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John Wheeler Tufts collection

 Collection 0166-SCPA
John Wheeler Tufts was a music educator, organist, conductor, composer, and author who notably wrote several instructional books on music education in public schools. The John Wheeler Tufts collection covers the period from 1793 to 1987 with most of the collection falling between 1835 to 1908. The collection is comprised of letters, writings, scores, manuscripts and books of J.W. Tufts. It also includes letters from many of the Tufts family and photographs of J.W. Tufts, residences, and family.

Dates

  • 1793–1987
  • Majority of material found within 1835–1908

Conditions Governing Access

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Please contact SCPA's curator to make an appointment: Email: scpa@umd.edu, Tel: 301.405.9220.

Extent

18.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The John Wheeler Tufts collection covers the period from 1793 through 1987 with most of the collection falling between 1835 through 1908. The collection is comprised of letters, writings, scores, manuscripts and books of J. W. Tufts. It also includes letters from many of the Tufts family. There are photographs of J.W. Tufts, residences, and family.

Historical Note

John Wheeler Tufts was born on May 12, 1825 in Dover, New Hampshire. An accomplished composer and pianist, he spent the years 1846–1848 in Leipzig and Frankfurt, Germany. While there, he studied piano with Ignaz Moscheles and music theory with Moritz Hauptmann at the Conservatorium der Musik (founded by Felix Mendelssohn). When he returned to the US, he worked as an organist and conductor in Bangor and then Portland, Maine, where he formed and led a choral society, before settling in Boston, Massachusetts in 1880. There, he was appointed as Director of Music and Organist of King’s Chapel, an independent Christian Unitarian church renowned for its music program, where he worked for 15 years.

In Boston, Tufts played a leading role in reforming music instruction in primary schools, insisting on involving all public school teachers in the musical training instead of allowing it to remain the responsibility of music supervisors. Tufts also collaborated with his former piano student, Hosea E. Holt (1836–1898), to write a music instruction textbook series, with Tufts composing the exercises and writing instructions for the teaching methods that Holt had developed. The product of their collaboration, The Normal Music Course: a Series of Exercises, Studies and Songs, Defining and Illustrating the Art of Sight Singing, was published in 1883, followed by a Second Reader in 1886 and a Third Reader in 1887, and was intended for elementary school instruction. The Normal Music Course was a reaction against the prevailing method in music education, which was the “sound before symbol” approach (or rote singing before note reading) developed first by Lowell Mason (1792–1872) and published in a series by Luther Whiting Mason (1818–1896) in 1870. Instead, The Normal Music Course advocated for the study of notation, tonality, and intervals before singing any music and was promoted as more “scientific,” in line with the post-Civil War trend of approaching classroom subjects in a more systematic and objective manner. The text became the standard for school music series by 1893. Tufts, who had a talent for drawing, also provided illustrations for the series, making it the first music text to feature pictures illustrative of the text.

Tufts went on to publish several supplementary music readers to The Normal Music Course series, including The Aœdean Collection: Part-songs for female voices (1884), The Normal Music Course High School Collection (1887), and The Euterpean Song Book (1888) for students at the high school level. He also compiled several anthologies of vocal music for more general use in schools and in singing clubs, including Child Life in Song (1883), The Cecilian Series of Study and Song (1892), and Polyhymnia (1897), as well as The King’s Chapel collection of tunes and chorals (1883) for use in his position at the King’s Chapel. In addition to his work in music education, Tufts cultivated an interest in the physical sciences and was an active member of the Boston Scientific Society from 1881.

While absent from most music dictionaries and histories, Tufts was known as a competent composer and contrapuntist, and a thorough musician. According to L. C. Elson, author of The History of American Music (1904), his carefully graded music series gave public school music education a “much firmer foundation that it had ever had before.” Tufts died on March 18, 1908 in Camden, Maine.

Arrangement

This collection is loosely organized into three series:
  • Series 1: Correspondence and Papers
  • Series 2: Books
  • Series 3: Scores and Manuscripts

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of papers, music, and books donated by Rosanna Tufts, descendant of J. W. Tufts, was received on 10 December 2002.

Related Material

Tufts, John W. The King's Chapel collection of tunes and chorals. Boston: A.P. Schmidt, 1883.

Tufts, John W. Child Life in Song: for home, kindergarten and school. Boston, Silver, Burdett & Co., 1883; 1890.

Tufts, John W. The Euterpean: a choice collection of popular choruses, quartets and part-songs, designed for the use of high schools, academies, seminaries, grammar schools, choral societies, singing clubs. Boston: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1888.

Tufts, John W. The Cecilian Series of Study and Song. New York, Boston, Chicago, Illinois: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1892. [Link to books 1 and 2] [Link to books 3 and 4]

Tufts, John W. Common School Course: Comprising Studies in Tune and Time, with Songs. New York: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1893.

Tufts, John W. Technic and Notation As Applied to the Pianoforte. Chicago: C.F. Summy, 1898.

Tufts, John W. A Handbook of Vocal Music: Illustrating Normal Methods through the Normal Music Course, the Cecilian Series of Study and Songs, the Common School Course. New York: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1896; 1899.

Tufts, John W. Polyhymnia: A Collection of Quartets and Choruses for Male Voices. New York: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1897.

Tufts, John W. and B. F. Baker. Church Choral Book: Containing Tunes and Hymns for Congregational Singing, and Adapted to Choirs and Social Worship. Boston: Crosby, Nichols & Lee, 1860.

Tufts, John W. and Hosea E. Holt. The Normal Music Course: A Series of Exercises, Studies, and Songs Defining and Illustrating the Art of Sight Reading. Boston: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1883; 1886.

Tufts, John W. and Hosea E. Holt. The Normal Music Course. Second Reader: A Series of Exercises, Studies, and Songs Defining and Illustrating the Art of Sight Reading. Boston: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1886; 1895.

Tufts, John W and Hosea E. Holt. The Aœdean Collection: Part-songs for female voices. Silver, Burdett & Co., 1884; 1888.

Tufts, John W and Hosea E. Holt. Manual for the Use of Teachers; To Accompany the Readers and Charts of the Normal Music Course. Boston: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1883; 1888.

Tufts, John W. and Hosea E. Holt. The Normal Music Course: High School Collection. Boston: Silver, Burdett & Co., 1886; 1891.

Tufts, John W. and Hosea E. Holt. The Normal Music Course: Introductory Third Reader. Boston: Silver, Rogers & Co., 1887; Silver, Burdett & Co., 1893.

Title
John Wheeler Tufts collection
Status
Completed
Author
Justin Indovina and Bonnie Sue White; Rachel Ruisard provided an updated historical note in June 2020.
Date
2006, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2013-08-23: EAD markup validated using Oxygen software by Amanda May, August 2013.
  • 2020-06-15: Inventory divided into series, related materials expanded, and new biography composed by Rachel Ruisard, June 2020

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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