Mason, Lowell



Called the father of American church-music; born at Medfield, Massachusetts. He was mostly self-educated, and owes more to perseverance and strict application than to instruction his knowledge of music and the place he attained in the musical world. When sixteen he was leader of the choir in the Medfield Church and was also teaching singing. A bank clerk in Savannah, Georgia, in 1812, he continued his musical work, leading choirs and teaching, and receiving his first adequate musical instruction from F. L. Abel. He made a collection of church-music which came under the notice of Dr. Jackson of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, who got it published by the Handel and Haydn Society under the title of the Handel and Haydn Collection of Church Music Harmonized for Three or Four Voices. The immediate success of this work encouraged Mason to come to Boston in 1826, when he began his work in that city by lecturing on church-music. Through the influence of friends he was soon made director of music at the Hanover Street, Green Street and Park Street Churches, and had a permanent contract with the Bowdoin Street Church. In 1827 he was elected president of the Handel and Haydn Society. Although very successful Mr. Mason was not doing the work in which he was most deeply interested, or which he considered most important for the advancement of music. He believed that the knowledge of music could best be given to the American people through the medium of the public schools, and he worked unceasingly to advance this idea. He investigated various systems of teaching, and through Mr. George Wells became an enthusiastic advocate of the Pestalozzian System, which he obtained the privilege of teaching in the public schools of Boston in 1828. In 1832, in conjunction with Mr. Wells, he founded the Boston Academy of Music. In 1837 and again in 1852 he went abroad to study music and methods of teaching; in 1853 publishing his interesting Musical Letters from Abroad. It was on the trip in 1852 that he purchased the valuable musical library of the organist, Rinck of Darmstadt, which, with his own magnificent collection, he gave to Yale University after his death. By 1840 he had begun to hold his famous teachers' conventions, an idea which proved so helpful that teachers from far-away states often came. In 1851 he moved to New York, continuing to teach and in 1855 receiving the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of New York. Several years before his death he retired to Orange, New Jersey, where he died in 1872. Although Lowell Mason does not come in the first rank of musical composers, his zeal and ability as a teacher and his energy in advancing the knowledge of music have won him the highest regard .from his countrymen. His compositions, in the main correct and true to musical principles, are lacking in originality and power. Among them are The Juvenile Psalmist; Sabbath School Songs; The Psaltery; The Boston Anthem Book; The Boston Academy Collection of Church Music; The Juvenile Lyre; and The Song Garden.