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  U.S. School of Commercial Music Bulletin 2006

A Brief History of Music Education



Far and Middle East

Ancient methods of music education required many years of study with the voice before a student was given a musical instrument. Music and Dance were considered sacred and often the intrument was chosen by the teacher, not the student. The tradition survives in India.



Renaissance European culture employed Arabic algebra to evolve a twelve-tone system after hundreds of years of five and seven-tone modal music taught in the Church by means of vocal solfeggio. Note that a tempered twelve-tone system was used by the Chinese over 3000 years ago, as proven by the unearthing of sets of bronze bells. The solfeggio system was expanded to include twelve tones, and musical training in Europe continued to be taught vocally before instrumentally.

United States

Early formal music education in the U.S. emulated the conservatory system of Europe. In the beginning of the 20th Century, it began slowly to be displaced by a vast army of piano teachers. These teachers taught their pupils to depend on written music. The rise of American Popular music, including Jazz and Folk was largely an untrained movement, which did not depend primarily on sheet music. In this century, thousands of colleges in the U.S. have adopted a mini-conservatory approach to a Music Department, which has become rigidly formalized; one school being pretty much like any other. Solfege and ear training in general has taken a back seat to many other topics. As a rule, Jazz, Pop, and Commercial Music are not studied at these schools.

Music Correspondence schools started to spring up around the turn of the century, and among the most famous were "The American Conservatory", and "The U.S. School of Music" in Philadelphia and New York. The latter ran one of the most famous ad's in all of advertising history: "They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano...But When I Started to Play!"

In the 1930's, Joseph Schillinger wrote "The Mathematical Basis of the Arts", an engineer's approach to art. Among his music students were George Gershwin, several Hollywood film composers, and MIT alumnus Lawrence Berk. The latter was among twelve 'authorized teachers' of the " Schillinger Method Of Musical Composition", which was taught face-to-face and by correspondence course. In 1946, Mr. Berk founded a small school, "Schillinger House", on Boston's Newbury Street, whose chief clientele were big band musicians between engagements. (For over two hundred years, Boston had been the cradle of music education in the U.S., and it was the place where the big bands rehearsed before traveling by bus across the country.) After Joseph Schillinger's death, his wife objected to the school's name, and it was changed to "The Berklee School of Music", after Larry's new son, Lee.

Berklee College (Schillinger House)

   Schillinger House doubled enrollment each year for 30 years, due to five factors: Alma Berk's press office, which garnered free publicity by announcing students' performances in their home town newspapers, a correspondence course, acceptance of students under the GI Bill, free publicity in Europe by supplying Jazz radio shows to Voice of America, and great teachers. As Berklee became a college in the 1970's, it became less of a trade school and began offering Bachelor degrees. Berklee was one of the first serious institutions for the study of Jazz and Commercial Music in America, and is today the world's largest resident music school.

Multi-Media Music Learning

   Over the past 30 years, certain technical developments (Walkman cassette player/radios, quartz metronomes, MIDI synths/computers and cheap videotape) have revolutionized the music business, but not music education. Although Jamey Aebersold, Happy Traum, Arlen Roth and others have marketed educational materials in new media, these remain largely unfocused and are not comprehensive enough, nor are they integrated. Resident institutions have not kept pace with the new media, and so are out of touch with their students in many cases. A notable exception to this is the Musician's Institute, however it is largely an instrumental technician's school.


   In 1977, Freelance Music began marketing music learning materials which took better advantage of the new media, such as Freejam Tracks™, and Complete Album Transcriptions™. Later, Musicworks was founded to add a software component to the growing list of tools. These and other innovative materials are now exclusively available through USSCM.

US School of Commercial Music has taken music learning to a new level, by making professional music training available at a distance, and constantly revising its courses and learning delivery systems with the latest and best materials and technologies.

"U.S. School of Commercial of Music is dedicated to providing the highest standard of musical training in a form accessible to anyone who wants to advance musically. At USSCM, we maximize learning efficiency by use of a variety of focused educational materials and delivery systems combining proven learning methods with newer technologies."
-- John Amaral, Director


Music Learning Fads

   Music learning fads are not new. 'Overnight' piano and guitar methods have sold in the United States for over 100 years. Certain products claiming to teach "Perfect Pitch" or "Miracle Keyboard Lessons" have been seen in recent years. USSCM feels it would be reasonable to evaluate the truth of these claims carefully before accepting them.

An additional word about perfect pitch
The ability to recognize pitches absolutely and at once, without resort to an external reference, has long been understood to be a potentially valuable tool for musicians. Everyone has this ability at least latently, but it is almost always dominated by the (far more useful) relative pitch sense. Perfect Pitch, Intervallic Pitch and Relative Pitch can each be separately trained through hard work. But none can be achieved through philosophy alone. Note that, you should see daily improvement from your ear training studies - if not, you're not working hard enough, or have been misguided as what to study. Caveat emptor.

Eartraining At USSCM

     USSCM ear training is thorough and intense. USSCM students receive the latest scientific research on the subject, and can draw their own conclusions about what works. In addition to special proprietary course materials and techniques, USSCM students also have full access to the state-of-the-art learning tools at www.EarGym.com and www.BigEarsPerfectPitch.com, which are available to the general public by subscription and purchase.
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