The College Band Directors National Association and Aesthetic Education

  • DOI:
  • PDF:



Founded in 1941, the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) has been the primary professional organization for wind conductors for well over fifty years. Given the longstanding connection between college and university bands and music education in the public schools, it is no surprise that the same philosophies that shaped other areas of music education also affected wind bands at post-secondary institutions. This paper argues that the CBDNA, through its members, its agenda, and its professional activities, served as a catalyst and working model for the emerging philosophy of “music education as aesthetic education” (MEAE) in the decades before Bennett Reimer’s seminal text, A Philosophy of Music Education. In doing so, the CBDNA helped lay the groundwork for MEAE to become the predominant philosophy of music education in the United States.

College and university bands were—and still are—linked inextricably with music education in the public schools. Both institutions grew out of similar musical traditions, and both joined the curriculum proper only gradually. Likewise, World War I was a watershed for both college and public school bands, which became an increasingly prominent fixture in their respective educational institutions and in the general community.1 One might also argue that a burgeoning school band movement was integral in legitimizing the college band’s place in post-secondary curricula and that a symbiotic relationship of sorts existed between the two entities: School bands served as a sort of “feeder program,” training many of the instrumentalists who populated college ensembles; college bands offered student musicians opportunities to continue making music after high school, which in turn helped justify the high school band itself, especially as the proverbial “town band” declined. Furthermore, many college band directors began their careers as secondary school band directors, exposing a feeder program of a different kind. As such, the college band is fundamentally an institution of music education as much as it is a performing ensemble, especially given its current place in the college music curriculum.

It is no surprise, then, that the same philosophies that shaped other areas of music education also impacted the college band and its directors. As aesthetic education came into its own as a philosophy, the college band was at the forefront of the movement. Specifically, college band directors became some of the most influential and aggressive advocates for this type of education. I argue that from its founding, the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) has been a primary catalyst for the rise of aesthetic education in the United States during the philosophy’s formative years. Through its founding figures and principles, its focus on “repertoire development,” and the professional activities of its members, the CBDNA provided a working model of aesthetic education and facilitated the philosophy’s dissemination through its members’ activities in the years leading up to Bennett Reimer’s codification of “Music Education as Aesthetic Education” (MEAE) in 1970. As such, the CBDNA laid much of the necessary groundwork for to MEAE to become the predominant philosophical current in American music education.


Music Education as Aesthetic Education c. 1950-c.1970

Music education before the 1950s had focused on functional rationales for music’s inclusion in the curriculum, rationales that reflected the music’s role in social, physical, moral, and intellectual development.2 Just as Plato and Aristotle had done, music educators justified their field by considering its relation to the individual and to society. More to the point, school bands met a number of practical needs for school and community in both ceremonial and entertainment capacities, as well as in the moral, intellectual, and physical development of the individual student. In the 1950s, however, scholars like Charles Leonhard, Robert House, Harry Broudy, and Allen Britton began to support a philosophy of music education based on the intrinsic aesthetic value of music to the individual.3 They based their philosophy on the aesthetic principles of philosophers like Susanne Langer and Leonard Meyer, whose own ideas were themselves rooted ultimately in the ideas of Kant and Hanslick.4 “Aesthetic education,” the term coined by Charles Leonhard in 1953, represented not only the first truly American philosophy of music education, but also the first based on musical, rather than societal or educational, philosophy.5 Leonhard advocated for “systematic and consistent efforts to develop an aesthetically valid philosophy of music education.”6 The central feature of aesthetic education is the “aesthetic experience,” during which the student engages with a work of art in a state of “disinterested perception.”7 A given art work’s aesthetic value is intrinsic and universal, often defined by its structural or formal attributes. As such, interpretation and evaluation are major components of curriculum and instruction, as is a canon of “masterpieces.” Students study these “masterpieces” for the intrinsic aesthetic qualities that make them valuable. Over the next two decades, music educators engaged intensely with this basic idea, debating vigorously its precepts and efficacy; during roughly the same period the college band movement grew rapidly, and the College Band Directors National Association was formed to meet the unique needs of college and university band directors. 

It was not until 1970, however, when Bennett Reimer published his seminal book A Philosophy of Music Education, that “music education as aesthetic education” (MEAE) was articulated fully and clearly as a philosophy. Like all aesthetic education, music education’s fundamental purpose as such was “the education of human feeling, through the development of responsiveness to the aesthetic qualities of sound,” its fundamental benefit “the enrichment of the quality of people’s lives through enriching their insights into the nature of human feeling.”8 Reimer asserted that music education should facilitate students becoming more aesthetically sensitive “to the elements of music which contain the conditions which can yield insights into human feeling.”9 He went on to reveal even more explicitly the philosophy’s firm grounding in aesthetic formalism and Langer’s theory of art, putting music and its intrinsic qualities at the core of music education:

These elements—expressive qualities of melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color, texture, form—are totally objective: they are identifiable, nameable, capable of being manipulated, created, discussed, isolated, reinserted into context …. While the affective response to aesthetic elements in music is indeed ineffable, the elements which [sic.] can arouse the response are not. They are the teacher’s stock in trade, constituting the basic materials for teaching and learning at every level and in every activity …. Only one thing can properly cause feelingful responses to music: the sounds of the music themselves.10

Reimer also articulated specific criteria for the aesthetic experience, predicating the authentic experience on “aesthetic perception” and “aesthetic reaction.”11 On musical performance as aesthetic education Reimer, like Leonhard, downplayed the socio-cultural justifications of the past, arguing that they could not justify musical performance as a curricular subject.12 He argued that for performance to be successful as aesthetic education, it must develop systematically and consciously not only technical skills, but also the student’s “musical understanding” and “aesthetic sensitivity.”13 He also took a stunningly similar position in both language and content to repertoire as did the CBDNA, prescribing “that music of high quality be the main material of study” and assailing much of the music used in schools as “insipid in structure and vapid in expressiveness.”14 Moreover, the whole of musical mastery and musical understanding, for Reimer, was greater than the sum of its parts. Successful aesthetic education through accurate, proficient performance of high quality literature led to something more, namely that the student would become a conscious part of “the act of aesthetic creation,” an aesthetic experience of the highest order.15

For a working model of MEAE, Reimer had only to look toward the college band and its directors. In the years from its founding through the publication of Reimer’s philosophy, college band directors had advocated for an education of serious musical expression and understanding through the intrinsic qualities of music, achieved in turn through the performance of “high quality” literature. Moreover, in promoting similar ideals for some three decades before A Philosophy of Music Education, the CBDNA had already primed generations of music educators, administrators, and policy makers that MEAE was not only a viable philosophy, but the most logical and appropriate one. While the CBDNA and the college band movement were certainly not solely responsible for Reimer’s philosophy becoming the overwhelmingly predominant one in American music education, they nonetheless played a significant and integral role in its success.

Founding figures and principles of CBDNA

By 1938, it was clear that the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) was not meeting the needs of college band directors; MENC’s Committee on College and University Bands proposed meeting separately.16 In the winter of 1941, William D. Revelli, director of bands at the University of Michigan, called a meeting of college band directors at the Congress Hotel in Chicago in conjunction with MENC’s national meeting. Revelli and a core of some forty charter members formed the University and College Band Conductors Conference (UCBCC); it was later renamed the College Band Directors National Association.17 The first meetings addressed practical concerns, such as the band’s role in the college curriculum, the band program’s budget, band uniforms, instrumentation, and so forth.18 CBDNA provided, then, what MENC could not, a dedicated forum for college band directors to discuss issues and problems specific to college band programs and topics largely of interest only to college band directors. By 1970, the organization had grown from forty members to include over 700 college band directors.19 Clearly, the association had begun to impact the college music community significantly. The CBDNA’s influence on musical life in the United States was widespread. It is, however, a topic beyond the scope of the present study, which focuses only on the organization’s role in the ascendancy of aesthetic education as a philosophy.

Although the charter members of the CBDNA assembled primarily for practical reasons (some of which are enumerated above), they brought with them the philosophical baggage of James Mursell, Charles Leonhard, Karl Gehrkens, and others. The published writings, internal documents, and conference addresses of CBDNA members reveal that the CBDNA self identified consistently as educators and that they generally subscribed to the philosophical grounding of music education as aesthetic education even before the organization was founded in 1941. Indeed, William D. Revelli, the driving force behind the CBDNA, was in fact a former high school band director (as were many of his colleagues). Revelli’s bias towards the philosophy of aesthetic education is clear in his writings, among them a 1939 article that referred to “even the most unskilled of listeners” and stated that “bands have been regarded by the more aesthetic music lovers and orchestral musicians as a necessary evil.”20 The subtext in Revelli’s statements is that listening was a skill, and appreciation required one to know how to listen properly, recognizing intrinsic musical features and responding to them. Furthermore, he recognized that “the more aesthetic music lovers” did not consider band music art music, rendering it a lower form of aesthetic experience than, for example, orchestral music. Particularly telling, however, is the following passage, in which Revelli characterized—and in doing so acknowledged—the impact of school bands:

One of the most profound movements which has changed the status of bands is the development and growth of the school music program. Thousands of students in band and orchestra programs have changed the complexion of musical audiences, and this has been heightened by the great numbers of music appreciation classes affecting hundreds of thousands of students in our schools and colleges …. Young men and women attend concerts not just for entertainment’s sake, nor for the purpose of conversing with neighbors, but for the real satisfaction and enjoyment which comes with true appreciation and intelligent understanding of what one hears in music.21

Again, for Revelli, as would become the norm for aesthetic educators, appreciation was predicated on intelligent understanding. Indeed, he cautioned band directors in the same article that “audiences have not reached the zenith in musical understanding and appreciation” and asserted the value of satisfying the “emotional” and “intellectual” needs of the audience.22 This was a far cry from the rationales that were being used to justify music education at the time. Revelli’s words placed him at the forefront of music education philosophy, though he was writing ostensibly about the more pedestrian problem of band repertoire.

In a 1946 address to the CBDNA membership, Revelli asserted that one of the college or university band’s most important roles was to provide “appreciation opportunities for nonmusic students” as well as for the music students both in and out of the band.”23 He went on to characterize the college band as “sometimes the first step in music education and music appreciation for many people” and a “training ground for advanced students of music theory, composition, and conducting.”24 Revelli concluded his address with the following words:

More people participate in bands and more people attend band concerts than attend concerts given by other music organizations. The influence of the band, consequently, is extremely great. It reaches many people who otherwise would be very little interested in music. It is our responsibility to entertain these people and to help them acquire a taste for the band and band music. Of greater importance still is the responsibility we have to education these people to the beauties of fine music in any form.25

Again, Revelli’s own words expose a predisposition towards aesthetic formalism and his equation of “appreciation” with education and understanding. In identifying a responsibility to educate audiences about the “beauties of fine music,” Revelli acknowledged his belief that objective truth and beauty exist and that he was qualified to evaluate its quality guide the audience in matters of “taste.” Furthermore, he articulated the notion, which seems to have been widespread among band directors, that the college band was a medium that could be used as such, to educate aesthetically not only the performers but also the audience.

The Declaration of Principles adopted by the UCBCC on 20 December 1946 also showed the organization’s concern for advancing an “aesthetic” view of the band and of music education. Among the stated principles were the affirmation that the college band was “a serious and distinctive medium of musical expression” and that the college band should provide its members with “effective experiences in musical education” and in “musical culture,” and that the college band “should bring increasing artistry, understanding, dignity, and respect” to music as an art.26 The Declaration referred to college band directors specifically as “teachers,” cementing their connection with music education.27 The 1947 CBDNA conference included an analysis of the principles adopted the year before via reports by committees formed to “examine and elaborate” on the Declaration’s ideas.28 Frederick Fennell chaired the committee on “Service to Music as an Art,” and his report focused on the lack of quality literature for band and charged college band directors to encourage new, serious repertoire for band, which would facilitate the “acceptance of the band as a medium of serious expression.”29 Like Revelli, Fennell’s language is the language of aesthetic formalism, Meyer, and Langer. The ideas of “serious repertoire” and “serious musical expression” reflect aesthetic education’s focus on fine art over more vernacular music, which itself is indicative of the philosophy’s grounding in formalist and referential ideas about music’s nature and value.

James Neilson, addressing the CBDNA as its president in 1958, highlighted the dual responsibility of CBDNA members as conductors and music educators, “challenging them never [to] hold the title ‘music educator’ lightly, or treat it with contempt …. As musicians we have the responsibility of interpreting our art so that it may be understood by the general public …. The music educator must teach the young the art of listening to and making good music ….”30 Like Revelli, Neilson acknowledged the role of CBDNA members as educators and articulated clearly his belief in aesthetic education, a type of education focused on the interpretation and understanding of “good” music. By self-identifying as music educators, CBDNA members provided, however implicitly, a practical and philosophical model for other educators, namely school band directors. The school band movement was relatively young, having truly come into its own only between the world wars, and the college band offered a feasible template for school bands, one with a curricular and aesthetic emphases, not just a focus on entertainment and service.


“Repertoire development”

For the band to be taken seriously as a medium of musical expression and thus as an effective mode of music education, it seemed the medium needed its own original repertoire; band directors had long lamented the lack of original wind literature and an over-reliance on transcriptions. This had been underscored pointedly when Richard Franko Goldman wrote in 1946 that without transcriptions, “the bulk of the band’s serious repertory vanishes.”31 Just a year later, Fennell’s committee report set out what was to become a major part of CBDNA’s agenda, advocating not only CBDNA’s active encouragement of new, original compositions for band, but also the compilation of repertoire lists and the recording of band music for educational purposes.32 In an impassioned address to the CBDNA membership, Bernard Fitzgerald urged band directors to pursue new repertoire aggressively, but his words, like those of Revelli, Fennell, and others, put aesthetic restrictions on that repertoire. He suggested enlisting “top-ranking composers to compose original band works representative of their best creative efforts” and exercise “tempered musical judgment.”33 Fitzgerald also charged directors not to avoid performing contemporary music because they lacked the ability “to understand contemporary music or to present it intelligently and effectively.”34 In doing so, he reinforced the band director’s status as aesthetic educator, choosing the “masterworks” and how to approach them.

Repertoire development dominated the CBDNA’s operations over the next several decades, but the focus on what CBDNA considered serious, high quality music remained consistent. Although the CBDNA and its members were often nebulous on their definition of quality, one might surmise from the repertoire and from directors’ writings that aesthetic formalism played a major role in that definition and that intrinsic qualities like melody, form, harmony, and counterpoint were chief among the criteria for evaluation. Indeed, Roger Mantie noted very recently that those involved with pedagogical bands in schools or faculties of music spent much of the latter half of the twentieth century attempting to overcome this self-perceived lack of legitimacy by commissioning repertoire and celebrating a very small canon of works by “real” composers such as Holst, Vaughan Williams, Grainger, and Hindemith.35 While the principles central to aesthetic education guided the CBDNA in identifying band literature of quality and in encouraging new, “good” music for band, conversely, the CBDNA created through various means a “canon” of wind music through which the band could effect aesthetic education. Repertoire lists provided a canon of extant literature; CBDNA members solicited, encouraged, and evaluated new works at regional and national conventions. Finally, the CBDNA commissioning project not only increased the repertoire, but also contributed more aggressively to the canon. By controlling the production of specific works, the association guided the styles and the quality of the music it added to the repertoire.36 One of the first activities in which the CBDNA engaged corporately was the compilation of repertoire lists for the membership. Between 1949 and 1954, twenty lists were published; sixteen were produced between 1962 and 1971.37 Although these lists were not exhaustive, they began—and documented— the process of repertoire development, assessing the current state of the literature and identifying works college band directors considered of appropriate aesthetic quality for college bands.38

Walter Nallin’s 1950 “Report on Commissioning Band Compositions” was a seminal event for the CBDNA and subsequently for aesthetic education in general, initiating more proactive efforts to develop a canon for the band than simply compiling data on existing repertoire. After reporting that publishers were interested in new material for band, Nallin recommended that the CBDNA consider commissioning a new work for band directly, though true CBDNA commissions would not take place until a decade later.39 The immediate result of Nallin’s report was the Original Compositions Committee (OCC), which became an integral part of CBDNA’s activities in the years to come. The OCC’s task was not to commission new works directly but to discover extant new works and have them performed at the CBDNA’s national conferences. Band directors were to encourage new works locally and bring the best of them to the CBDNA’s attention, where they would be performed and evaluated at the organization’s divisional and national conferences. The 1952 national convention established the model for the OCC’s operations: Oberlin College’s Symphonic Band performed eight original, unpublished works for band, several of which have joined the medium’s core repertory.40 Members were asked to choose the best OCC manuscript and indicate their likelihood of purchasing the work, should it be published commercially.41 Although this basic procedure was refined and altered over the years, it was the general method by which approximately seventy-three new manuscript works were heard during the OCC’s quarter-century existence.42 Halseth has also estimated that divisional conferences over the same period exposed CBDNA members to 400-500 new manuscript works, many of which were published and contributed to a canon of repertoire for the band and for music education through that medium.

The process of commissioning new works became more overt in1956 with the first Band Composition Awards (professional and student), under the auspices of Committee on Commissioning Works for Band. Again “quality” repertoire remained a primary criterion, and the committee could withhold the award if they determined that none of the submissions merited recognition.43 Ronald LoPresti’s Concert Overture for Band as the winner of the twenty-six professional (and faculty) entries; a student prize was not awarded.44 Ingolf Dahl’s Sinfionietta for Concert Band —a joint commission of the Western and Northwestern Divisions, selected by the OCC for performance at the 1962 national conference—was the “overwhelming favorite” of CBDNA members.45 It was also selected for the Band Composition Award, but the committee decided to make no award rather than set the precedent of awarding the prize to a CBDNA commission.46 The popularity of Dahl’s composition led the CBDNA to begin commissioning works directly through OCC. The premiere of Aaron Copland’s Emblems at the 1964 national conference was a milestone for CBDNA in its promotion of new, quality band literature. Both Dahl’s Sinfonietta and Copland’s Emblems have become staples of the band repertoire. Since then, the CBDNA has commissioned works by, among other noted composers, Howard Hanson, Ernst Krenek, Mario Davidovsky, Leslie Bassett, Joseph Schwantner, and Roberto Sierra, reflecting Bernard Fitzgerald’s exhortation to commission works from “top-ranking” composers. Again, for the band to function effectively as a tool of aesthetic education, it needed repertoire that matched aesthetic education’s principles and goals. CBDNA’s systematic and protracted efforts in what they called “repertoire development” did exactly that, resulting not only in a canon of band literature, but also aesthetic standards by which future works might be assessed appropriate for inclusion in the canon. 


Professional Activities

The CBDNA certainly fostered aesthetic education in the preparation of pre-service teachers. The vast majority of school band directors participated in college bands as music educators in training, and as such college band directors exerted a powerful, if indirect, influence on the nature of music education at the secondary level. They provided philosophical and practical models for budding band directors and music teachers, and many college band directors held professorships in music education and carried teaching responsibilities in that area. The most tangible of CBDNA members’ contributions to aesthetic education, however, is the corpus of published work by college band directors read by colleagues, enthusiasts, and most important, music educators. Although this body of work continues to grow, the period between approximately 1941 through 1970 corresponds to aesthetic education’s formative years preceding Bennett Reimer’s monograph. This work is significant not just for its content, but also for the media in which it appeared. The most common journals to publish research and writing by college band directors were aimed at a readership that included music educators: Music Educators Journal, The Instrumentalist, and Music Journal (which ran from 1943 to 1987). A large number of articles by college band directors also appeared, not surprisingly, in the American Bandmaster’s Association’s Journal of Band Research, which began publication in 1964. In addition to research articles, CBDNA members reported on the organization’s national conventions in Music Educators Journal, and college band directors were regular contributors to the practical advice columns that appeared in The Instrumentalist and other publications.47 For example, Bernard Fitzgerald, Walter Beeler, Willard Musser, and others addressed issues like concert programming and selecting arrangements, balance, instrumentation, and other relatively pedestrian issues faced by school band directors.48 By choosing to submit their research to these serials, CBDNA members ensured that, whatever the content of their research, it would undoubtedly reach pre-service and in-service music educators.

The aesthetic philosophies and pedagogical principles of MEAE factored prominently in the publications of college band directors, and in the years preceding Reimer’s articulation of MEAE they offered concrete applications of the philosophy in both research and practice. Much of the research focused on legitimizing the band as a medium of serious musical expression, asserting the band’s efficacy as a vehicle for MEAE. College band directors did this primarily through research on the band’s repertoire, helping to establish a canon of “serious” band literature, works whose artistic quality had been approved by the college band community, specifically by CBDNA. Repertoire research often contained apologies—in the Classical sense— for the band as a medium for art music. For example, Bernard Fitzgerald, in a 1945 article, “The Literature of the Symphonic Band,” argued that the lack of wind literature by “great composers” before the twentieth century was not a result of the band’s efficacy as an artistic medium, but rather that the band “lacked the technical and mechanical advancement” to attract composers and that the band’s societal function in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was not as a medium for art music.49

Other college band directors attempted to convince composers to write serious new literature for the band. Philip Gordon suggested that school and college bands were “the American composer’s hope,” though like any aesthetic educator, he also urged band directors to create a foundation of band literature from transcriptions and arrangements of works by “classic masters,” offering J. S. Bach as an example. Dan Hanna published a study revealing that students in the DePauw University band preferred serious contemporary wind literature over transcriptions, arrangements of Broadway shows, and other novelties.50 In 1970, Karl Holvik published the results of a CBDNA-commissioned survey of the literature performed by college bands to assess the existence and nature of an “emerging band repertoire.”51 While the effective establishment of a canon of wind literature in itself contributed to the practice of aesthetic education through the band, the nature of that canon was likewise significant. Of the 234 works most frequently performed by college bands from 1961 to 1966, according to Holvik’s survey, the 156 pieces identified as “concert works” outnumbered all other categories combined (marches, show tunes/novelties, and solos with band).52 Moreover, he noted the “commendable quality” of works receiving twenty or more performances and predicted that the quality of band music would continue to improve.53 Holvik’s assessment, which had the weight of the CBDNA behind it, gave priority to aesthetic education’s primary vehicle, art music of authoritatively recognized, objective quality on its own merits.

As aesthetic education became more prominent, other repertoire studies addressed intrinsic musical elements of specific works.54 These analyses also became a way of justifying canonic choices and reinforcing a work’s aesthetic quality. Apart from the actual analysis, which addressed the work as an aesthetic object, this research also identified the work as worthy of analysis. For example, Charles Gallagher published a thematic analysis of Holst’s First Suite in E-Flat for Military Band (1964) in the fledgling Journal of Band Research and a year later, addressed Hindemith’s Symphony in B-Flat.55 By then, both works had become integral to the canon of serious, original literature for the wind band. In particular, Joe Barry Mullins, director of bands at Northeast Louisiana University (and later the University of Southern Mississippi) contributed to these early studies. In 1968, Mullins authored a two-part analysis of Morton Gould’s Symphony for Band in the Journal of Band Research and his “Comparative Analysis of Three Symphonies for Band” appeared in the same journal a year later.56 After addressing the structural and formal elements of band works by Gould, Giannini, and Persechetti, Mullins proceeded to assess each work as an “aesthetic synthesis” and proclaimed Persechetti’s work the most “musical” of the three.57 Mullins’ conclusions are grounded solidly in the language and substance of aesthetic formalism, and show the type of aesthetic evaluation college band directors provided to legitimize the band and its literature in aesthetic terms:

The analyses of the symphonies by Gould, Persichetti, and Giannini show that the three works are of unquestioned quality, and must be considered major compositions by any standard of judgement or evaluation. Although widely contrasting in style, the symphonies have in common high quality musical materials placed in structural settings of impressive scope and proportion. They are testimony to the often overlooked fact that musical concepts and ideas are inevitably of greater importance than the medium chosen for their expression. The three composers have not written “band” compositions as such, but have composed high quality, large-scale works and placed them in the band setting. The three compositions enhance the band as a musical medium. Each symphony has raised the standard of the band primarily through musical content and musical demands …. The composers have shown that given materials of quality, the band can be an effective medium for serious and extended musical expression …. In their composite musical, technical, and aesthetic characteristic, the symphonies appear to be successful in bridging the gap between “traditional” and “contemporary musical idioms.” They are notably conservative in form and rhythmic structure but embody many modern melodic and harmonic techniques. The symphonies are meaningful in an artistic and aesthetic sense, and are also practical from the performance standpoint.58

Also in 1968, composer Peter Michaelides authored “Vaclav Nelhybel: Composer for Band,” an overview of Nelhybel’s works for band and his compositional style.59 Michaelides noted that a repertory of band works had emerged that was “original, well-constructed, and aesthetically satisfying,” his language reflecting the prevalent aesthetic philosophy of the wind band community, with its focus on objective quality and “feeling” in the mode of Susanne Langer.60 Michaelides went on to address Nelhybel’s compositional techniques, including motivic development, use of preexisting material, tonal and harmonic preferences, use of rhythm, and other elements intrinsic to the music. A year later, Michael Mark authored a similar profile of Vittorio Giannini, focusing—like Michaelides—on melodic style, form, and other compositional techniques; he also suggested that Giannini would be most remembered for his works for band.61 By 1970, then, the message from college band directors was clear: Music’s intrinsic qualities should be paramount, and the musical experiences of the band should be “aesthetic experiences” in the philosophical sense.

Historical research on the band by college band directors was also reflective of MEAE, especially its focus on established Western musical traditions and “great” composers. Moreover, linking the band to the Western art music (i.e., “high art”) tradition was a way of legitimizing the medium. Frederick Fennell, in one of the first historical studies of the wind band, emphasized the wind music of Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Mozart, Beethoven, and others, finding the band’s roots not just in military music but in the art music tradition as well.62 Ralph Satz traced the wind band tradition back to the Crusades before advocating for new literature, while Lawrence Intravia reached even further back, linking the march as an art form to Old Testament processions before surveying the form through the twentieth century.63 David Whitwell, then Director of Bands at California State University, Northridge, in “The Contemporary Band: In Quest of an Historic Concept of Aesthetics,” offered the most clearly philosophical justification for the band as an aesthetic medium up to that point, placing it within the historical context of aesthetics. He defined explicit criteria for music to be considered “aesthetic” and subsequently argued that the wind band could and should be a medium for truly aesthetic music, asserting also that its repertoire could and should be considered aesthetic.64 Whitwell’s aesthetic criteria supported strongly the principles Bennett Reimer would articulate a year later: “Aesthetic music is music of inward significance which in its communication enables the listener to perceive an original intuitive idea, and artistic truth which lifts his spirit through catharsis.”65


Over the years, the school band became one of the primary methods of music education in the United States. What had gained prominence after World War I as a functional, service-oriented group became a vehicle for creating the aesthetic experiences fundamental to aesthetic education (and MEAE). By the time Bennett Reimer published A Philosophy of Music Education in 1970, music educators could look to the college band as functioning, almost systematic example of MEAE in practice. Indeed, The CBDNA had been advocating virtually identical principles to Reimer’s for some thirty years. Its members, individually and corporately, developed the band and wind ensemble as an “educational and musical institution” and “worked to improve the quality and quantity of band literature.”66 Revelli, speaking in 1969, assessed the impact of the CBDNA in a way that reinforced his own grounding in aesthetic education and its principles, identifying the “encouragement of a respectable repertoire of band music” as one of the organization’s greatest achievements, as well as identifying the college band as a “vital, respectable, important, almost necessary part of the background of every wind player.”67

College band directors were concerned overwhelmingly with several key precepts of aesthetic education, as evidenced time and time again in their writings, communications, and activities. First and foremost, they wanted to legitimize the band as a serious medium of musical expression, which in turn enabled the band to be a medium for MEAE. Second, they were almost obsessed with “quality” literature for band, music that would stand the test of time on its own intrinsic artistic merits, reflecting MEAE’s focus on high quality musical material as a source with which to teach aesthetic sensitivity. Finally, college band directors consciously tried to educate students and audiences about music in a way that centered dually on intellectual and emotional appreciation, one grounded in cerebral understanding and feeling, exactly the kind of musical experiences Bennett Reimer recommended.

In addition to providing a functional model of aesthetic education, college band directors trained legions of music educators who brought the attitudes and practices of their college band experiences into the secondary school classroom with them as school band directors, classroom music teachers, studio instructors, and other roles in music education. Their research, steeped in the principles of MEAE, informed not just other college band directors but also a wide cross-section of the music community, including music educators, composers, band directors unaffiliated with academic institutions, and amateur enthusiasts. These audiences, in addition the active participants of the college bands, became familiar with aesthetic education and were thus acquainted with MEAE by the time it was introduced in its full, systematic form as a philosophy. Furthermore, Reimer himself has acknowledged that his experiences playing in and directing bands provided the “foundation for much of [his] musicianship” and that there is little question that “it has contributed in a variety of important ways to what aesthetic education became for me in my construals [sic.] of it.”68 Once again, the CBDNA was only one of many groups promoting aesthetic education in music. One cannot ignore, however, the fact that MEAE did become the predominant philosophy in American music education and the CBDNA’s influence on its development and acceptance is concrete and well documented. It is my hope that this study shows not only the CBDNA’s impact on aesthetic education, but also provides a methodology for tracing historically philosophical currents in American music.



Alperson, Philip. “What Should One Expect from a Philosophy of Music Education.” Journal of Aesthetic Education 25(1991): 215-242.

Beeler, Walter. “Problems of Bands Today,” Music Journal 19, no. 2(1961): 36; 54-5.

College Band Directors National Association, “A Summary of the Organization Meeting of the College Band Directors National Association.” CBDNA Archives, McKeldin Library, University of Maryland.

Fennell, Frederick. Time and the Winds. Kenosha, WI: G. Leblanc, 1954.

_____. “Report of Committee on Service to Music as an Art.” University and College Band Conductors Conference. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1947.

Fitzgerald, R. Bernard. “The Music of the Concert Band,” in The College and University Band: An Anthology of Papers from the Conferences of the College Band Directors National Association, edited by David Whitwell and Acton Ostling, Jr., 9-12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1977.

_____. “Report of the Committee on Commissioning Works for Band.” College Band Directors National Association, Ninth National Conference Proceedings, 56-57. College Band Directors National Association: Chicago, 1956.

_____. “Report of the Committee on Band Compositions and Award,” College Band Directors National Association, Twelfth National Conference Proceedings, 58. College Band Directors National Association: Chicago, 1962.

_____. “BRASS: Problems in Standardizing Brass Mouthpieces.” Instrumentalist 7(1953): 24.

_____. “A Workable Concert Band.” Music Journal 11, no. 9(1953), 13; 52-4.

_____. “The Literature of the Symphonic Band.” Music Journal 3, no. 1 (1945): 27; 52-3.

Gallagher, Charles. “Thematic Derivations in the Holst Suite No. 1.” Journal of Band Research 1, no. 2(1965): 6-10.

_____. “Hindemith’s Symphony for Band.” Journal of Band Research 2, no. 1(1965): 19-27.

Goldman, Richard Franko. The Concert Band. New York: Rinehart and Co., Inc., 1946.

Gordon, Philip. “Trends in Band Music,” Instrumentalist, 14, no. 1 (1959): 56.

Guyer, Paul “History of Modern Aesthetics.” in Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, edited by Jerrold Levinson, 25-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Halseth, Robert Edmore Powell. “The Impact of the College Band Directors National Association on Wind Band Repertoire.” D.A. diss., University of Northern Colorado, 1987.

Hanna, Dan H. “Contemporary Band Music.” Instrumentalist 15, no. 4(1960): 39.

Hoffmann, Theodore. “Variations for Concert Band on Jesu Meine Freude.” Journal of Band Research 3, no. 1(1966): 22-24.

Intravia, Lawrence. “The Historical Development of the March as an Art Form.” Instrumentalist 4, no. 1(1967): 4-11.

Holvik, Karl. “An Emerging Band Repertory.” Journal of Band Research, 6, no. 2 (1970): 19-24.

Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953.

Langer, Susanne K. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.

Lasko, Richard. “A History of the College Band Directors National Association.” Phd. diss., University of Cincinnati, 1971.

_____. “A History of the College Band Directors National Association.” Journal of Research in Music Education 21, no. 1 (1973): 48-54.

Leonhard, Charles. “Music education—aesthetic education.” Education 74, no. 9(1953): 23-26.

Leonhard, Charles and Robert House. Foundations and Principles of Music Education. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1959.

Mantie, Roger. “Bands and/as Music Education: Antimonies and the Struggle for Legitimacy.” Philosophy of Music Education Review 20, no. 1(2012): 63-81.

Mark, Michael L. “The Band Music of Vittorio Giannini.” Music Educators Journal 55, no. 8 (1969): 77-80.

_____. “Public Policy and the Genesis of Aesthetic Education.” Philosophy of Music Education Review, 6, no. 2(1998): 107-112.

_____. “Aesthetics and unity reconciled: The importance to society of education in music.” in Music Education in the United States: Contemporary Issues, edited by J. Terry Gates, 111-129. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1988.

McCarthy, Marie and J. Scott Goble. “The Praxial Philosophy in Historical Perspective,” in Praxial Music Educations: Dialogues and Reflections, edited by David J. Elliott, 19-51. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Meyer, Leonard. Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.

Michaelides, Peter. “Vaclav Nelhybel: Composer for Band.” Music Educators Journal, 54, no. 8 (1968): 51-53.

Mullins, Joe Barry. “Morton Gould: Symphony for Band, Part I.” Journal of Band Research, 4, no. 2 (1968): 24-35.

_____. “Morton Gould: Symphony for Band, Part II.” Journal of Band Research, 5, no. 1 (1968), 29-47.

_____. “A Comparative Analysis of Three Symphonies for Band.” Journal of Band Research 6, no. 1 (1969): 19-28.

Musser, Willard “The College Band Director Looks at Instrumental Music Education.” Instrumentalist 18, no. 4(1963): 84-5.

Nallin, Walter. “A Report Concerning the Possibilities of Commissioning New Band Compositions.” College Band Directors National Association, Sixth Annual Conference Proceedings, Addendum WA. College Band Directors National Association,: Chicago, 1950.

Neilson, James. “The Responsibility of the Musician.” in The College and University Band: An Anthology of Papers from the Conferences of the College Band Directors National Association, edited by David Whitwell and Acton Ostling, Jr., 219-224. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1977.

Reimer, Bennett. A Philosophy of Music Education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1970.

Satz, Ralph. “The Past and Future of Band Music.” Music Journal 19, no. 5(1961): 28; 73.

Swanzy, David. “Gossec’s ‘Symphonie militaire (1793-94):’A Choral Wind Symphony?” Journal of Band Research 6(1969): 5-10.

Revelli, William D. “The Band Repertoire.” Etude 57(1939): 91; 133.

_____. “The College and University Band as a Concert Organization,” in The College and University Band: An Anthology of Papers from the Conferences of the College Band Directors National Association, edited by David Whitwell and Acton Ostling, Jr., 5-8. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1977.

University and College Band Conductors Conference, “Declaration of Principles,” University and College Band Conductors Conference, Second Annual Conference Proceedings, Addendum. University and College Band Conductors Conference: Chicago, 1946.

_____. General Meeting Minutes, 22-23 December, 1941. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland.

_____. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1946. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland.

_____. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1947. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland

Whitwell, David. “The Contemporary Band: In Quest of an Historic Concept of Aesthetics.” Instrumentalist 23(1969): 33-36.



1Lasko, “A History of the College Band Directors National Association,” (diss.), 11. 

2McCarthy and Goble, “The Praxial Philosophy in Historical Perspective,” 19. 

3McCarthy and Goble, “The Praxial Philosophy in Historical Perspective,” 20; Mark, “Aesthetics and unity reconciled…,” 111. See also Leonhard and House, Foundations and Principles of Music Education.

4Alperson, “What Should One Expect from a Philosophy of Music Education,” 221. See also Langer, Feeling and Form; Langer, Philosophy in a New Key; Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music.

5Mark, “Public Policy and the Genesis of Aesthetic Education,” 110. 

6Leonhard, “Music education—aesthetic education,” 26.

7Guyer, “History of Modern Aesthetics,” 28. 

8Reimer, A Philosophy of Music Education, 39. N.B. Although this text is currently in its third edition, I have chosen to use the first edition (1970) to situate the content historically. 

9Reimer, A Philosophy of Music Education, 40. 


11Ibid., 79. 

12Ibid, 128. 

13Ibid, 133.

14Ibid, 133. 

15Ibid, 139. 

16Lasko, “A History of the College Band Directors National Association,” 49.

17University and College Band Conductors Conference, General Meeting Minutes, 22-23 December, 1941, 1. 

18CBDNA, “A Smmary of the Organization Meeting of the College Band Directors National Association,” CBDNA Archives, McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, 1. 

19Lasko, “A History of the College Band Directors National Association,” (diss.), 251.

20Revelli, “The Band Repertoire,” 91. 

21Ibid., 91. 

22Ibid., 133. 

23Revelli, “The College and University Band as a Concert Organization,” 5. 


25Ibid., 7. 

26University and College Band Conductors Conference, “Declaration of Principles,” University and College Band Conductors Conference. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1946. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, Addendum. 


28Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA…,” 18; University and College Band Conductors Conference, “Declaration of Principles,” University and College Band Conductors Conference. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1947. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, 1.

29Frederick Fennell, Chair, “Report of Committee on Service to Music as an Art,” University and College Band Conductors Conference. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1947. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, Addendum C, 5.

30Neilson, “The Responsibility of the Musician,” 219.

31Goldman, The Concert Band, 154. 

32Frederick Fennell, Chair, “Report of Committee on Service to Music as an Art,” University and College Band Conductors Conference. General Meeting Minutes, 19-20 December, 1947. CBDNA Archives McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, Addendum C, 5. It should also be noted that one of Fennell’s most enduring contributions to the music world was in the last area, the recording of quality performances of wind repertoire. 

33Fitzgerald, “The Music of the Concert Band,” 14. 

34Ibid., 15. 

35Mantie, “Bands and/as Music Education …,” 70. 

36I include the term “quality” here not in an absolutist sense, but rather to denote perceived quality by college band directors, who did regard aesthetic and compositional quality as absolute, as is evident throughout their discourse on repertoire.

37Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA …,” 22.


39Nallin, “A Report Concerning the Possibilities of Commissioning New Band Compositions,” College Band Directors National Association, Sixth Annual Conference Proceedings (Chicago, 1950), Addendum WA. 

40Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA …,” 42. The program included the following works: Henry Brandt, Concerto for Saxophone Solo with Wind and Percussion Instruments; Charles Carter, Tension; Morton Gould, Symphony for Band; Harold Kidder, Capitol Sketches; Vincent Persechetti, Psalm for Band; Alfred Reed, Symphony for Brass and Percussion; Kemble Stout, Concert Overture for Band.

41CBDNA Committee for Promoting Original Band Composition, “Questionnaire,” 1952 National Conference. Cited in Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA…,” 48. Among other things, the questionnaire reveals the OCC’s desire to show publishers that band music was profitable. 

42Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA …,” 47. 

43Ibid., 52-53. N.B. OCC Manuscripts were considered for the awards automatically. 

44Fitzgerald, “Report of the Committee on Commissioning Works for Band,” College Band Directors National Association, Ninth National Conference Proceedings (Chicago, 1956), 56-57. 

45Halseth, “The Impact of the CBDNA …,” 60.

46Fitzgerald, “Report of the Committee on Band Compositions and Award,” CBDNA Twelfth National Conference Proceedings (Chicago, IL, 1962), 58. 

47For example, Bernard Fitzgerald addressed brass performance and pedagogy issues regularly in The Instrumentalist. See Fitzgerald, BRASS: Problems in Standardizing Brass Mouthpieces, Instrumentalist 7(May1952/1953), 24. 

48Fitzgerald, “A Workable Concert Band,”13; Beeler, “Problems of Bands Today,” 36; Musser, “The College Band Director Looks at Instrumental Music Education,” 84. 

49Fitzgerald, “The Literature of the Symphonic Band,” 27. 

50Gordon, “Band Music Trends,” 56; Hanna, “Contemporary Band Music,” 30. 

51Holvik, “An Emerging Band Repertory,” 19-24. 

52Ibid., 24.

53Ibid., 19. 

54See also Hoffmann, “Variations for Concert Band on Jesu Meine Freude,” 22-24; Swanzy, “Gossec’s ‘Symphonie militaire…,” 5-10.

55Gallagher, “Thematic Derivation in the Holst Suite No. 1,” 6-10; Gallagher, “Hindemith’s Symphony for Band,” 19-27.

56Mullins, “Morton Gould: Symphony for Band, Part I,” 24-35; Mullins, “Morton Gould: Symphony for Band, Part II,” 29-47; Mullins, “A Comparative Analysis of Three Symphonies for Band,” 19-28. 

57Mullins, “A Comparative Analysis …,” 26. 

58Ibid., 27-28. 

59Michaelides, “Vaclav Nelhybel: Composer for Band,” 51-53.

60Ibid., 51.

61Mark, “The Band Music of Vittorio Giannini,” 77-80. At the time, Mark was Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music Education at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland.

62Fennell, Time and the Winds.

63Satz, “The Past and Future of Band Music,” 28; Lawrence Intravia, “The Historical Development of the March as an Art Form,” 4-11.

64David Whitwell, “The Contemporary Band …,” 35.

65Whitwell, “The Contemporary Band …,” 39.

66Lasko, “A History of the College Band Directors National Association,” 53.

67McCarrell, “A Historical Survey of the College Band Movement,” 261.








Read 6702 times

Last modified on Wednesday, 06/03/2019

James Maiello

James Vincent Maiello is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where he teaches a full range of collegiate and pre-college music history courses.  He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology and European Medieval Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a master’s degree in Music History from Bowling Green State University and an undergraduate degree in Music Education from S.U.N.Y. Fredonia.  Maiello’s research interests include plainchant and liturgy, music and semiotics, and the philosophy of music education. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Plainsong & Medieval Music, Notes, the Journal of Music History Pedagogy, and Fontes Artis Musicae. An article, “Updating the Alleluia at Pistoia” is also forthcoming in “Qui musicam in se habet:” Studies in Honor of Alejandro Planchart, to be published by the American Institute of Musicology. Professor Maiello is currently working on a monograph, Plainchant, Liturgy, and Identity in Medieval Pistoia.  He is also writing a brief history of the College Band Directors National Association.

Go to top