company could interfere with production.

Why was Francis Lowell important? ›

This American industrial pioneer left as his legacy a manufacturing system, booming mill towns, and a humanitarian attitude toward workers. In just six years, Francis Cabot Lowell built up an American textile manufacturing industry. He was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1775, and became a successful merchant.


1. Music Chat with Wendy & Barb Opus 10: Lowell Mason
(Grace Lutheran Church - ClearwaterFL)
2. The Inception of Music Education
3. History of American Music Education 1930's till now
(Alicia Morgan)
4. On a Hymn Song of Lowell Mason- David Holsinger
5. "NEARER MY GOD TO THEE" by The Melharmonic Virtual Choir directed by Chibuike N. Onyesoh
(Melharmonic Music Services)
6. (A Lil Funky) Music History Timeline
(Chloe Spears)


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