Mason, Luther Whiting

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Mason, Luther Whiting

Mason, Luther Whiting, prominent American music educator and editor of school songbooks; b. Turner, Maine, April 3, 1828; d. Buckfield, Maine, July 4, 1896. He was a student of Lowell Mason at the Boston Academy of Music, who may have been a distant relative. After directing singing classes and church choirs, he went to Louisville in 1853 and pioneered the teaching of music in the primary grades of public schools. In 1856 he went to Cincinnati, where he did likewise. In 1864 he was invited to Boston to set up a curriculum for general classroom teachers to give pupils instruction in singing, a curriculum subsequently adopted by many other schools. In 1880 he was called to Japan with the mission of organizing a national training program for music teachers. School music in Japan became known as “Mason song” due to the use of his songbooks. During his 2-year sojourn there, he also taught notation and harmony to the imperial court musicians, retuned their ancient instruments to the Western scale, and imported Western instruments. He also traveled widely in Europe. Mason’s greatest success in the U.S. came with his National Music Course, which consisted of a series of music textbooks, charts, and guides based upon the labors of the German pedagogue Christian Heinrich Hohmann. The course was first issued as the First, Second, and Third Music Readers (1870; 2nd ed., rev., 1885) for students, The National Music Teacher (1870) for teacher guidance, and 3 sets of charts. The Mason School Music Course was publ. in 1898. He also ed. Mason’s Hymn and Tune Book (1882).


O. McConathy, L.W. M. and his Contribution to Music in the Schools of Three Continents (MS, 1942); K. Hartley, A Study of the Life and Works of L.W. M. (diss., Fla. State Univ., 1960); B. Hall, The L.W. M. —Osbourne McConathy Collection (thesis, Univ. of Md., 1983); S. Howe, L.W. M., International Music Educator (Warren, Mich., 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire