As I was researching music for inclusion in the anthology, two trends caught my attention. When music came via interlibrary loan, more often than not it came from the "Harvey Whistler Memorial Collection" at Arizona State University. And often, the music had been published by the Arthur P. Schmidt Publishing Company.
Unsung Hero #1: Harvey S. Whistler
Of course, as a violin teacher I have used Whistler's Introducing the Positions and Preparing for Kreutzer for years and have always admired his pedagogical acuity. Just like Josephine Trott, I realized I knew nothing about him. Fortunately, my colleague down the road at the University of Kansas, Dr. Jacob Dakon, has done the research for me this time. The information below is all taken from Jacob's article, "Dr. Harvey Samuel Whistler Jr. (1907-1976): an influential pedagogue and researcher in music education," published in the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education (Oct. 1, 2011) and accessed via HighBeam Research (www.highbeam.com).
Whistler grew up in California, mainly in Fresno. He studied piano with his mother, then by age seven began violin and piano studies outside the home. Piano fell by the wayside, and Harvey passed through a number of violin teachers. He was clearly a fine violinist by the time he graduated from high school, publicly performing Paganini's Le Streghe and Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen. He went on to study at Fresno State Teacher's College, the earned a master of science in education from USC. Whistler received his doctorate in music education from the Ohio State University in 1942.
According to Dakon, Whistler "spent the majority of his early professional life (1925-1939) as an instrumental class instructor." He worked with all levels of students, both string and wind. In addition to his music publications, Whistler was also a prolific writer/ journalist (as was Josephine Trott!) for publications such as Musical West magazine, the Fresno Morning Republican newspaper, and The Reflector magazine. While still teaching at Selma-Union High School, Whistler began his impressive publishing record. He was hired by Rubank in 1939 as a "full-time composer, arranger and editor," and would publish "more than 150 works and collections for both solo instruments and ensembles to be used in the private studio and the classroom." Dakon writes that nearly one-third of these books are still in print and available in the Hal Leonard Publishing Company catalogue.
Dakon characterizes Whistler's works as "retrospectively formatted"-- in other words, he took older materials for a single instrument and reworked them to fit a class situation. In this case, the materials are largely violin etudes from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century. Some of the "reworking" has disturbed me over the years, as when etudes I knew from Kayser or the like were re-composed for Preparing for Kreutzer. By doing this, Whistler maintained etudes of one page in length, whether he had to hack out sections or add on at the end to make it so. That consistency of length does make gauging the students' workload when assigning material much easier!
After serving in the military in World War II, Whistler spent much time in the 1950's collaborating with Dr. Louis P. Thorpe of USC. They explored and published articles on subjects dear to music education: musical aptitude, testing for musical talent, and memorization. A co-authored textbook on the psychology of music was never finished.
By the 1960's, Whistler began pulling away from working life and devoting more time to the study of antiquities. He focused in particular on violin bows, and began a comprehensive dictionary entitled "Bow Makers of the World: A Critical and Historical Encyclopedic Dictionary." From this work came three articles on major bow makers Tourte, Peccatte, and Kittel, and a co-authored book on Vuillaume. Before his death, Whistler had completed at least 1200 biographical entries in his bow maker's dictionary, but bemoaned the fact that he had at least 1000 more to go.
Dakon makes an excellent summation of Whistler's importance in the field of music education: "Ultimately, it is trivial to argue over how influential one technique book or or research project is over another. What matters is that Whistler sought to enhance music education by developing a wide variety of materials for music teachers and students to use in the class and studio. Furthermore, he sought to understand and report the current state of music education through his research so the field could continue to develop. Whistler helped to propagate band and string education throughout the twentieth century; he continues to do so nearly three and a half decades after his death. For this reason alone, Whistler made a significant impact in music education and should, therefore, be considered an influential figure in its history." No argument here!
Somehow (and I will try to find out how), Whistler's vast personal collection of violin music came to be housed in a special collection at Arizona State. A field trip is definitely in my future! His holdings were diverse and featured, as I have noted, many, many works by women composers and pedagogues. And many of those were published by the A. P. Schmidt Company...
9/25/2013 12:33:33 am
Even I want to learn Piano and Violin but many of friends say its difficult to learn. Can you please some of the technique which can help me to easily learn it.
9/25/2013 01:33:27 am
It is hard as an adult beginner, but not impossible. The best advice I can give you is to choose one of those instruments, find a good teacher with experience teaching adult beginners, and set aside time in your schedule for regular practice. There are no shortcuts, I'm afraid!
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