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[Xmca-l] Music education & working class

Volume 10, Issue 1, August 2011  especially but others also.

An excellent article attached from which I quote a wonderful passage:

The demand among workers for the education enabling them to transcend

their cultural impoverishment was fulfilled by two different institutions

within the organized left. One was the labor unions which had then

assumed, as has been observed, a much broader function in workers’ lives,

very different from the narrowly focused, legalistic bureaucracies they

have since become. An indication can be seen in a 2006 newsgroup

posting11 from upstate New York electrical worker Jerry Monaco:

My Italian working class neighborhood in an industrial

town was ruled by General Electric, the Catholic Church,

the democratic machine, and the union local. But the

people in that neighborhood I remember from 1965, had a

good eye for "the quality" of certain things -- good food of

course, but also good music . . . My great grandfather could

tell you why Verdi was good and Puccini was "like adding

sugar to honey" and he never even finished the third grade.

. . . My great Uncle Tony could tell you why Louis

Armstrong was great . . . and why he liked Frank Sinatra

and Billy Holiday but why so many other popular singers

were "empty". Uncle Tony never graduated from high

school, but he did take classes in classical music (at) the

union hall. He belonged to a reading group at the union hall

and read poetry. Yes there was a poetry group for the

factory workers at the union hall in Schenectady, NY. I

tend to think that because such people were around I

learned to appreciate quality.

Union halls fulfilled an important social, cultural and educational function

for many thousands of workers, though so far as I know, these have not

been the subject of much scholarly attention.

Although the unions’ role was substantial, probably more central in

advancing workers’ cultural education in the beginning of the 20th century

were the now mostly forgotten workers schools operated under the

sponsorship of the Communist Party. These, which included the Thomas

Jefferson School for Social Science in New York, the Samuel Adams

School in Boston, the Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago, the Los

Angeles People's Educational Center and the San Francisco Labor School

would spread to virtually every major city with a yearly enrollment of

many thousands at their peak.12 While weighted towards the social

sciences, economics, history, sociology, taught from a Marxian

perspective, also available to students was a substantial humanities and

arts curriculum with courses at the flagship Jefferson School in music

history and music theory taught by composers such as Wallingford

Riegger, Marc Blitzstein and by scholars such as Sidney Finkelstein and

Charles Seeger.

Attachment: connolly.forum.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document