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Satis Coleman collection

 Collection 0164-SCPA
Satis Narona Coleman (1878-1961) was a music educator who specialized in teaching children. She primarily taught in studios in both Washington, D.C and in New York City. Her belief was that a child's music education should begin at an early age and be an integral part of their life. This collection contains notes written by Coleman, pictures from an event honoring her in 1957, publications, and a Chinese gong set made in 1919 and tuned to the pentatonic scale. Materials date from between 1919 and 1957.


  • 1919-1957
  • Majority of material found within 1957

Use and Access to Collection

There are no restricted files in this collection.


3.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Satis Coleman collection covers the period of 1919-1957 with the bulk of the materials dating from 1957. The collection consists of one legal-sized letter box containing notes written by Coleman as well as pictures from an event honoring her in 1957. Another box containing a Chinese gong set made in 1919 and tuned to the pentatonic scale is also included in the collection.


Satis Narona Coleman (1878-1961) was a music educator who specialized in teaching music to children. In 1895, she graduated from Sam Houston Normal Institute and went on to earn her B.S. (1927), M.A. (1928) and Ph.D. in educational psychology (1937) from Columbia University. Coleman also taught widely as a private music instructor before and after completing her studies.

Coleman believed that children should be introduced to and engaged in music at a very young age in order to develop their unique skills and further discover their own talents. Through her own academic studies, Coleman developed a cipher notation system that introduced children to sounds before they were introduced to the symbols used to notate music. Improvisation was key to her teaching philosophy, which was built on the works of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel. Coleman also put forth an idea for Walt Disney to produce a motion picture depicting the history of music; this idea is outlined in her "Notes on the Evolution of Music." Disney was already producing short subjects with a similar idea, so Coleman's plan was never fully realized.

Through her research, Coleman developed simplistic instruments that could be played by children and used in full-scale symphonies that she composed. She was a music educator whose philosophy pioneered notions still held in music education today.


The Satis Coleman collection is divided into three series:
  1. Notes and Pictures
  2. Musical Instruments
  3. Publications

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The first donation was by Arthur Redner in March 1971. At least two accruals followed, possibly by other donors.

Related Material

A dissertation about Ms. Coleman by a student at the University of Maryland:

Source: Dissertation Abstracts


Author: BOSTON, SHEILA C.; ROGER J. FOLSTROM. In: DAI VOL. 54-01A Page 0121, 00177 Pages Number: AAG9315605

Year: 1992 Abstract: The purpose of this study was to confirm, clarify, and document Satis N. Coleman's contributions to music education and to describe her philosophy of music education and her teaching approaches. Coleman developed her philosophy of music education while teaching music in her private studios in Washington, DC, and New York City. She believed all children should be engaged in a variety of musical activities, beginning at a very early age. She theorized that music should be an intrinsic part of the daily life of all children, regardless of their level of musical ability. She also believed that creative ability existed in all children and should be developed through various musical experiences. Complexity and difficulty of musical experiences should be appropriate for the child's level of development. Coleman introduced her theories and teaching strategies to the Lincoln School of Teachers College, Columbia University, where she taught Creative Music classes from September 1920 through June 1942. She taught similar classes to music supervisors and classroom teachers at Teachers College from 1925 through 1942. Coleman published many books for children promoting the making and playing of simple instruments. Simple instruments, as defined by her, were more appropriate for children to begin their musical experiences than more technically difficult instruments. Musical abilities would develop much as the musical abilities of humankind had developed--from the simple to the complex. Responding to criticism from colleagues, she advised that the instrument making aspect of her program should not begin at too early an age, and should be in addition to the vocal program and never at its expense. Coleman proved the worth of her system of number notation by conducting an experiment in conjunction with the Association for Childhood Education in selected public schools in the United States. Coleman considered music vital in the life of every child. Fostering a lifelong love of music, rather than perfecting technical skills in the performance of music, formed the cornerstone of her philosophy. Her approach offered an alternative philosophy and methods to music educators of her time and her work provided a prototype for contemporary music education.



Location: PA LIB Folio LD3231.M70d Boston, S.C

An unpublished and undated graduate-level seminar paper by Mary Ann Goodall entitled "Satis Coleman's Contribution to Music Education: a review, analysis, and reassessment." This paper was probably written sometime in the mid-1970s. 39 pages.

Location: SCPA Research Papers file number 475

A copy of the Jan-Feb-Mar 1927 issue of Progressive Education in which an article by Satis Coleman appears: "Creative Experience through Making Musical Instruments." 10 pages.

Location: SCPA Research Papers file number 651

A file labeled Coleman, Satis is in the MENC Biography File, available upon request to the curator.

The following titles by Satis Coleman are in the cataloged book collection of the library. Some are in SCPA, others in PAL or MCK.
  1. Another dancing time - PA LIB STACKS M1990.C65A5
  2. Another singing time - PA LIB SPCMEN M1997.C68A42 1937
  3. Book of bells - MCK STACKS CC205.C62
  4. Children's symphony - PA LIB SCPA ML83.C66
  5. Creative music for children - PA LIB SCPA and PA LIB STACKS MT740.C65
  6. Creative music in the home - PA LIB SCPA MT740.C653 1939
  7. Dancing time; music for rhythmic activities - PA LIB STACKS M1990.C65D2
  8. Drum book P - PA LIB SPCMEN ML1035.C7
  9. First steps in playing and composing - PA LIB SPCMEN MT7.C64F5 1930
  10. Gingerbread man and other songs of the child - PA LIB SCPA M1997.C68G4
  11. Little singing time: a book of songs - PA LIB SCPA M1997.C68S424
  12. Master book iii: complement to master scroll - PA LIB SCPA MT740.C655
  13. Singing time: songs for nursery andamp; school - PA LIB SCPA and PA LIB STACKS M1997.C64S8
  14. Songs of American folks - PA LIB SPCMEN M1629.C687S6
  15. Suggestions to teachers - PA LIB SPCMEN MT7.C64S9 1930
  16. Your child's music - PA LIB SCPA MT740.C65Y6
This uncataloged book is in the Ginn Music Library: Carols. Box 26. Christmas Carols from Many Countries. Satis Coleman and Elin K. Jorgensen. Schirmer, Incorporated. 1934.

An uncataloged photocopy of The Psaltery Book by Satis N. Coleman

Location: SCPA Research Papers file number 2345.

An article by Coleman, "Creative Music for Children" is in Papers and Proceedings of the Music Teachers National Association, Edited by K. Gehrkens. Hartford, CT: Music Teachers National Association 1926

Location: PA LIB SCPA ML27.U5M8

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
Satis Coleman collection
Bonnie Jo Dopp
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States