Violin Pedagogy: How Did They Learn?
Classes for the Masses in England
By Dr. Robin Kay Deverich
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution signaled abrupt changes in the lives of many. Changes in social and economic order occurred as men and women, accustomed to agricultural pursuits, moved to cities to work in factories and other forms of large-scale industrial production.
In cities such as London, class distinctions divided the wealthy upper-class from members of the lower-class. In the 1820's, philanthropic efforts by the upper-class sought to educate and improve the lives of lower-class factory workers through educational organizations called Mechanics Institutes and other endeavors such as "Concerts for the People." Although the curriculum offered in Mechanics Institutes was initially designed to upgrade the literacy of adult factory workers, this utilitarian concept was liberalized and eventually led to the inclusion of art and music courses at most institutes. Percy Young, author of A History of British Music, commented on the ulterior motives of the upper-class to placate workers through such courses: "The widespread cultivation of choral music by the working classes (happily self-supporting) was also approved as an aid to pacification of unruly temperaments or tranquilization of unhappy conditions." Hundreds of thousands of adults participated in sight-singing classes, and some British music scholars have described this time period as "The Sight-Singing Century." 
"Concerts for the People" were also designed to upgrade the quality of life for the working masses. Mackerness, author of A Social History of English Music, spoke of these concerts:
Scholes addressed the reason why free or inexpensive cultural opportunities were provided during this era:
Massive participation in sight-singing classes and inexpensive "Concerts for the People," led to the introduction of violin classes for adults. Many of these early adult violin classes were patterned after sight-singing classes. For example, violin classes were offered at the Birkbeck Mechanics Institute in 1839, as well as at other locations such as "classes for amateurs" held at the People's Place School of Music in 1887. Keith Adams, author of a series of articles on adult violin classes in England, described the connection between singing classes and violin classes: "Singing classes were common and the transition to violin classes necessitates no great difference in teaching technique." A reviewer for the April 1882 edition of The Musical Times described an adult violin classes at the Midland Mechanics Institute in Birmingham, England:
Heated debate regarding the merits of violin classes raged in British music periodicals. Some musicians apparently felt such classes threatened their livelihood as the following 1896 article indicates:
A similar view was expressed by a violin teacher who stated that he could not compete with the low terms of group violin classes:
Some violin teachers expressed favor for group violin instruction:
Many violin classes appear to have used traditional violin literature in teaching students, as indicated by the following description of the instructional material used in Birkbeck Institute adult violin classes in 1896:
Although the immense popularity of sight-singing classes resulted in the 1872 incorporation of sight-singing classes into British schools, instructional material used in adult violin classes was purportedly too difficult for children. T. Mee Pattison, musical advisor of the London-based J. G. Murdoch & Co. music publishing house and instrument manufacturer, enlisted the support of his company to promote violin class instruction for schoolchildren by providing all of the supplies needed: violins, teaching materials, and teachers, for one inclusive, inexpensive price. Students were allowed to pay for their violins outfits in installments---generally, one shilling per week. This method was named in honor of the first group violin class to experiment with this approach: the All Saints' National School in Maidstone, England, and is sometimes known as the Maidstone Movement. In 1897, the Murdoch Company formed the Maidstone School Orchestra Association (MSOA) to promote this method. At the height of the MSOA's popularity, 400,000 British schoolchildren, one in ten of the state school population, participated in Maidstone School Orchestra classes. Charles H. Farnsworth, a prominent American music educator expressed his amazement at the results achieved by Maidstone violin classes.
Significant events in the developmental path of the Maidstone Movement include the formation of the National Union of School Orchestras (NUSO) in 1905. One of the primary objectives of the NUSO was: "To promote the study and practice of instrumental music among the school children and young people of the Kingdom, by encouraging the formation of school orchestras, and so to elevate the musical taste of the nation as a whole." (NUSO Objective 1). It is interesting to note that this objective is supportive of all orchestral instruments, not the violin exclusively, and a violoncello part to the Maidstone Violin Tutor was published in 1909. Although cellos were occasionally mentioned in reviews of concert performances of MSOA classes, the cello never appears to have achieved the popularity of the violin in MSOA classes. The MSOA also advertised that they would assist schools in the formation of classes for violin, cello, mandolin, brass bands, military bands, drum and fife bands and bugle bands, but there are no indications that any of these instrumental classes achieved notable success. Activities sponsored by the NUSO included: combined group concerts on local and regional levels, and annual music festivals which were held 1905-1938 at such locations such as London's Crystal Palace and Royal Albert Hall. The number of students involved in annual music festivals ranged from 700 in 1905 to 6,650 in 1914 ( e.g. the NUSO's 1914 Annual Music Festival at the Crystal Palace featured 3,650 intermediate students performing en masse in an afternoon concert, and 3,000 advanced pupils in an evening concert.
The NUSO also provided opportunities for teachers to share teaching methods; established a system of supervision (inspectors periodically visited each class); sponsored scholarships and awards, and made efforts to encourage students to continue their participation in music once they left day school (a British term comparable to elementary school in the United States). One of the NUSO's objectives states: "To keep in touch with young people after leaving the Day School by means of Evening Classes and Orchestral Societies." (NUSO Objective Seven) NUSO Evening Violin Classes were established in 1906 in various locations such as the Croyland Old Scholars'Orchestral Society in Edmonton to help alleviate problems former MSOA violin students encountered after they graduated such as: "the pupils were not sufficiently advanced to join an adult orchestra" and "home practice was often inconvenient and sometimes monotonous."
An article in the school orchestra periodical published by the NUSO, The Young Musician, describes the philosophy underlying MSOA classes: music is for all children, not just the talented few.
Features that appear to have contributed to the popularity of the Maidstone violin classes include: convenient packaging of method books, music and instructional materials; the availability of inexpensive; machine-made violins in a variety of sizes (such as small violins for young students); performance opportunities for students to play in large group concerts; and the aforementioned philosophy that music is for all children, not just the talented few. It is interesting to note that many of these features are shared with another violin methodology: the Suzuki Method. Pre-packaged commercial features appear to have contributed to the success of both methods, and as a side-note, it is plausible that Shinichi Suzuki may have heard of the MSOA violin classes through the travels of his father, Masakichi. Masakichi Suzuki founded the Suzuki Violin Factory in Nagoya, Japan in 1900, and by 1910, Masakichi's factory was producing 65,800 violins per year, a number that one author claimed made the Suzuki factory one of the largest violin factories in the world. In 1910, Masakichi went to England for five months (he also visited other European countries). Although it is not clear whether or not Masakichi's trip to England was for research, pleasure or business, his trip to England in 1910 coincided with a time when over 400,000 British pupils participated in Maidstone Movement classes. It is also interesting to note that Masakichi exported violins from his factory, thus he may have explored the possibility of selling to British and European sources, or , he may have been investigated violin manufacturing processes in England and Europe). There also is the possibility that Shinichi heard of MSOA classes during the eight years when Shinichi Suzuki studied the violin in Germany (1920-1928), because MSOA classes and large concerts were still being held in the United Kingdom during this time. There is, however, no conclusive proof that the MSOA provided any impetus or ideas to Masakichi or Shinichi Suzuki. A 1995 query to Shinichi Suzuki regarding this subject resulted in a reply from his wife, Waltraud, that her husband was too advanced in years to recall details regarding a topic so long ago (personal correspondence).
Although MSOA classes and NUSO Annual Festivals and activities continued in the United Kingdom through the year 1939, circumstances relating to World War II led to the ultimate dissolution of the MSOA. Classes were discontinued during the war due to factors such as the war-time evacuation of children from major cities such as London and the conscription of teachers into military service. The war also contributed to the financial difficulties of the Murdoch Company, and the company dissolved in 1943 for financial reasons. Following World War II, the British government assumed responsibility for school instrumental instruction, and the string methodology that was eventually adopted in the British school system was the Rural Music School Association. It is interesting to note that the most significant and lasting impact of the MSOA appears to have been upon instrumental music in the United States, a topic that will be explored later.
 Young, Percy M. A History of British Music. New York: W.W. Norton, 1967: 198-99.
 Scholes, Percy. The Mirror of Music: 1844-1944. 2 vols. London: Novello, 1947: 3.
 Mackerness, E.D. A Social History of English Music. London: Routledge & Kegan, 1964: 200.
 Scholes, 1947: 202.
 Adams, Keith. "Violin Classes: Their Part in English Adult Education," The Strad. April, 1960: 40.
 Scholes, 1947: 362.
 The Musical Times. London, October 1986: 77.
 "Rate-Aided Schools of Music," Royal Musical Association. May 6, 1889 minutes of discussion. Quoted by Adams, 1960: 77.
 "Letter to the Editor," The Strad. Oct. 1896. Quoted by Adams, 1960: 79.
 Calendar of the Birkbeck Institute. Quoted by Adams, 1960: 75.
 "The Original Maidstone Class," The Young Musician. London: National Union of School Orchestras. Jan/Feb. 1910: 4.
 School Music Review. Vol. 26/182: 21. Quoted by Margaret Ledbury in A Historical Review of String Teaching in English State Education from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day. Unpublished Master of Arts thesis, University of Reading, 1989: 18.
 Farnsworth, Charles. "The Teaching of Music in Berlin, Paris and London," MTNA Proceedings. 1908: 145.
 "Advertisement," The Young Musician. Sept/Oct. 1909: 1.
 "Advertisement," The Young Musician. Sept/Oct. 1911: 1.
 "NUSO Annual Conference Report," The Young Musician 1915: 11.
 Roberts, William. "The Development of School Orchestras," The Young Musician. Jan/Feb 1910: 4.
 "Music and Education," The Young Musician . Sept/Oct 1913: 1.
 Hermann, Evelyn. Shinichi Suzuki: The Man and His Philosophy. Athens, Ohio: Ability Development Press, 1981: 10.
 Hermann, 1981: 10.
 Deverich, Robin Kay. The Influence of the Maidstone Movement on the Early Development of Group String Instruction in England and the United States. Unpublished master's thesis, University of California - Los Angeles, 1983.
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