A Review of the 1963 Yale Seminar

October 1, 2009

The early years of The College Music Society, the 1960s, were a time when a considerable amount of attention was being given to pre-collegiate and professional education. The reason for this was the national concern about the country’s scientific competitiveness versus the Soviet Union, after its launching of the Sputnik satellite in October 1957. As a result, most areas of education, including the arts, would profit from this attention. In 1962 the Office of Education, at that time a part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was reorganized and a Division of Continuing Education and Cultural Affairs was formed. Fortunately the first staff person appointed in the new Division was Harold Arberg, a music specialist. This proved to be a considerable advantage for obtaining funding for programs that would give music education significant national visibility and would attract support from both government agencies and private foundations.

At its first meeting in 1958 CMS had established “The Committee on Music in the Elementary and Secondary Schools.” It was concerned with the preparation of students in music before they entered college. It also called for cooperation with AMS, MENC, and NASM in addressing these concerns. In 1960 the Committee’s report concentrated on the preparation of teachers of music in the elementary and secondary schools. It also became an important consideration for the many national initiatives funded during the decade. In 1962 past president G. Wallace Woodworth chaired this CMS committee and its members included Allen Briton, the President of MENC, and Claude Palisca, musicologist from Yale. That year the committee presented a resolution that stated: “The Committee urged the individual members of CMS [ . . . ] to take every opportunity to assist the forces working for better music in schools. This takes tact and ingenuity and breadth of understanding. With highly varied local conditions, this is the only sure road to excellence.”1

Starting in 1959, the Ford Foundation made one of its first grants in the arts, the Young Composers Project, to the National Music Council for the purpose of placing composers under the age of 35 in-residence in 12 school systems across the country each year. Then in 1962 the project was placed under the administration MENC and it was renamed the Contemporary Music Project, in order to reflect the importance it gave to including the study and performance of contemporary music in the schools.

Thus, the time was favorable for a series of programs and conferences that produced a significant body of work that would both reconsider and change music teaching at all levels of education, as well as professional music curricula. Under the chairmanship of Claude Palisca, who in addition to his position on the CMS committee was also chair of the AMS Committee on pre-collegiate music education that had been formed to promote standards of excellence for school music, a proposal was made to the Office of Education to hold a Seminar at Yale to address music education in our schools and the lack of communication between “the realms of music education and professional activity . . . as the main justification for the Seminar.” Soon thereafter it was funded by the Office of Education and Palisca then formed a steering committee with G. Wallace Woodworth as a member. Thirty-one participants were invited to the Seminar, among them were five active CMS leaders and Robert Trotter, President of CMS, was an observer.

The makeup of the seminar participants would become a point of considerable concern to music education leaders. Almost half of the participants were composers, theorists and musicologists; the rest included two music critics, two jazz musicians, only one performer, a school administrator, three college music educators, five public and private school music teachers and even the educational advisor from the White House. (In fact, it was the staff of the Office of Science and Technology in the White House, which had just revised the nation’s mathematics curriculum, that believed that all areas of knowledge, including music, should be strengthened. This certainly contributed to the funding of this Seminar proposal.)

One of the criticisms, in regard to the make up of the Seminar participants, was the fact that twenty-five of them came from the northeast and only six from the rest of the country. This certainly led many to feel that this gave the gathering a decided Ivy League aura.

Since a number of CMS members participated in the Seminar it was well reported on at the Society’s 1963 Annual Meeting and in the Symposium. The final report made recommendations in ten areas, which I believe, bear mentioning, as many were a prologue to other national programs that followed.

  1. Musicality—the development of which is the primary aim of music education K through 12th grade.
  2. Repertory—the present repertory of school music should be brought in line with contemporary composition and advances in musicology, while being strengthened in its coverage of the standard concert literature.
  3. Music as Literature—Guided listening as a means to understanding and acquaintance with the monuments of music literature, past and present, deserves a larger place than it occupies today in the elementary and secondary schools.
  4. Performing Activities—Activities such as the marching band and stage band are not to be discouraged, since they can lead students to greater participation, but they should not be ends in themselves. Instruction in vocal and instrumental performance . . . should always be supplemented with classes in basic musicianship and theory.
  5. Courses for advanced students—Courses in theory should lead to the pupil’s own discovery and courses in literature should concentrate on illumination of a few musical works through close analysis and study.
  6. Musicians in Residence—To combat a growing alienation of the music profession from American life and education, a program of bringing musicians, composers and scholars into schools in teaching and non-teaching capacities was recommended. (This was primarily based on the success of the Ford Foundation funded YCP/CMP—“outreach programs.”)
  7. Community Resources – Relaxing the certification requirements or otherwise permitting seasoned musicians living in the community to teach in the schools would open a new source of highly qualified music personnel.
  8. National Resources—Several means were suggested to make opportunities for advanced music study available in non-metropolitan areas.
  9. Audiovisual Aides—Technological advances have created opportunities that music teachers have not begun to realize. It should be noted that in that same year Ohio State University was funded under the national Defense Education Act to research the use of self-instructional devices in teaching music theory.
  10. Teacher Training and Retraining—Essential to the success of a curriculum revision like the one implied in the Seminar’s recommendations is an extensive scheme of teacher education. Undergraduate and graduate programs of teacher training should be re-examined in light of the broadened understanding of music and the increased mastery of technique that will be needed by teachers to meet the greater emphasis on creativity and literature. There were even some who recommended the retraining of the teachers of teachers.

It is interesting to observe that the majority of these recommendations still remain prominent among the profession’s concerns today, more than forty years later. At the time, some individuals in the music-education establishment resented their lack of input and called the conclusions reached by the Seminar “unrealistic and naïve.” Yet this national focus was the precursor to over twenty other federally funded projects in regard to music education, all of which attempted to address, the fundamental challenge for school music programs, the development of basic musical understanding, not simply developing performance technique.

The most immediate result was in response to the recommendation regarding the need to upgrade and expand the repertory of school music. One of the participants, Gid Waldrop, Dean of the Juilliard School of Music, after having been encouraged to do so by Harold Arberg, submitted a proposal to the Office of Education to develop an entirely new set of curricular materials for teaching music from kindergarten through 6th grade. This was funded in 1964 and became known as the Juilliard Music Repertory Project.

Needless to say, this caused a significant reaction from the music-education establishment, since Juilliard had no music-education program. Even stronger concerns were voiced about this grant than had been about the participants at and many of the recommendations made by the Yale Seminar. Paul Van Bodegraven, President of the Music Educators National Conference, wrote a strong rejoinder to Francis Keppel, the U. S. Commissioner of Education, saying about the Seminar report: “This is an uninformed and unwarranted indictment of our program of music training K-6 and it is most amazing that the United States Office of Education would use such deplorable grounds to justify a grant of public funds.” In regard to the Juilliard project in particular he went on to say: “The Juilliard School of Music is concerned entirely with the training of professional performers and composers. It has no connection with any phase of avocational music and indicated its disinterest in the field of school music by abandoning such activities some years ago.”2

The Juilliard project was plagued with changes of leadership but it did enlist musicologists, ethnomusicologists and composers to find and create music from the renaissance to contemporary and folk music that would fulfill its mission to make school music more authentic and a broader representation of the world’s music repertory. Thus, many considered the Juilliard Repertory Project an important next step for bringing many of the Seminars recommendations into being. Its influence could also be seen in the expanded repertory included by authors and publishers in their K-6 basic series books.

I believe that there is no doubt that the Yale Seminar and the attention that it and the ensuing projects brought to the field, motivated music education’s leaders to consider more effectively identifying the needs of the field and address the reforms that were seen to be necessary by many in the profession. Thus in July 1967 MENC, under President Louis Wersen, provided the profession a way to respond and reevaluate its efforts by convening the Tangelwood Symposium, “Music in American Society.”



Woodworth, G. Wallace. “Report of the Committee on Music in the Elementary and Secondary School.” College Music Symposium 3 (1963): 13-19.



1G. Wallace Woodworth, “Report,” 16. A Review of the 1963 Yale Seminar

2Bodegraven, letter to Keppel, August 7, 1964.

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