Mason, Luther Whiting



The man who introduced western music into the public schools of Japan. He was born at Turner, Maine, and was mostly self-educated. In 1853 he became superintendent of music in the public schools of Louisville, Kentucky, and later served in the same capacity in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1865 he reformed the musical instruction in the public schools of Boston, and in 1879 he was invited by the Japanese Government to superintend the music in the schools of Japan. He was successful, and it is said that within ten minutes after the beginning of his first lesson his Japanese pupils were singing as American children sing. Today public school music in Japan is known as " MasonSong." He was shown great favor at Court, and with the Imperial Orchestra he worked to arrange the Japanese musical repertory. He experienced some difficulty in this at first because the Japanese scale is composed of five notes instead of seven, but when he explained our system, and aided by a Japanese professor of physics, related it to the colors of the spectrum, the Japanese voted to change their system, and a royal edict to that effect was given out. Mason helped the Japanese musicians restring and retune their instruments, organized a string and wind-instrument orchestra and gave successful concerts. After three years' work in Japan he was recalled to America, and later went to Germany, where he perfected his National Music Course. His great success as a teacher in Europe, Asia and America lies in the simplicity and clearness of his methods and in his enthusiasm and power of inspiring his students. He died in Buckfield, Maine.