In most public schools across the country, music education is an important part of the educational experience. The history of music education in the United States began before the American Revolution and progressed to the prevalence of music education today.
Music Education in the Colonies
When the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, they brought a tradition of singing psalms. According to A Concise History of American Music Education by Michael Mark, the first book printed in America that contained music was a 1698 psalm book.
Meanwhile, secular music was allowed and celebrated in the South. Experienced musicians traveled across plantations to teach children and perform for private audiences and churches. Music education was limited to the wealthy.
As the northern colonies grew, so did the importance of music literacy in the church. The Rev. John Tufts founded the first American “singing school” and published An Introduction to The Singing of Psalm-Tunes in 1721 to cure the ills of music illiteracy. Singing masters taught people in the community to sing by note as part of the singing school movement.
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