Music Educators Work to Save Historic Lowell Mason House

The house at 25 Adams Street in Medfield, Massachusetts, was built around 1791 and boasts such Old World craftsmanship as hand-hewn post and beam construction and reused timbers. Some components date back to 1650.

Those features make it historic, but it’s historic to music educators for another reason. It was the birthplace of Lowell Mason in 1792.

Most music educators know Mason as the “father of music education,” as well as for his familiar arrangement of  “Joy to the World” and as composer of  “Nearer, My God to Thee,” the hymn a string ensemble allegedly played as the Titanic sank. A church music director in Boston, he introduced the concept of school music education into Boston schools, the first in the United States to have such studies.

Mason lived in the house until he was about 21 and then visited there during the summer for many years.

The house is threatened –a developer purchased it and initially discussed the possibility of demolishing the historic structure to build a two-family house in its place.

The Friends of The Lowell Mason House group includes both music educators and the Medfield Historical Society who are working to save the structure. The threat for the house is not immediate, but pressing nonetheless. “We are fortunate that the developer has given us up to a year, and even offered offered to contribute to moving the house elsewhere in Medfield. We would still need about $40,000 to do that, though,” said Thomas Reynolds, 2008-2010 Central District chairperson for the Massachusetts Music Educators Association, a member of the Friends of The Lowell Mason House subcommittee.

The Friends Web site has a counter ticking down the time the group has left to save the structure.

Reynolds said the house needs some renovation but is structurally sound. The Friends of the Lowell Mason House believe the house has several potential uses, among them:

  • A music and community meeting space
  • A music teaching and practice space
  • A museum (the historical society owns Mason’s piano) or
  • Office space for music education professional organizations

Reynolds said Lowell Mason House committee members are pleased that “so many people have come forward and want to help.”

One such prominent supporter is music education historian Michael Mark, who urges the Lowell Mason House be preserved. Mark is a  member of the Music Educators Hall of Fame, honored for his own contribution to music education and music education history.

In a letter to the Medfield paper, he wrote, “Mason’s heritage lives on today in the magnificent school bands, orchestras and choruses that enrich the lives of students and communities throughout the country. America’s incredibly rich music culture can be credited, in large part, to the success of its school music teachers.” (View Mark’s complete letter.)

“We know this is a building worth saving,” Reynolds said.

Interested in music education history?  MENC members can join the History Special Research Interest Group (SRIG).

Roz Fehr, April 23, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education