|A History of the Department of Music by Tom Garner|
Steinway Model ‘A’ piano, serial #92604, c. 1898,
photographed in the old Music & Speech Building
*Note* Tom Garner’s history of the early UA music department was translated to web format from a printed copy supplied by Mrs. Elizabeth (Rogers) Hamner of Tuscaloosa. The account seems to have been written in 1944, for it stops then. If later accounts exist, please contact the webmaster.
The Music Department at the University of Alabama did not spring, as did Venus full panoplied from the brain of Jupiter, but like Topsy, it “just growed.” In 1905 Mr. Hill Ferguson, a distinguished citizen of Birmingham and now a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, was president of the Society of Alumni of the University. He wished to have a novel program for Alumni Day that Commencement, and he asked me to get up a kind of Glee Club to sing some songs for the occasion. I was then director of the First Baptist Choir in Tuscaloosa and had had a little experience with a YMCA Glee Club in Tuscaloosa, so I rashly went ahead and at chapel one morning asked those who were interested in doing a little choral work to meet me after the exercises. About sixteen boys met with me and agreed to try out the experiment. I drummed some old, familiar songs into their heads and had so much success with the audience at Commencement that President Abercrombie suggested I take up the work regularly the following year. An attempt at a Glee Club had been made some time previously through the initiative of Mrs. Simpson Keller of Tuscaloosa, then Miss Annie Searcy and a University alumna. That first organization was composed of both boys and girls, and John Peter Ludebuehl, director of music at the former Central College of Tuscaloosa, took charge. He composed for that group the song “Here’s to the Colors of Crimson White” to words by a University student, Vincent Hardy Bell. I used that song and several more or less amusing college songs I had been familiar with. In the following autumn after our Commencement success, I began actual work with the Glee Club and have continued in the capacity of director ever since. I was then in the newspaper line in Tuscaloosa and came out for rehearsals at the University.
The Glee Club was a great success over the state end in fact did pioneer work over Alabama and neighboring states. I believe the Glee Club was responsible for creating in the minds of High School boys that it was not a sissy thing to sing, and we always had more applicants for the Club than we could handle.
Though the Glee Club had a means of support from the University, it did not take a formal stand as a forerunner of the Music Department although that is what it actually was.
In the season 1916-17 Mr. Robert Lawrence, a baritone singer of reputation and a choral director of considerable experience, than teaching in Birmingham, brought an amateur company to Tuscaloosa and gave a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado.” Mr. Lawrence so impressed President Denny with his production that he was engaged to conduct a choral class at the University and also to teach voice. It was then that the Mason and Hamlin Grand piano, which was in Mrs. Eddins’ studio for so many years, and the Conover Grand, which was turned over as the Glee Club piano, were purchased. Purchasing anything beyond actual necessities was a rare thing at the University, Dr. Denny and Mr. Houser being very wide awake watch dogs of the treasury, so we were all amazed and pleased at this new departure.
Mr. Lawrence’s studio was established in the west room on the first floor of the gymnasium and choral class was conducted in Morgan Hall. Mr. Lawrence was very successful in his work, and in 1917-18 his chorus of over 110 members presented Coleridge-Taylor’s “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.” After that year Mr. Lawrence left Alabama. He was well known in this section and did a lot of conducting of community sings especially for the soldiers of the first World War.
Music was thus firmly established on the campus. After Mr. Lawrence’s departure Dr. Denny asked Mrs. Harry N. Eddins, who was doing some teaching of special students in Tuscaloosa, to take over the voice training, and I was allowed to handle the University chorus. Mrs. Eddins was a graduate of Denison University Conservatory and as Lista Geil had come to Tuscaloosa to teach voice at old Central College. After teaching there one year, she went to State Teachers Collage at Troy for one year and the following summer married Mr. Harry N. Eddins, a well-known business man of Tuscaloosa. Mrs. Eddins was in great demand as a soloist at concerts and musical affairs of every sort and often went away from home to sing in revivals, for she was noted for her clear enunciation, fine breath control, and her fine musical feeling in the rendition of any song. Mrs. Eddins accepted the offer from the University of Alabama and thus began her work here. She was always a sincere student and usually spent several weeks each year in New York City and at Chautauqua, New York studying with the best voice teachers. One summer she studied in Italy with the noted teacher, Alonzo Cor de Las.
As director of the University chorus I presented that year Planquetta’s “Chimes of Normandy” in concert form and Stainer’s “Daughter of Jairus” the following year. Later I started in on a concert version of “Martha,” Flotow’s tuneful opera, but it was not finished in time for public presentation. As director of the Glee Club I have produced Gilbert and Sullivan operas for fifteen seasons, and usually with success. The War has interfered with this work for the past two years. Following is the list of Gilbert and Sullivan presentations:
- 1924 Trial by Jury
1925 Trial by Jury
1929 Pirates of Penzance
1934 The Gondoliers
1936 Princess Ida
1937 The Yeomen of the Guard
1939 The Sorcerer
1940 The Mikado
1941 Pirates of Penzance
In 1931 no opera was given since the music department and entire University were engaged in the presenting of a mass pageant to celebrate the University Centennial. Presentations by the Glee Club other than the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas included a musical comedy, “Alas the Gas” in 1921-22 by boys only. This was an original production with words by Bessie Pake and music by Preston H. Weil, both of Montgomery and University students. Weil was accompanist for the Glee Club and is now a musician in New York. This production was such a success that in 1923-24 another home-made musical comedy was presented, “Tut! Tut! Tut!”, a satire on the English investigation of the tombs in Egypt. Words were by J. Martin Smith and music by Stark Paget. Both were students in the University, the former a newspaper man in Birmingham for several years and the latter a very gifted pianist and composer of jazz music. He is now deceased. In 1924-25 another musical comedy, “One Knaughty Knight” was presented with words by J. Martin Smith and music by Ethelred Lundy Sykes, both University men. The latter is row a lieutenant colonel in the Army and was the composer of the words and music of “Yea, Alabama.” Sykes wrote this song in response to an offer by The Rammer-Jammer for an official football song and won the prize. Other Alabama songs are “Song of the Crimson Tide” with words and music by Stark Paget and “The March to Victory” by Gabriel Jacoby. These are all published by Thornton W. Allen of New York.
Other items of interest in Glee Club History include the organization of the Girls’ Glee Club in 1925 and the trips made by the Boys’ Glee Club. The Boys’ Glee Club has made numerous appearances all over the South from New Orleans up through South Carolina, and also appeared in Washington D.C. and at the New York World’s Fair Court of Peace. In 1930-31 the boys presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury” on tour. These tours were usually money-making propositions, but the New York trip was made possible largely through contributions of alumni.
To return to the history of the department as a whole–in 1920 the University secured the services of Mr. Francis Griffith as director of music. He was a well trained musician and a tenor of charm and ability. He remained only one year, and Mrs. Eddins again took up the reins. She continued uninterruptedly with the department until her resignation in 1943–as teacher of voice, and as director until 1937. Mrs. Eddins continues to teach a few private pupils in Tuscaloosa and conducts the First Baptist Choir. She attended one of Findley Williamson’s choir schools and was an artistic choral director, her a capella chorus at the University being the object of much praise for its rendition. Mrs. Eddins was that first year classed as director of voice and had as her assistant one of her pupils, Miss Kathleen Yerby (now Mrs. John G. Feinour of Harrisburg, Pa.). In 1923 her assistant was Miss Winnie Mae Rice (now Mrs. Thomas 0. Foster of Tuscaloosa), also her pupil.
In 1923-24 Miss Dorothy Monnish (now Mrs. Evans of Tuscaloosa), a talented and trained violinist, began giving violin lessons at the University and remained in this position two years. In 1923 another addition was made to the faculty–Mrs. Thomas F. Seale of Livingston, who taught both voice and piano. In 1924 was added to the faculty Miss Elizabeth Roberts of Anniston, who taught voice and piano.
In 1925-26 Miss Hazel Sweat (now Mrs. Cliff Cottle of Gadsden), a pupil of D’Agostineo and Auer, began as teacher of violin and remained on the faculty four years. At this time Miss Roberts began classes in theory and harmony and music appreciation, and I began a class in music history. It was announced then that students in voice, piano, etc. would not receive credit unless they also studied theory. In 1927-28 Mrs. Susie Moseley Williford (now Mrs. Paul Burnum) began teaching piano and pipe organ. Mrs. Burnum graduated in music from Judson College and also studied with Ernest Hutcheson, Dorsey Whittington, and many other noted teachers.
In 1928-29 Mrs. Wilma Arnold Hausman, also a pupil of D’Agostineo, was added to the stringed instrument faculty and remained four years. She organized not only a string quartet but an orchestra, which was the beginning of the University Symphony Orchestra.
Miss Emmett Lewis was added to the faculty as a teacher of public school music in 1929. She is a graduate of the Mississippi State College of Women Conservatory, studied at Juilliard and Eastman schools of music, and was a pupil of Frank La Forge and Berumen. Miss Lewis has remained as a valuable member of the facuty from that year to this. In 1930-31 she taught piano and theory in addition to the public school music, Miss Roberts being away studying at the Louisville Conservatory. That year Mr. Gordon Curtis, director of music at the Presbyterian Church, was added to the faculty in voice. The following year Miss Roberts returned, and the music faculty remained the same for several years
In 1933-34 Dr. William H. Bland, a doctor at the Veterans Hospital in Tuscaloosa and a musician of some standing, began directing the University Symphony Orchestra, and Mr. Herman Mailman of the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, was added to the violin department, Mrs. Hausman having surrendered this work.
In 1934-35 the same faculty was in service with the addition of Mrs. Grace E. Somerville, Ohio Wesleyan Conservatory, who had charge of the public school music. In this year also began the visits of Professor Ottokar Cadek, then connected with the Birmingham Conservatory of Music, who cause down on certain days to teach violin. Mr. Cadek, now an asoociate professor on the faculty, is a resident of Tuscaloosa. He is a graduate of the Conservatory of zurich and a pupil of Sevcik, Auer, and Kneisel.
1935-36 saw the advent of Mr. Carleton Butler, director of the University and ROTC bands, teacher of band instruments and conductor of the University Orchestra. The bands, under Mr. Butler’s able management have become famous over the country. He came to the University from the Ramsey Tech High School in Birmingham, succeeding the band Director Mr. Turner, who died in 1935, and had been in charge of the Band since its organization in 1921. Mr. Butler is a graduate of the Dana School of Music at Warren, Ohio. This same year Mr. Joe N. Gauggel, teacher of violin and also from the Birmingham Conservatory, was added to the faculty. He is a graduate of Howard College and is a pupil of Mr. Cadek.
In 1936-37 Mrs. Burnum retired from University work to devote herself to private teaching in Tuscaloosa, and Mrs. Somerville resigned her position in public school music.
Mr. Byron Arnold, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, was added to the piano and organ faculty in 1937-38. He began giving lessons In composition, being a well-fitted and artistic composer himself. Mr. William Arthur Vogel came this year as director of the department of music, Mrs. Eddins having found the duties of director growing more and more arduous She was relieved of this work and continued as a teacher of voice. Mr. Vogel came well recommended as a graduate of Denison University Conservatory and a student of the Paris and Leipzig conservatories. He was ranked as an associate professor. In this year also was established the degree of Bachelor of Music, thus putting the music department in an established place in the University’s curriculum. For several years music had been recognized as a major subject, but now the department was placed in top rank.
In 1938-39 Miss Lewis took a year’s leave of absence for graduate work at the Eastman School of Music, and Miss Elizabeth Rogers of Tuscaloosa, a graduate of Converse College and a skilled pianist, was added to the faculty in piano for that year. In this year also came Mr. William Steven, a graduate of Syracuse University. He became an instructor in voice, filling the long desired addition of a man teacher who could both teach and sing. He has an excellent baritone voice and a winning way of presenting songs.
In 1939-40 Miss Lewis returned to her teaching, and Miss Priscilla Keeler was added to the piano and organ faculty. Miss Keeler received her master’s degree at Iowa University and is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. In 1940-41 two additions were made to the faculty–Miss Kathryn Wright Smullin of Williamette University who taught voice, and Mr. Albert Urbach of the Birmingham Conservatory of Music who began the first teaching of cello at the University. In this year Mr. Byron Arnold took over the University Orchestra.
In 1941-42 the department had grown so that several student assistants were called into service–Mr. Simpson, Misses McKenzie, Barrington, Melvin, and Phillips. The faculty remained the same for 1942-43. In the latter part of this session Mr. Vogel, who had been Informed the previous year by President Foster that he would not be retained longer than another year, was informed that his place as director would be filled–and there was considerable trouble. In fact, the harmony in the music department had been anything but what it should have been for some time. Mr. Vogel appealed to the American Association of University Professors, and though he was not a member of the Association the University chapter considered his case. Considerable time was spent in examining witnesses, etc. The result was, however, that Mr. Vogel’s resignation was accepted.
During the summer of 1943 Dr. Alton O’Steen, who had come to Alabama as the State Supervisor of Music, had made such a favorable impression over the state as a skilled musician and a remarkable organizer, was selected as director of the department of Fine Arts, including the department of art as well as music. Dr. O’Steen, a graduate of Emory University, received his doctor’s degree at Columbia University and studied music at the Juilliard School. He took charge immediately and displayed such energy and resourcefulness that he had the faculty in order before the session of 1943-44 began. Mr. Cadek was secured as a full time member of the faculty as associate professor and director of the University Symphony Orchestra. Mrs. Harry N. Eddins, who had been a member of the faculty since 1918, resigned as voice teacher, devoting herself to private pupils and choir work. Miss Margaret Christy of Minneapolis, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, student of the Juilliard School with a master’s degree from Columbia University, came as teacher of cello. She has been a valuable addition to the faculty and a great addition to the orchestra. Miss Arline Hanke of Montgomery came as teacher of voice. She is a soprano with power and beautiful quality who graduated from Huntington College, Montgomery and won the Dixie District Music scholarship for a year at the Eastman School of Music. She has been a great addition to the UnIversity’s music.
The remarkable fact about the present faculty is its feeling of fellowship. Each member seems to be part of a family group. They work together admirably. Dr. O’Steen is an indefatigable worker himself and inspires the faculty. He has presented members of the group not only in recitals in Tuscaloosa but all over the state, and these programs have been most worthy and delightful.
For the coming year an addition has been made to the piano faculty–Miss Blanca Renard, Chilean-American concert pianist. She studied in Europe on a scholarship from the Chilean government and has concertized in Europe, Canada, and United States. She formerly taught at Arlington Hall and Chevy Chase College.