Hall of Fame Inductee Believes Honoring Music Education's Past Lays Foundation for the Future

Photo used with permission of John Consoli  

Music education archivist Bruce D. Wilson was elected to the Music Educators Hall of Fame and will be inducted at Music Education Week in Washington, DC in June. Wilson, active during his entire career as an archivist of the performing arts, is best known among music educators for his work as curator for the MENC Historical Center at the University of Maryland. He retired in 2004 as Head of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at that institution.

Asked why music education history must be preserved, Wilson said, “If there is something to learn from our research, it is that we never stop evolving music education. Knowing who and what came before helps music educators in each new era deal with the present and plan for the future. That in turn helps us understand how music education fits in the large and complicated picture of education in our culture.”

For example, most music educators, even music education students, have heard of Lowell Mason, called the pioneering father of music education in public schools. However, Wilson says there is more to the story. He explains that Mason, a church choir director, teacher, and composer in Boston, campaigned to make school-based music instruction a reality in 1838: “He orchestrated a very careful campaign to make this happen. He got public officials, including the mayor, as well as business groups, even newspapers and prominent educators on his side. Today’s music educators, who are constantly working to save their music programs, could learn from that.”

The Music Educators Hall of Fame was established in 1984 to honor those music educators who are considered to be among the most highly regarded professional leaders in American music education. Those inducted come from the fields of music pedagogy, scholarship, administration, or organizational leadership, and their contributions must be of lasting value. Wilson served on the steering committee that helped establish the Hall of Fame, but he said he was “astonished” that his career was being recognized in that way.

Wilson is the editor for several conference proceedings, author, and has organized a number of conferences, symposia, exhibitions, and media projects. He has served as curator of the Music Educators National Conference Historical Center; the Special Collections in Music, University of Maryland Library; and Head of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland.

When the MENC History Special Research Interest Group presented Wilson with the Distinguished Service Award for 2000, the citation noted: “This imaginative and dedicated work attests to his passion for historical research and his commitment to collecting primary source material for use by scholars and researchers in the field.”

Look for part two of Wilson’s story—a question and answer interview—next week.

Also coming up at MENC News: Information on the two other Hall of Fame inductees for 2010. Satis Coleman is recognized for her work with young children, her publications, and her early interests in musical creativity. Edgar Gordon was a pioneer in community music education and music education by radio. His Journeys in Music Land was broadcast to all schools in Wisconsin from 1932–1955.

Roz Fehr, May 20, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education