Journal of Historical Research
in Music Education
2015, Vol. 37(1) 51 –74
© The Author(s) 2015
Reprints and permissions:
Solomon W. Straub
(1842–1899): A Self-Made
Music Educator on the Prairie
Phillip M. Hash1
The purpose of this study was to examine the life and work of Solomon W. Straub,
who worked as a music teacher, composer, and publisher during the late nineteenth
century. Straub was born in Butler Township of DeKalb County, Indiana, in 1842. He
taught music in Dowagiac and Lansing, Michigan, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, in
1873. Straub established his own publishing firm in 1879 and promoted his publications
and pedagogical ideas as a leader of singing conventions, normal musical institutes, and
chautauqua choirs. Colleagues included his sisters Mary and Maria, his son, Arthur,
and several prominent musicians who published with the company and assisted at
institutes and conventions. Straub helped perpetuate, support, and develop music
education through the cumulative influence of his various musical enterprises. His
pedagogy reflected past methods developed by Lowell Mason forty years prior as well
as the philosophies underlying progressive education during the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries. Straub died in Chicago in September 1899 at fifty-six years
of age. Although not considered a major figure in music education today, he played an
important role in the musical life of the Midwest United States during the last three
decades of the 1800s and helped carry the profession into the twentieth century.
nineteenth century, music education history, choral, professional development, music
teachers, biography, instructional methods
Music educators in nineteenth-century America filled multiple roles as teachers,
church musicians, conductors, composers, and publishers.1 George Frederick Root
(1820–1895), for example, studied and worked with Lowell Mason at the Boston
1Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Phillip M. Hash, Calvin College, 1795 Knollcrest Cr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49546-4404, USA.
608462JHRXXX10.1177/1536600615608462Journal of Historical Research in Music EducationHash
1Richard Crawford, America’s Musical Life: A History (New York: Norton, 2001), 151–55.
52 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
Academy of Music and the Boston Public Schools before moving to New York City in
1844. In New York, he directed music at the Mercer Street Presbyterian Church and
taught at several private institutions. He also composed music and compiled tune
books, taught private lessons, conducted singing conventions, and eventually became
a partner in the publishing firm of Root and Cady in Chicago.2
Most music teachers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries probably learned
through self-study, private instruction, and observing the local singing master.3 Formal
training began in August 1834 when Lowell Mason (1792–1872) and George James
Webb (1803–1887) introduced eight- to ten-day teachers’ classes at the Boston Academy
of Music. In April 1853, George F. Root—with the help of Lowell Mason and William
B. Bradbury—extended these efforts by establishing the first long-term preparation
course at the New York Normal Musical Institute in New York City. The curriculum
included the study of pedagogy, voice culture, music theory, and choral literature, as well
as private lessons with prominent musicians and teachers. The institute met throughout
the academic year in eleven-week sessions until July 1855, and then reconvened as a
summer school to North Reading, Massachusetts, in June 1856. In 1860, the Normal
Musical Institute began moving to various cities throughout the country in order to
attract new students and provide professional development where similar opportunities
were unavailable. The school became the National Normal Musical Institute in 1872 and
continued under this name until its final season in Elmira, New York, in 1885.
Root’s Normal Musical Institute and similar schools prepared numerous musicians
and teachers who contributed to American culture during the mid- to late nineteenth
century.4 Although researchers have documented the lives of the most prominent of
these individuals, they often have neglected to examine the contributions of lesser
figures who promoted, sustained, and perpetuated the field in their respective times
and places. Reasons for this phenomenon may be the common use of top–down
research methodology that focuses on events and people deemed most important to a
particular field or topic, a lack of source material, or the fact that their work did not
represent pioneering efforts in the field. Regardless, the stories of these men and
women are necessary for a complete history of music education in the United States.5
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the life and work of one such
individual, Solomon W. Straub (1842–1899), who served as a leader in church music
2George F. Root, The Story of a Musical Life (Cincinnati, OH: John Church Company, 1891),
37–56, 91, 122–23. Root’s brother Ebenezer Towner Root and Chauncey Marvin Cady opened
the publishing firm in 1858.
3Alan Clark Buechner, Yankee Singing Schools and the Golden Age of Choral Music in New
England, 1760-1800 (Boston: Boston University, 2003), 45; Edward Bailey Birge, History of
Public School Music in the United States, new and augm. ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Oliver Ditson
Company, 1937), 17.
4Phillip M. Hash, “George F. Root’s Normal Musical Institute,” Journal of Research in Music
Education 60, no. 3 (2012): 271–78.
5Jere T. Humphreys, “Sex and Geographic Representation in Two Music Education History
Books,” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no. 131 (1997): 67, 81–82.
and music education throughout the Midwest during the late nineteenth century.6
Research questions focused on his life, pedagogy, musical contributions, and work as
a composer, conductor, teacher, and teacher educator. Methodology involved collect-
ing and analyzing information from diverse primary and secondary sources including
U.S. census data, articles from periodicals and newspapers, tune books, and instruc-
tional materials.7 I then organized this information into a chronological narrative.8
Solomon W. Straub
Solomon W. Straub was born December 2, 1842, in Butler Township of DeKalb County,
Indiana, and was the youngest among his three brothers (Henry, Simon, Jacob), and four
sisters (Susan, Mary Ann, Maria, Barbara Elizabeth). His father Joseph (1801–1860) and
mother Elizabeth (1809–1881) were of German heritage and born in Pennsylvania.9
They operated a farm in Marion County, Ohio, before moving to Butler Township,
Indiana, in 1835. In 1842, the family moved to Carroll County, Indiana but returned to
Butler Township five years later after an outbreak of malaria.10 Joseph and Elizabeth
were “zealous, church-going people,”11 who encouraged lives of service among their
children. Solomon’s brother Jacob (b. 1835) entered the ministry of the Universalist
denomination in 1860 and led congregations in Michigan, Illinois, and Cuba.12 His sis-
ter, Mary Ann (b. 1836), was ordained in 1878 and served a Universalist church in
6Major music education historians do not mention Straub. See Birge, History of Public School
Music, 1937; Loyd Frederick Sunderman, Historical Foundations of Music Education in the
United States (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1971); A. Theodore Tellstrom, Music in
American Education, Past and Present (New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1971); Michael
L. Mark and Charles L. Gary, A History of American Music Education, 3rd ed. (Lanham, MD:
Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2007); James A. Keene, A History of Music Education in the
United States, 2nd ed. (Centennial, CO: Glenbridge, 2009).
7Databases used in this study included HeritageQuest Online, ProQuest Historical Newspapers,
GenealogyBank.com, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of
Congress), Internet Archive, and Google Books.
8For a description of this process, see Roger P. Phelps, Ronald H. Sadoff, Edward C. Warburton,
and Lawrence Ferrara, A Guide to Research in Music Education, 5th ed. (Metuchen, NJ:
Scarecrow Press, 2005), 208–13.
9“United States Census, 1850,” index and images, FamilySearch, Joseph Stroup, Butler, De
Kalb, Indiana, United States; citing dwelling 13, family 13, NARA microfilm publication
M432, roll 142, accessed November 28, 2013, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/
MHVL-NR6; W. S. B. Mathews, ed., A Hundred Years of Music in America (Chicago: G. L.
Howe, 1900), 741.
10History of De Kalb County, Indiana (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing, 1885), 503–4; E. R.
Hanson, Our Women Workers: Biographical Sketches of Women Eminent in the Universalist
Church for Literary, Philanthropic and Christian Work, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Star and Covenant
Office, 1884), 492.
11Hanson, Our Women Workers, 492.
12History of DeKalb County, Indiana, 504; Universalist Register, Giving Statistics for the
Universalist Church, and Other Denominational Information, Etc., for 1891, ed. Richard Eddy
54 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
Castalia, Iowa, for three years.13 Maria (1838–1897) worked briefly as a schoolteacher
in rural Indiana and wrote poems and hymn texts throughout her life.14
Joseph died on December 25, 1860, and family members assumed operation of the
farm.15 Solomon lived on the homestead until around 1862, when he moved to
Dowagiac, Michigan, where Jacob served as a minister. He married Pheobe Bell
(1836–1920) on September 8, 1864, and the couple welcomed their first child, Arthur
M., in 1866.16 Solomon composed several of his first known pieces during this time
and probably led music in his brother’s congregation and taught private voice and
keyboard lessons as well.17
Straub attended George Root’s Normal Musical Institute held in South Bend,
Indiana, July 5–August 16, 1870, with approximately one hundred eighty students
from seventeen states and Canada. He studied pedagogy with Root, voice with the
acclaimed Italian teacher Carlo Bassini (1812–1870), and piano with Lowell Mason’s
son William Mason (1849–1908).18 Chauncey M. Wyman (1835–1870), a protégé of
Root, served as choral director and led three hundred voices in a performance of The
Creation by Franz J. Haydn at the end of the term.19
Straub reenrolled in the Institute—renamed the National Normal Musical
Institute—when it convened at Chicago University during the summers of 1872 and
(Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1890), 111; Universalist Register,…1895, ed. Richard
Eddy (Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1895), 18; Universalist Register,…1902, ed.
Richard Eddy (Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1902), 117.
13Hanson, Our Women Workers, 493.
14“Straub, Miss Maria,” in A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical
Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life, ed.
Francis E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore (Buffalo, NY: Charles Wells Moulton, 1893), 698–
99; “Deaths,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 30, 1897, 5.
15History of DeKalb County, Indiana, 503.
16“Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995,” index, FamilySearch, Soloman M. Straub and Phebe Bell,
08 Sep 1864, accessed December 1, 2013, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCF2-9V9;
“United States Census, 1870,” index and images, FamilySearch, Solomon Straub in household
of Aaron Harwood, Michigan, United States; citing p. 27, family 236, NARA microfilm publi-
cation M593, FHL microfilm 000552167, accessed December 1, 2013, https://familysearch.org/
pal:/MM9.1.1/MHHF-XVQ; “Arthur M. Straub,” in Columbia Exposition Dedication
Ceremonies Memorial (Chicago: Metropolitan Art Engraving and Publishing, 1893), 573.
17See announcements of Straub’s compositions in “Contemporary Literature,” Ladies
Repository, 28 (December 1868): 473. In the preface to his book, Good Cheer!, Straub claims
to have “successfully used [the sequence of instruction] for many years,” suggesting that he
taught in Dowagiac. S. W. Straub, Good Cheer! For Singing Classes, Conventions, Choirs, Day
Schools, Societies, Etc. (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1874), 2.
18Mathews, A Hundred Years, 640–49, 714; “Obituaries: United States,” in The American
Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1870, vol. 10 (New York: D.
Appleton, 1872), 582; “Northwestern Items,” Chicago Republican, July 1, 1870, 2; “Our
Neighbors,” Elkhart Weekly Review, Thursday, August 18, 1870, 2.
19Root, Story, 142, 145–46; Mathews, A Hundred Years, 92, 402–4, 580.
1873.20 His instructors included Robert Goldbeck (1839–1908), a famous composer
and pianist who established music conservatories in Chicago and St. Louis, and Carl
Zerrahn (1826–1909), who led several Boston organizations in American premieres
of works by Mozart, Haydn, and Mendelssohn.21 Straub was clearly an advanced
pupil and respected colleague by 1873 when the faculty selected him to perform as a
tenor soloist for Michael Costa’s oratorio, Eli, on the Institute’s final concert.22
In 1871, Solomon and Pheobe moved to Lansing, Michigan, where Jacob had been
preaching for five years. Advertisements in the local newspaper indicated that both
Solomon and his wife worked as “teachers of piano, organ, cultivation of the voice,
harmony or thorough-base, and composition [with] especial attention given those
designing to teach.”23 In 1872, Jacob accepted a call from a church in Muskegon,
Michigan, and Solomon relocated his family to Chicago, Illinois, where he built a suc-
cessful career as an educator, composer, editor, and publisher.24 The Straubs eventu-
ally moved to a house in the Woodlawn Park neighborhood and welcomed their second
son, Stanley Leroy (1879–1964), to the family.25 Mary Ann and Maria lived nearby, as
did Jacob, when he was not committed to a congregation.26
Solomon remained active in the Universalist Church by serving on denominational
committees, advocating for quality music for the Sunday school, and supporting the
20Catalog of the Chicago Musical College: 1872-1873/National Normal Musical Institute:
Session of 1872 (Chicago: Evening Post Book and Job Printing House, 1872), 23; “Music. The
Second Institute Concert,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1873, 3.
21Mathews, A Hundred Years, 551, 580; A. Ehrlich, Celebrated Pianists of the Past and Present:
A Collection of One Hundred and Thirty-Nine Biographies, with Portraits (Philadelphia, PA:
Theodore Presser, 1894), 380–81; Newton Bateman, “Seventh Biennial Report of the
Superintendent of Public Instruction,” in Reports made to the General Assembly of Illinois, at
its Twenty-Sixth Season (vol. 2) (Springfield, IL: Illinois Journal Printing Office, 1869), 841;
Grove Music Online, s.v. “Zerrahn, Carl,” accessed July 30, 2010, http://www.oxfordmusicon-
22“Music. The Second Institute Concert,” 1873, 3.
23“Business Directory: Musical,” Lansing State Republican, May 18, 1871 to September 12,
1872, n.p. Pheobe was a soprano soloist who sometimes performed with Straub. “Musical
Institute,” Wichita Daily Eagle, December 29, 1885, 3.
24“First Universalist Church of Lansing Records in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater
Lansing Archives,” uucglarchives.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/c1.pdf, accessed January 7,
2014, 1; Willard and Livermore, 699.
25“United States Census, 1880,” index and images, FamilySearch, S. W. Straub, Chicago, Cook,
Illinois, United States; citing sheet 62B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0186, accessed
December 11, 2013, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MXNN-V5R; “United States Social
Security Death Index,” index, FamilySearch, Stanley Straub, May 1964; citing US Social Security
Administration, Death Master File, database, Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information
Service, ongoing, accessed December 12, 2013, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J18R-WM7.
26History of DeKalb County, Indiana, 504; “Straub, Miss Maria,” A Woman of the Century,
1893, 699; Universalist Register,… 1897, ed. Richard Eddy (Boston: Universalist Publishing
House, 1895), 122; E. R. Hanson, Our Women Workers, 1884, 492; Both Mary and Maria
56 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
church’s involvement in the national temperance movement, for which he wrote sev-
eral anthems.27 He also maintained a private voice studio, performed as a vocalist and
organist, conducted sacred choral concerts in the community, and participated in activ-
ities of the Illinois Music Teachers Association.28 Solomon continued his work in
Chicago until his death on September 2, 1899, at fifty-six years of age.29 He was bur-
ied in the Straub family plot in Swan Cemetery, Noble County, Indiana.30
Straub’s sons pursued their own musical careers. Arthur studied piano with William
Mason, William H. Sherwood, and William C. E. Seeboeck and eventually joined his
father in teaching and publishing. He traveled extensively and was a featured soloist in
the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.31 Arthur taught singing classes in north-
ern Illinois in the late 1890s and, in 1897, married Lois Maude Bell from Sacramento,
California, and managed the US tour of the Margaret Mather Theater Company of
Toronto, Canada. The couple moved to Detroit, Michigan, around 1899, where Arthur
operated the Studio of Vocal Art and his deceased father’s publishing business.32 Stanley
remained in Chicago and worked as a self-employed music teacher until retiring to
suffered from poor health due to Malaria contracted as children in Indiana. Neither could sustain
careers and relied on family for their care.
27Universalist Register,… 1896, ed. Richard Eddy (Boston: Universalist Publishing House,
1896), 16; The Columbian Congress of the Universalist Church: Papers and Addresses at the
Congress, Held as a Section of the World’s Congress Auxiliary of the Columbian Exposition,
1893 (Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1894), 353; “The Universalist Sunday-School
Convention,” Indianapolis Sentinel, June 11, 1877, p. 4; “Pastor and People,” Daily Inter
Ocean, June 8, 1878, 9; S. W. Straub, Temperance Battle Songs: For the Use of Choirs and Glee
Clubs in All Kinds of Temperance Meetings (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1883).
28S. W. Straub, “Ear Training,” Paper read at the convention of the Indiana Music Teachers
Association, June 23, 1897, reprinted in Werner’s Magazine 20, no. 1 (1897): 35; “Social Notices,”
Daily Inter Ocean, May 21, 1890, 3; “Universalist Women in Session,” Daily Inter Ocean, May 28,
1896, 8; “Music Teachers’ Association,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 9, 1889, 28.
29“Obituary,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 4, 1899, 7.
30Whan Collection, “Swan Cemetery Index,” Noble County Indiana Library web site, accessed
May 26, 2014, http://gen.nobleco.lib.in.us/Cemeteries/Swan.htm.
31Columbian Exposition Dedication Ceremonies Memorial (Chicago: Metropolitan Art
Engraving, 1893), 573; “School of Piano” [advertisement], Sacramento Daily Union, October
3, 1889, 2; “From Outlying Wards,” Daily Inter Ocean, August 25, 1889, 14.
32“Rochelle Doings,” Rockford Daily Register-Gazette, March 16, 1898, 3; “Of our Neighbors,”
Rockford Daily Register-Gazette, April 19, 1898, 8; “Social Events,” Sacramento Daily Record-
Union, September 11, 1897, 6; “Death of Prof. Straub,” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, September 8,
1899, 5; The Detroit Society Address Book: Elite Family Directory, Club Membership, 1900-1901
(New York: Dau, 1900), 138; S. W. Straub, Straub’s New Model for Singing Classes, Conventions,
Institutes, High Schools, Normal Schools, Academies, Colleges, and Singing Societies (Detroit, MI: S.
W. Straub, 1901 [originally published in Chicago in 1894]). Bell likely was a distant cousin to Arthur
on his mother’s side of the family. She moved to Chicago in July of 1890 to study music and work as
a bookkeeper for Straub. “Social and Personal,” Sacramento Daily Record-Union, July 31, 1890, 2.
33“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” index and images,
FamilySearch, Stanley Leroy Straub, 1917-1918; citing Chicago City no 17, Illinois, United
Composer, Editor, and Publisher
Solomon Straub composed numerous vocal and keyboard works during his
career.34 Like his mentor, George Root, and other popular American composers of
the day, his music featured simple harmonies and predictable melodies that
appealed to the masses and were easy to learn.35 Many of his songs adhered to the
form established by Stephen Foster that included solo verses followed by a four-
part chorus, and sentimental themes that centered on the home, mother, death,
love, and other common experiences.36 Straub’s music for children utilized con-
servative vocal ranges and lyrics that encouraged “industry, perseverance, hope,
kindness, respect, duty, obedience, patriotism, temperance, and Trust in Him
whose loving hand is over all.”37
Straub wrote several of his earliest known songs while living in Dowagiac. “The
Lost Child” tells the true story of a small boy who wandered from his home and
drowned in a local river. “Hail, Beautiful Banner” celebrated the Union victory in the
U.S. Civil War and was dedicated to Solomon’s sister, Barbara B. (Straub) Basset, of
Butler, Indiana. These pieces featured lyrics by Maria and were self-published by
Straub in 1868.38 Root and Cady of Chicago issued the temperance anthem, “Gird On,
Gird On, Your Sword of Trust,” that same year and included “Good Night” and “Let
States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records.
Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1493510, accessed December 12, 2013, https://familyse-
arch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K68F-7GN; “United States Census, 1940,” index and images,
FamilySearch, Stanley L Straub in household of Everett B. Frain, Tallahassee, Election Precinct
11, Leon, Florida, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 37-8, sheet 24B, family 525,
NARA digital publication of T627, roll 597, accessed June 1, 2014, https://familysearch.org/
34Advertisements in a late publication by Straub list 30 books, 5 vocal solos, 15 songs with
chorus, 6 vocal ensembles, 4 keyboard works, 5 Sunday school programs, and 8 sacred and 6
secular choral/vocal collections composed, arranged, edited, or compiled by Straub. S. W
Straub. Song Magic and Star Singer Combined (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1896), front matter and
35See, e.g., S. W. Straub, Living Fountain: A New and Choice Collection of Sunday School
Songs: Also Excellent Pieces for Praise and Prayer Meetings and the Home (Chicago: S. W.
Straub, 1884), 2.
36P. H. Carder, George F. Root, Civil War Songwriter: A Biography (Jefferson, NC: McFarland,
2008), 37–49; Deane L. Root. “Foster, Stephen C.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online.
Oxford University Press, accessed December 22, 2013, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/
37“Happy Moments” [advertisement], in Ever New! (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1885), front
38S. W. Straub and Maria Straub, “The Lost Child,” in The Golden Rule: A Collection of Songs,
Hymns, and Chants for Sunday-schools, Juvenile Concerts, Festivals, Anniversaries, and the
Home Circle (Cincinnati, OH: John Church, 1872), 151–53; S. W. Straub and Maria Straub,
“Hail! Beautiful Banner!” (Dowagiac, MI: S. W. Straub, 1868); “Contemporary Literature,”
Ladies Repository, 28 (December 1868): 473.
58 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
the People Praise Thee,” in Chauncey Wyman’s collection, The Psalm, in 1870.39
Additional publishers of Straub’s early compositions included S. Brainard and Sons of
Cleveland, G. D. Russell and Company in Boston, C. J. Whitney and Company from
Detroit, John Church and Company of Cincinnati, and Chandler and Curtiss in
John Church and Company published Straub’s first book, The Golden Rule: A
Collection of Songs, Hymns, and Chants for Sunday-schools, Juvenile Concerts,
Festivals, Anniversaries, and the Home Circle, in the fall of 1872. The text contained
141 songs appropriate for opening and closing exercises, special occasions and con-
certs, and solos with chorus. Straub contributed 73 original pieces and collaborated
with Mary and Maria on lyrics for 32 of the selections. Other composers represented
in The Golden Rule included George F. Root, Philip P. Bliss, William A. Ogden, and
Horatio R. Palmer.41 E. Tower Root and business partner William Lewis published
Straub’s second book in 1874 titled Good Cheer!: For Singing Classes, Conventions,
Choirs, Day Schools, Societies, Etc. The text contained three sections: (I) Elementary
exercises in singing and note reading, (II) secular glees, quartets, and songs, and (III)
sacred anthems, hymn tunes, and chants.42
Chicago publishers Jansen, McClurg and Company and Root and Sons Music han-
dled Straub’s subsequent books (see Appendix) until 1879, when he launched his own
firm from his home at 3013 Indiana Avenue in Chicago.43 He relocated the business to
39“New Music,” Song Messenger of the North-West, May 1868, 7; C. M. Wyman, The Palm: A
Collection of Sacred Music for Choirs, Singing Schools and Conventions (Chicago: Root and
Cady, 1870), 52, 316.
40S. W. Straub, “Mother Come Home to Me” (Cleveland, OH: S. Brainard & Sons, 1871); S. W.
Straub, “Oh Let Me In” (Boston: G. D. Russell, 1871); S. W. Straub, My Childhood’s Home
(Detroit, MI: C. J. Whitney, 1872); S. W. Straub, Little Blue Eyes (Cincinnati, OH: John Church,
1873); S. W. Straub, We Shall Know Each Other Better, By and By (Chicago: Chandler & Curtiss,
1874). S. Brainard and Sons acquired the Root and Cady sheet music catalog in 1871 after the
Great Chicago Fire destroyed the company’s physical assets. Carder, George F. Root, 181.
41Straub, The Golden Rule, passim; “The ‘Golden Rule’” [advertisement], The Christian Union
6, no. 19 (1872, October 30): 369. Root and Cady sold their book catalog to John Church and
Company in February 1872. Carder, George F. Root, 181. Other composers represented in The
Golden Rule were among the most prominent gospel hymn writers in the country. J. H. Hall,
Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914),
42Straub, Good Cheer!, 3, 29, 71. E. Tower Root and William Lewis established their company
after Root and Cady dissolved following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Former business associ-
ates came together once again when Root and Lewis, George F. Root and Sons, and Chandler and
Curtiss merged to form Root and Sons Music Company in 1875. Carder, George F. Root, 181.
43I determined this date based on the appearance of the company periodical, The Song Friend,
in 1879 and the address listed for Straub’s home and business. “United States Census, 1880,”
index and images, FamilySearch, S. W. Straub, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing
sheet 62B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0186, accessed January 20, 2014, https://
familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MXNN-V5R; “Song Friend” [advertisement], Kalamazoo
Gazette, November 9, 1880, 3.
69 Dearborn Street around 1882, State Street circa 1884, and the Auditorium Building
on Michigan Avenue in the mid-1890s.44 Although several companies previously
issued Straub’s works, he retained the rights to many of them and, therefore, was able
to offer an extensive catalog from the start.45 He also arranged distribution partner-
ships with Oliver Ditson of Boston, W. A. Pond in New York, C. J. Whitney of Detroit,
and F. A. North in Philadelphia, which helped establish his firm on a national level.46
A number of composers published with Straub’s company. Thomas Martin Towne
(1835–1912) was born in Colerain, Franklin County, Massachusetts. He studied with
William F. Sherwin in Albany, New York, before teaching in Ypsilanti and Detroit,
Michigan. He left the profession temporarily to perform as a musician in the Union
Army during the U.S. Civil War and then taught in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and edited
Sunday school music for the David C. Cook Publishing House in Chicago. Towne
attended the Normal Musical Institute in North Reading in 1860 and served on the
faculty in 1870.47 Jairus Maxson Stillman (1834–1917) was born in Alfred, New York,
and learned music from his father who led a church choir and taught singing schools
in the area. He held a Doctor of Music degree from Alfred University, attended Root’s
Normal Musical Institute in 1857 and 1870, and served as a professor at Milton
College in Milton, Wisconsin, from 1885 to 1909.48 William Frederick Werschkul
(1850–1933) immigrated with his family to the United States from Prussia in 1859 and
grew up in Muskegon, Michigan.49 He was teaching music in Rome City, Indiana, by
June 1880, and then moved to Chicago and worked with Straub until the end of the
decade, when he married and relocated to Portland, Oregon.50
44See addresses listed in S. W. Straub, “Mother in our Angel Home” [sheet music] (S. W.
Straub, 1882), back cover; “Best Books” [advertisement], Journal of Education 20, no. 14
(1884): 236; Straub, Song Magic and Star Singer Combined, 1.
45S. W. Straub, “Military Galop” [sheet music] (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1882), back cover. The
back cover advertisement lists several works available from Straub that formerly were pub-
lished by other firms.
46Straub, “Mother in our Angel Home,” cover; Straub, “Military Galop,” cover.
48[Stillman obituary], The Journal-Telephone, March 1, 1917, 1. Straub probably met Towne
and Stillman in 1870 while attending the Normal Musical Institute. Root, Story, 145.
49“Oregon, Death Index, 1903-1998,” index, FamilySearch, accessed January 11, 2014, https://
familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VZHZ-L6R; William Werschkul, 1933; “United States Census,
1880,” index and images, FamilySearch, William Werschkul, Muskegon, Michigan, United
States; citing sheet 182D, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0597, accessed February
17, 2014, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MW33-9F4.
50“Pencil Points,” Muskegon Daily Chronicle, June 11, 1880, 3; The Lakeside Annual Directory
of the City of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Directory Company, 1887), 1629; “United States
Census, 1900,” index and images, FamilySearch, William F. Werschkul in household of Phoebe
E Devoll, Precinct 51 Portland city Ward 11, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing sheet,
family 61, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241351, accessed January 11,
60 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
Arthur Straub also contributed vocal and piano music to the catalog. His first piece,
“Be kind to Bessie” (1885) featured lyrics by Mary Straub and told the story of a dying
mother’s plea for her son to take care of his little sister.51 Arthur’s piano works, such
as “Woodlawn Waltz,” “Springtime Quickstep,” and “Annie Laurie Variations” were
in a light classical style accessible to both listeners and amateur musicians.52
Music publishers of the nineteenth century often advertised new works and publi-
cized the activities of their composers through a company magazine. These periodicals
also usually included articles and sheet music to attract subscribers. Several of Straub’s
early compositions appeared in The Song Messenger published by Root and Cady and,
eventually, Root and Sons, of Chicago.53 Likewise, Straub issued The Song Friend
beginning in late 1879 as the main organ of the firm.54 This publication consisted of
thirty-two pages of news items, articles on sacred and secular music, voice culture,
theory, and pedagogy, as well as sheet music for voice and keyboard.55 Solomon
served as general editor with the assistance of his sister, Maria, and his son, Arthur,
who edited the piano department.56 Subscriptions to The Song Friend cost $1.00 per
year and included a premium of three pieces of sheet music. Single copies sold for
10¢. Straub offered “liberal inducements” to “canvassers” who would sell the publica-
Straub discontinued The Song Friend in 1894 but published new music until at least
1897. Late works in the company’s catalog included combined volumes of previously
issued books58 and “Ever Ready Two-Step March” (1897) and “Dorothy Waltz” (1897)
by Arthur Straub, both of which were “up to date in every respect [and] . . . popular in
all leading theater and dance orchestras in the United States and Canada.”59 Arthur
assumed control of the family business following his father’s death in 1899. He relo-
cated the firm to Detroit, Michigan, in 1900 and operated out of offices in the Abend-
Post newspaper building at 58 Miami Avenue where he also maintained a voice studio.
51Arthur M. Straub, “Be kind to Bessie! or, the Dying Mother’s Request” (Chicago: S. W.
52See catalog descriptions in S. W. Straub, Good Luck, for Singing Classes, Conventions,
Normal Schools, Academies, Institutes, Colleges and the Home (S. W. Straub, Chicago, 1890),
53“The Song Messenger” [advertisement], in P. Benson, Sr., A Book (Chicago: Geo. F. Root &
Sons, 1874), 112; “Music,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1872, 7.
54“Literary Notes,” The Educational Weekly 7, no. 145 (January 22, 1880), 126.
55“The Song Friend” [flyer], inserted into S. W. Straub, Concord: Containing Theory,
Illustrations and Practical Exercises in the Elements of Vocal Music: Sacred and Secular
Choruses, Glees, Part-Songs, Quartets, Anthems, Hymn-Tunes and Chants (Chicago, S. W.
56“Straub, Miss Maria,” A Woman of the Century, 699; Columbian Exposition, 1893, 573.
57“New Publications,” July 14, 1888, 4; “The Song Friend” [flyer].
58“Pen and Press,” Northern Christian Advocate, January 20, 1897, 42; S. W. Straub, Happy
Moments and Woodland Echoes Combined (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1896); Straub, Song Magic
and Star Singer Combined.
59“Latest Popular Waltz and Two-Step,” Northwestern, April 8, 1897, 10.
Arthur apparently issued no new works before selling the catalog to Echo Music of
Chicago around 1903.60
Conductor and Teacher Educator
Straub’s success as a composer and tune book editor probably helped him become a
popular leader of singing conventions, musical institutes, and chautauqua assemblies.
Although people sometimes used these terms interchangeably, a “convention” by
Straub’s time typically met for a few days and centered on mass choral performance
for amateur singers. “Institutes” lasted for a longer period and focused on teacher
preparation, but usually welcomed students who simply wanted to improve their own
musicianship.61 Chautauquas were three- to ten-day events held in the summer that
provided adults with education, culture, and entertainment. The first of these assem-
blies met in 1874 at Chautauqua Lake, New York, to train Sunday school teachers.
Their popularity led to similar events with expanded programs throughout the United
States. Many chautauquas included music departments that provided opportunities for
instruction and choral singing.62 Straub’s work at Root’s institute and the desire to
promote his own books and materials probably inspired him to begin leading various
musical events in the mid-1870s.63
Conventions and Chautauqua Assemblies. Straub organized his first known musical con-
vention in March 1874, in Muskegon, Michigan, where his brother was working as a
minister. The program included class voice lessons and a final concert held at the local
academy of music. A similar convention in Muskegon the following year concluded
with a concert featuring “the best voices in the city” singing “Hallelujah” from
Handel’s Messiah at the local Methodist Episcopal Church.64 Although Straub con-
ducted many successful conventions throughout his career (see Table 1), not every
event went smoothly. The Rochester Spy, for example, reported in 1877 that Straub’s
60The Detroit Society Address Book, 1900, 138; S. W. Straub, Straub’s New Model, 1901. All of
the works advertised in the 1901 edition of Straub’s New Model were published prior to
Solomon’s death. See 1903 edition of S. W. Straub, Happy Moments and Woodland Echoes:
For Public Schools, Seminaries, Normal Schools, and Juvenile Classes (Chicago: Echo Music,
61Birge, History of Public School Music, 29–32; Hash, “George F. Root’s Normal Musical
Institute,” 276–277. Amateur singers generated additional income for the institutes and pro-
vided singers for the large choral works.
62Charlotte Canning, “What Was Chautauqua?,” Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the
Twentieth Century. University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections and University Archives,
accessed February 22, 2014, http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/tc/.
63Leaders of conventions and institutes frequently sold their products during these gatherings.
Keene, A History of Music Education, 131–32.
64“Business of our City,” Muskegon Chronicle, March 19, 1874, 1; “[notice],” Muskegon
Chronicle, May 13, 1875, 6.
62 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
convention in that city “was not a success financially” and that “the ‘professor’ got his
pay and skipped out, but the executive committee, the printers and others were left to
hold the bag.”65
Most of Straub’s professional engagements occurred in the Midwest. In February
1886, however, he, his family, and W. F. Werkschul traveled to Sacramento, California,
where they visited relatives and led a three-day convention at the Young Men’s
Christian Association. An announcement in the Sacramento Daily Record Union listed
sessions at 10:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. and promised that “vocal culture, sight
reading, church music, etc. [would] be thoroughly treated.” The “Grand Concert” at
the Methodist Episcopal Church on February 17 featured solos and ensembles per-
formed by the faculty and choral works presented by the choir.67
The chautauqua movement brought new opportunities for Straub. From June 26 to
July 7, 1890, both he and his son Arthur taught and performed at the chautauqua in
Table 1. Partial List of Conventions Organized by Straub: 1874-1896.66
Date Location Date Location
March 1874 Muskegon, MI November 1882 Holton, KS
May 1875 Muskegon, MI October 1885 LaOtto, IN
November 1875 Churubusco, IN February 1886 Sacramento, CA
fall 1877 Rochester, IN August/September 1886 Bringhurst, IN
May 1878 Manistee, MI February 1889 Bluffton, OH
May 1878 LaGrange, IN May 1889 Crown Point, IN
December 1878aAuburn, IN August 1889 Portland, IN
December 1879aHuntertown, IN December 1893aMilburn, IL
January 1882 Goshen, IN May 1896 Racine, WI
a.Held during the Christmas season and designated as holiday conventions.
65“Professor Straub’s Musical Convention,” Rochester Spy, as cited by Marshall County
Republican, October 11, 1877, 2.
66“Business of our City,” 1874, 1; “[notice],” 1875, 6; “From Churubusco, Indiana,” Daily Inter
Ocean, November 22, 1875, 3; “Professor Straub’s Musical Convention,” 1877, 2; “Straub’s
Normal Musical Institute,” Elkhart Daily Review, May 17, 1878, 2; “Amusements,” Chicago
Daily Tribune, November 30, 1878, 3; Fort Wayne Sentinel, December 8, 1879, 1; Goshen
Democrat, January 11, 1882, 7; “Musical Notes at Home,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November
26, 1889, 21; “The City,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, September 29, 1885, 4; “A Musical Convention”
[advertisement], Sacramento Daily Record-Union, February 13, 1886, 8; “In General,” Delphi
Journal, August 26, 1886, 15; “Musical Notes,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 3, 1889, 28;
“Musical Notes,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 19, 1889, 28; “Musical Convention,” Portland
Commercial, August 1, 1889, 4; “Musical Notes,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 24, 1893,
26; “[announcement],” Racine Journal, May 7, 1896, 8.
67“A Musical Convention” [advertisement], February 13, 1886, 8. Phoebe Straub, her sister
Catherine Bowling, and brother-in-law Hiram D. Bowing also made trip and performed on the
final concert on February 17. “Brief Notes,” Sacramento Daily Record-Union, February 18,
Beatrice, Nebraska. Solomon led choral singing at 9:45 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and Arthur
presented two piano recitals per day.68 They also participated in the Black Hills
Chautauqua in South Dakota the following month where Solomon’s chorus of around
thirty-five singers led music at Sunday worship services and presented concerts for the
public.69 Straub continued teaching at chautauquas throughout the 1890s, including
the Southern Oregon Chautauqua in Ashland, Oregon, in July 1894, and the Delevan
Lake Assembly, in Delevan, Wisconsin, in July 1899, which might have been his last
Straub and his associates began leading annual normal musical institutes in 1874 that
lasted from 10 days to five weeks in cities throughout the Midwest.71 Straub’s Normal
Musical Institute in 1877 met in Plymouth, Indiana, from July 9 to August 10. Forty
students enrolled in the instructional program, and an additional thirty-five singers
from the community joined the chorus.72 Three final concerts at the Centennial Opera
House featured faculty and students singing solos by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and
Wagner, as well as oratorio choruses by Handel and Haydn.73 Although deemed “quite
successful,” several citizens in Plymouth felt that “the management of the musical
normal was decidedly of the penurious order,” because Straub charged $25.00 to lead
music at high school graduation the previous month but refused to provide concert
tickets to the board of education who granted the Institute free use of the school
Straub agreed to hold the Institute in Elkhart, Indiana, the following year if the city
could guarantee twenty-five students and provide a furnished room to hold classes.75
The session commenced on Monday, July 8, in the Central School Building with about
68“The Summer Assemblies for 1890,” The Chautauquan 11, no. 4 (1890): 490; “Boating at
Chautauqua,” Omaha World Herald, July 2, 1890, 1; “A Western Chautauqua,” Daily Inter
Ocean, July 5, 1890, 9.
69“Black Hills Chautauqua,” Omaha World Herald, August 19, 1890, 4; “Hot Springs
Chautauqua,” Omaha World Herald, August 28, 1890, 2.
70“Other Chautauqua Assemblies,” The Chautauquan 19, no. 4 (1894): 511; “For the Second
Year,” Rockford Morning Star, May 20, 1899, 8.
71“The American Normal Musical Institute,” Manford’s Magazine 32, no. 5 (1888): 319.
Announcements of Straub’s institute in 1888 identified the event as the fifteenth annual session.
Although the local newspaper call the events in Muskegon, Michigan, in 1874 and 1875 con-
ventions, Straub might have considered these his first institutes.
72“City and Vicinity Notes,” Marshall County Republican, July 19, 1877, 3.
73“Music,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1877, 11; “Music,” Chicago Daily Tribune,
September 2, 1877, 11.
74“City and Vicinity Notes,” Marshall County Republican, July 19, 1877, 3; “City and Vicinity
Notes” and C. Whitmore, “Specimen Straubery,” Marshall County Republican, August 23,
75“Local Brevities,” Elkhart Evening Review, February 5, 1878, 3.
64 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
fifty pupils from Indiana and surrounding states.76 Friday matinées and evening con-
certs featured solos and ensembles performed by the faculty as well as selections from
Straub’s latest book, The Convention and Choir (1877), presented by the institute cho-
rus (see Table 2).77 Organizers stated, “It is hoped that there will be awakened in our
city such a musical interest as a result of the Normal that our [music] teachers will
have double the number in their classes . . . and that our school board will see the
necessity of having music taught in our schools.”78 Straub bolstered the campaign for
public school music by featuring a special chorus of one hundred children at an eve-
ning program on Saturday, August 3, 1878.79
Table 2. Normal Musical Institute, Matinée Program, Friday, July 26, 1878, Elkhart, Indiana.80
1. “Hosanna in the Highest”aAnthem J. F. Kinsey
2. “O Lord, our Lord”aDuet and chorus William M. Rule
3. “We Parted in Silence”aQuartet S. W. Straub
4. “Fading, Still Fading”aSolo and chorus George A. Osborne
Institute Chorus and Soloists
5. “Nancy Lee” Solo Stephen Adams
S. W. Straub
6. “Meditation” &
Piano solo Louis M. Gottschalk
7. “Sunday Night” Serio-comique George Root
W. F. Werschkul
8. “See the Pale Moon” Duet F. Campana
Mr. & Mrs. Straub
9. “Our Country”bMale chorus S. W. Straub
10. “Monny a Schlip” Humorous bass solo
Mr. C. R. Reed
11. “Gallant and Gaily”aWaltz chorus S. W. Straub
12 “Hot Cross Buns”aCatch S. W. Straub
13. “Again the Roses will
Glee S. W. Straub
a.From Convention and Choir (1877).
b.From Woodland Echoes (1878).
76“Local Brevities,” Elkhart Evening Review, July 8, 1878, 3.
77“Local Brevities,” Elkhart Evening Review, July 25, 1878, 3; S. W. Straub, The Convention
and Choir (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg and Company, 1877). Friday matinee concerts were also
popular at Straub’s Institute in Plymouth the year before. “Matinée Concert,” Marshall County
Republican, July 19, 1877, 3; “Saturday,” Elkhart Weekly Review, Thursday, May 30, 1878, 4;
“Straub’s Musical Normal,” Elkhart Evening Review, July 13, 1878, 3; “Local Brevities,”
Elkhart Evening Review, August 10, 1878, 3.
78“Music,” Elkhart Weekly Review, May 30, 1878, 4.
79“Local Brevities,” Elkhart Evening Review, August 3, 1878, 3.
Subsequent institutes met on an annual basis (see Table 3).81 By 1883, Straub’s
school had become the American Normal Musical Institute and offered courses in
teaching methods, church music, voice culture, harmony, composition, conducting,
solo singing, piano, and organ. Although the school focused on teacher preparation,
the faculty welcomed students who simply wanted to participate for their own
The success of the convention held in Sacramento, California, in February 1886
prompted Straub to organize a ten-day institute the following month at the First Baptist
Church in that city. The complete course of fifty lessons cost $5.00, with individual
classes offered at $2.00 each. The daily program included coursework in church music
(2:00 p.m.), two grades of harmony (3:00 p.m.), elementary studies for children and
adults (4:00 p.m.), and voice culture (7:00 p.m.), as well as a rehearsal of the “Grand
Chorus” at 8:00 p.m.83
Arthur Straub returned to Sacramento in the fall of 1889 to perform and teach. He
opened a School of Piano at Hodson’s Art Gallery and promised that “much time and
Table 3. Normal Musical Institutes Organized by Straub: 1874–1889.
Date Location Date Location
1874 ? 1883 Goshen, IN
1875 ? 1884 Michigan City, IN
1876 ? 1885 Whitewater, WI
1877 Plymouth, IN 1886 Sacramento, CA
1878 Elkhart, IN 1886 Oregon, IL
1879 Ligonier, IN 1886 Wichita, KS
1880 Warsaw, IN 1887 Charleston, IL
1881 Dowagiac, MI 1888 Dixon, IL
1882 Goshen, IN 1889 Three Rivers, MI
1882 Marseilles, IL
80“Local Brevities,” July 25, 1878, 3.
81“Local Brevities,” Elkhart Daily Review, June 24, 1879, 3; “State News,” The Educational
Weekly 9, no. 202 (1881): 317. “A Musical Normal at Goshen, Ind.” Chicago Daily Tribune,
July 10, 1882, 8; “[A Musical Institute],” Ottawa Free Trader, August 5, 1882, 1; “State and
Vicinity,” Muskegon Chronicle, July 8, 1884, 3; “The American Normal Musical Institute,”
New Ulm Review, June 3, 1885; 1; “Musical Institute,” Wichita Daily Eagle, December 29,
1885, 3; “Normal Musical Institute” [advertisement], Sacramento Daily Union, March 3, 1886,
2; “The American Normal Musical Institute,” New Ulm Review, May 19, 1886, 8; “Matters of
Music,” Chicago Daily Tribune,” July 17, 1887, 3; “The American Normal Musical Institute,”
Manford’s Magazine 32, no. 5 (May 1888): 319; “Musical Notes,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June
9, 1889, 28.
82“The American Normal Musical Institute,” [advertisement], in Straub, Concord, 1883, inside
front cover; “The American Normal Musical Institute,” June 3, 1885, 1.
83“Normal Musical Institute,” March 3, 1886, 2.
66 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
money [could] be saved by studying his modern methods of piano techniques, as
taught by Miss Amy Fay, Carlyle Petersilia, W. C. E Seeboeck, William Sherwood and
Dr. William Mason.”84 Arthur remained in California until the spring of 1890, when he
returned to Chicago to join his father in convention and chautauqua work.85
Assistant teachers at Straub’s institutes included W. F. Werschkul, T. Martin
Towne, Jarius M. Stillman, Arthur M. Straub, and other prominent musicians from
Chicago.86 C. A. Havens, for example, composed and taught vocal and instrumental
music at Chicago Female College and Morgan Park Military Academy.87 Amy Fay
(1844–1928) was born in Louisiana and studied piano with Franz Liszt in Weimar,
Germany. She relocated to Chicago from Boston in 1878 and gained a national repu-
tation as a concert performer, lecturer, music critic, and teacher.88 N. Wardner
Williams taught voice and conducted ensembles at the University of Chicago. His
teachers included William Hall Sherwood, Carl Zerrahn, and Alexandre Guilmant of
the National Conservatory of Paris.89 William D. Berry was an African-American
singer originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who was described as “a finely-
cultured tenor, a ready reader of music, and excellent in oratorio performance.”90
Adolf Koelling was an accomplished pianist and head of the composition depart-
ment at the Chicago Musical College, and Miss Mollie Adelia Brown worked as a
teacher and vocalist in the city.91
The American Normal Musical Institute closed after its sixteenth season, held in
Three Rivers, Michigan, in 1889.92 Several factors probably contributed to the end of
the school, including competition created by similar institutes operated by large pub-
lishers to promote new music textbook series for public schools. Hosea E. Holt, for
example, began offering a course in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1884 to generate
sales for the Normal Music Course. This program became the American Institute of
Normal Methods and opened a branch at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 1889. Similar
84“School of Piano” [advertisement], Sacramento Daily Record-Union, September 30, 1889, 2.
85“Hot Springs Chautauqua,” August 28, 1890, 2.
86“City and Country,” Goshen Democrat, February 14, 1883, 3; “American Normal Musical
Institute,” May 19, 1886, 8.
87“Music Department of John Church Company” [advertisement], Music 9, (April 1896): 687;
A. T. Andreas, History of Cook County from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Chicago:
A. T. Andreas, 1884), 644.
88Margaret William McCarthy, “Fay, Amy.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online (Oxford
University Press), accessed February 7, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/
89“Wardner Williams,” in Music and Musicians in Chicago: The City’s Leading Artists,
Organizations and Art Buildings, Progress and Development, ed. Florence Ffrench (Chicago:
Florence Ffrench, 1899), 218–19.
90James M. Trotter, Music and Some Highly Musical People (Boston: Lee and Shepherd, 1881),
91Mathews, A Hundred Years, 666; “Home News,” Musical Courier, July 3, 1889, 8.
92“Musical Notes,” June 9, 1889, 28. I found no evidence of the American Normal Musical
Institute after this date.
institutes included the National Summer School of Music, which opened in 1886 to
publicize the National Music Course by Luther Whiting Mason, and the New School
of Methods, organized in Cataumet, Massachusetts, and Chicago, Illinois, in 1895 to
promote the Natural Music Course by Frederick H. Ripley and Thomas Tapper.93
These institutions differed from those that had come before in that they catered primar-
ily to school music supervisors and classroom teachers.94
Solomon Straub was among the third and final generation of music educators directly
influenced by Lowell Mason’s Manual of the Boston Academy of Music, for Instruction
in the Elements of Vocal Music on the System of Pestalozzi (1834).95 This book—
mostly an edited translation of a German textbook by G. F. Kubler—guided numerous
singing school masters who studied at the Academy and eventually Root’s Normal
Musical Institute. Following this system, people learned to sing by rote while beating
time, in order to develop the voice, the ear, and a sense of pulse. Students then studied
rhythm, melody, and dynamics (expression), all broken into smaller units of instruc-
tion. The teacher introduced one concept at a time and then led singers to an under-
standing of theory and notation through questions intended to draw conclusions based
on their observations.96
Straub’s teacher, George F. Root, was a champion for Mason’s pedagogy and
expanded on this approach in his Normal Musical Handbook: A Book of Instruction
and Reference for Teachers of Notation, Voice Culture, Harmony and Church Music,
in Classes (1872).97 Like Mason and Root, Straub was a firm believer in teaching
students to understand musical concepts aurally and condemned teachers who
neglected this skill, saying,
93Birge, History of Public School Music, 134–35; Keene, A History of Music Education, 214.
94Keene, A History of Music Education, 220, 227–28. From the 1880s to the mid-1900s, it was
common for elementary classroom teachers to provide music instruction under the guidance of
a music supervisor.
95Lowell Mason, Manual of the Boston Academy of Music, for Instruction in the Elements of
Vocal Music, on the System of Pestalozzi (Boston: Carter, Hendee, 1834). Johann Heinrich
Pestalozzi (1746–1827) was an early pioneer of child-centered instruction who developed peda-
gogy that focused on children learning inductively through their senses in order to develop the
moral, physical, and mental faculties. Pestalozzi believed that music was especially useful in
developing moral and patriotic feelings among children. Mark and Gary, A History of Music
96Mason, Manual, 6–14, 25–29, 37; Hash, “Root’s Normal Musical Institute,” 268, 278; Howard
Ellis, “Lowell Mason and the Manual of the Boston Academy of Music,” Journal of Research
in Music Education 3, no. 1 (Spring 1955): 3–10.
97George F. Root, The Normal Musical Hand-book: A Book of Instruction and Reference for
Teachers of Notation, Voice Culture, Harmony and Church Music, in Classes (Cincinnati, OH:
John Church, 1872).
68 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
The weakness of ordinary teaching is that the sense of hearing is not trained much, if at
Many begin by teaching first the signs of the things that the pupils do not know. So the
cart is trying to push the horse all the way along. This absurd method should be supplanted
by something better.
The teacher of harmony, if he will, can make this usually dry study full of interest, by
training the ear to recognize the peculiar mental effects of chord-formations, part-placing,
voice-leading, modulations, etc.98
Mason’s Manual of the Boston Academy of Music and Root’s Normal Musical
Handbook influenced Straub’s work throughout his career.99 In following Mason’s
pedagogy of introducing concepts aurally, one-at-a-time, and through a series of ques-
tions, he instructed teachers to
teach thoroughly the new ideas illustrated by the exercises before turning to them in the
book. Give such questions to the class as will lead them to discover the truth themselves
rather than ask them to accept your bare statement. . . . Do not tell the class what you are
going to introduce, but let them find it out.100
Straub, furthermore, recommended that instructors begin preliminary lessons with
easy rote melodies that students could use later to practice beating time in various
meters. He also said that teachers should play the keyboard sparingly and refrain from
singing with the class in order to develop pupils’ independence.101 Straub encouraged
instructors to be as efficient as possible, saying, “The teacher who can get the most
legitimate practice from the class is the best.”102
98S. W. Straub, “Ear Training,” 36, 38.
99Compare, e.g., the instructional material in Straub, Good Cheer!; Straub, Straub’s New Model;
George F. Root, The Sabbath Bell, a Collection of Music for Choirs, Musical Associations,
Singing-Schools, and the Home Circle (New York: Mason Brothers, 1856); and Mason, Manual
of the Boston Academy of Music. In the Preface of Good Cheer!, Straub stated that he had “suc-
cessfully used [the instructional sequence] for many years,” suggesting that he was familiar with
the Manual of the Boston Academy of Music before attending Root’s Normal Musical Institute
100Straub, Convention and Choir, 1877, 4; Reprinted in S. W. Straub, Woodland Echoes: A
Choice Collection of Vocal Music for All Public Schools, Seminaries, Academies and Singing
Classes (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg and Company, 1878), 12.
101S. W. Straub, The Teacher’s Guide to Concord (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1883), 3–6; S. W.
Straub, The Singing Teacher’s Helper (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1885), 3–6. These books are identi-
cal except that The Teacher’s Guide to Concord includes instructions for each piece in the text.
102Straub, Convention and Choir, 4. Straub’s emphasis on efficiency in the classroom eventually
became a mantra of the social efficiency movement during the progressive era. Herbert M.
Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958, 3rd ed. (New York:
RoutledgeFalmer, 2004), 17–20.
Classes taught with Straub’s method began with “Imitation Exercises” (see Figure 1),
whereby the teacher introduced various musical concepts aurally through short melodic
excerpts that students repeated. At first, both the teacher and students sang the exercises
with solfege. Later, the teacher sang the excerpts on la and students attempted to repeat
them with the correct syllables.103 After practicing aural skills, students worked through
the written progressive exercises in one of Straub’s tune books before proceeding to the
choral selections, which filled most of the text.
Straub’s early instruction books, such as Good Cheer (1874) and Song Magic
(1881), began with explanations of “rythmics,” “melodics,” and “dynamics” as
defined by Mason in 1834. Future publications dispensed with this section, but con-
tinued to introduce these elements in the same basic sequence as the Manual of the
Boston Academy of Music. Note reading began with chanting unpitched rhythms
(see Figure 2), and singing numbers, letters, or solfege arranged in ascending and
descending patterns (see Figures 3 and 4).104
Time signatures proceeded in the order of 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4, followed by 6/4 or 6/8.
Some texts also introduced 3/2, 4/2, 9/8, and 12/8. Ever New (1885) utilized 4/4 before
103Straub, Teacher’s Guide to Concord, 6–11. Straub’s process for developing aural skills is
almost identical to that recommended by Edwin E. Gordon when teaching learning sequence
patterns in his Music Learning Theory. Bruce Dalby, About Music Learning Theory
(Albuquerque, NM: 2008), “Learning Sequence Activities,” Gordon Institute for Music
Learning, accessed May 16, 2014, giml.org/docs/AboutMLT.pdf.
104Compare Mason, Manual of the Boston Academy of Music, vi–xi; Straub, Good Cheer!, 3–4;
S. W. Straub, Song Magic for Singing Classes, Day Schools, Conventions, Choirs, Societies,
Institutes and the Home (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1881), 3–8; S. W. Straub, Splendor!: For
Singing Classes, Conventions, Normal Schools, Day Schools, Institutes, Academies, Colleges
and the Home (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1888).
Figure 1. The Singing Teacher’s Helper, p. 7, Imitation Exercise No. 2.
70 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
3/4 and included 2/8, 3/8, and 4/8 as well.105 In Convention and Choir (1877), Straub
began illustrating time signatures with notation for the note that received one beat in
place of the bottom number (e.g., Figure 1). Note and rest values began with the quar-
ter and progressed to the half, dotted half, whole, eighth, dotted quarter, dotted eighth,
Key signatures in Straub’s books were introduced from C major through the circle
of fifths to F# major, then from F major through Gb major. The chromatic scale and
la-based minor modes appeared after major tonality was well established. In Concord
Figure 2. The Convention and Choir, p. 13, Exercise 1.
Figure 3. Splendor, p. 3, Exercises 1.
Figure 4. Ever New, p. 12, Exercise 4.
Note: These exercises began on C and D and introduced the next pitch in the major scale with each
proceeding line. Darker letters indicated prolonged notes at the end of a phrase.
105S. W. Straub and W. F. Werschkul, Ever New! (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1885), 15, 24,
106Straub, Convention and Choir, 4, 13–24. Other books introduced sixteenths before dotted
eights. See, e.g., S. W. Straub, Happy Moments for Public Schools, Seminaries, Normal Schools,
and Juvenile Classes (Chicago: S. W. Straub, 1885), 27.
(1883), Splendor (1888), and other books, students practiced preliminary exercises in
major keys from a staff without a clef or meter, but with do indicated on different lines
and spaces. These studies allowed pupils to experience different keys before an expla-
nation of key signatures and other theoretical concepts (see Figure 5).107 Straub
claimed that these exercises would “make good readers in all the keys, in at least one
half the time required in getting this result, by the usual method” because students
learned to associate solfege syllables with scale degrees rather than absolute pitches in
the starting key of C major.108
Modulation studies that appeared later in the instructional sequence further devel-
oped students’ ability to move from one tonic to another by changing key signatures
every few bars (see Figure 6).109
Part-singing proceeded from two-voice rounds to homophonic exercises in two,
three, and four parts. Other elements such as tempo, style, articulation, and dynamics
gradually were introduced throughout the instructional sequence.110 Students learned
Figure 5. Splendor, p. 6, Exercises a-c.
Figure 6. Splendor, p. 18, Exercise 35.
107See, e.g., Straub, Good Cheer!, 5; Straub, Concord 3–7; Straub, Splendor, 4–5; Straub,
Straub’s New Model, 4–5.
108Straub, Concord, 4.
109Ibid., 22; Straub, Splendor, 15–24, 38–39; Straub and Werschkul, Ever New, 11–22; Straub,
Straub’s New Model, 11, 187.
110See instructional material in Straub, Good Cheer!; S. W. Straub, Star Singer: For Singing
Schools, Musical Institutes, Conventions and Societies (Chicago: Jansen & McClurg, 1879); S.
W. Straub, Song Magic; Concord; Splendor; Straub’s New Model.
72 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
to keep the tonic and beat “fixed in the mind” as they advanced through music at
higher levels of tonal, rhythmic, and textural complexity.111
Straub’s instructional texts also included lessons in voice culture (breathing, vow-
els, consonants, and tone quality) and technique, and a list of definitions and pronun-
ciations of musical terms.112 Later books such as Splendor and Straub’s New Model
presented motivational statements at the top of every page to remind students to take
responsibility for their own learning. Examples from Splendor included, “Be in your
place when the lesson begins,” “Do not laugh when you or your neighbor makes a
mistake,” and “If you cannot read in all the keys now, it is your fault.” Statements in
New Model were a bit more positive: “I will try to sing in tune,” and “I will not be a
‘guesser’ but a ‘reader.’”113
The New Model also abandoned the oblong shape common for tune books of the
nineteenth century and changed the order of vocal parts in the open score from tenor,
alto, soprano, bass, to soprano, alto, tenor, bass. Musical practice in the United States
during the eighteenth century dictated that tenors sing the melody in church because
many believed that it was inappropriate for females to take the lead in worship.114
Around the turn of the nineteenth century, Andrew Law and other composers asserted
the European custom of assigning the melody to the soprano.115 Many tune book com-
pilers, however, continued to honor the superiority of males, at least in principle, by
placing the tenor at the top of the staff. All of Straub’s adult choral books published
before the New Model followed this convention.116
Summary and Conclusions
Solomon W. Straub was born in Butler Township of DeKalb County, Indiana, in 1842.
He taught music in Dowagiac and Lansing, Michigan, before moving to Chicago,
Illinois, in 1873. He attended George F. Root’s Normal Musical Institute from 1870 to
1873, and soon became a popular teacher, conductor, and composer. Straub estab-
lished his own publishing firm in 1879 and promoted his publications and pedagogical
ideas as a leader of singing conventions, normal musical institutes, and chautauqua
111Straub, Splendor, 7–8. Straub’s directions to keep beat and tonic “fixed in the mind” is very
similar to Edwin E. Gordon’s definition of “audiation” in Music Learning Theory [MLT].
Dalby, About MLT, “Audiation.”
112See, e.g., Straub, Concord, 39–44; Straub, Straub’s New Model, 188–191.
113Straub, Splendor, 5, 8, 14, 18, 24; Straub, Straub’s New Model, 14–15.
114Nathaniel D. Gould, Church Music in America, Comprising Its History and Its Peculiarities
at Different Periods, with Cursory Remarks on Its legitimate Use and Its Abuse (Boston: A. N.
Johnson, 1853), 94, 122.
115Bradley L. Green, “Andrew Law’s Select Harmony (1779 Edition): The Context of a Late
Eighteenth Century Tune Book,” Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 32, no. 2
116Songs published in Straub’s books for children in Sunday schools and public schools appeared
in closed score with the melody in the top voice. See, e.g., S. W. Straub, Living Fountain; S. W.
Straub, Happy Moments and Woodland Echoes Combined.
choirs. He worked with a number of colleagues, including his sisters Mary and Maria,
who contributed lyrics for his compositions and helped edit the company periodical,
The Song Friend. Solomon’s son, Arthur, eventually joined the family business by
contributing compositions, editing the piano department of The Song Friend, and
teaching with his father. Other associates included W. F. Werschkul, T. Martin Towne,
J. M. Stillman, and several prominent musicians who published with the company and
assisted at conventions and institutes.
Straub helped perpetuate, support, and develop music education through the cumu-
lative influence of his various musical enterprises. His pedagogy reflected past meth-
ods developed by Lowell Mason forty years prior as well as the philosophies underlying
progressive education during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.117 Many
of Straub’s teaching strategies also foreshadow those recommended by Edwin E.
Gordon and other contemporary music pedagogues.118
Although not considered a major figure in music education today, Straub played an
important role in the musical life of the Midwest United States during the last three
decades of the 1800s and helped carry the profession into the twentieth century.
Additional historical research is needed to identify other men and women who filled
similar roles in music education during this and other times in history. Experimental
studies examining their pedagogical methods also might reveal effective past practices
that teachers could adapt in modern music classrooms. This ongoing line of research
will add to the literature and increase our understanding of the development of music
teaching and learning in the United States.
Books by Solomon W. Straub.
Date Title Publisher Purpose
1872 The Golden Rule John Church Sunday Schools
1874 Good Cheer! Root & Lewis Singing Classes, Conventions
1876 Crown of Glory Jansen, McClurg & Co. Sunday Schools
1877 The Convention & Choir Jansen, McClurg & Co. Conventions, Singing Schools
1878 Woodland Echoes Jansen, McClurg & Co. Public Schools, Singing Classes
1879 The Star Singer Jansen, McClurg & Co. Singing Classes, Conventions
1880 The Morning Light Root & Sons Sunday Schools
1881 Song Magic S. W. Straub Singing Classes, Day Schools
1881 Straub’s Chorus Book S. W. Straub Conventions, Advanced Classes
117See Kliebard, Struggle, 17–20.
118Compare Straub’s pedagogical methods to those of Edwin E. Gordon as described by Dalby,
About MLT, 2008, n.p. Straub’s method for writing time signatures with the bottom figure rep-
resenting the note that gets one beat appears in some present-day teaching materials. See, e.g.,
Konnie K. Saliba, Accent on Orff: An Introductory Approach (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice
74 Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 37(1)
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
Phillip M. Hash is Associate Professor of Music Education at Calvin College in Grand Rapids,
Michigan. His research interests include music education history, instrumental music education,
and music self-concept.
Date Title Publisher Purpose
1882 Anthem Treasures (with
J. M. Stillman)
S. W. Straub Choirs, Public Worship
1882 The Enlarged Morning
S. W. Straub Sunday Schools
1883 Temperance Battle Songs S. W. Straub Choirs & Glee Clubs
1883 Concord S. W. Straub Singing Schools, Conventions
1883 The Teacher’s Guide to
S. W. Straub Pedagogy
1884 Living Fountain S. W. Straub Sunday Schools
1885 Ever New! (with W. F.
S. W. Straub Singing Schools, Conventions
1885 The Singing Teacher’s
S. W. Straub Pedagogy
1885 Happy Moments S. W. Straub Public Schools, Seminaries
1887 Beautiful Songs! S. W. Straub Sunday Schools
1887 Choir & Class S. W. Straub Choirs, Singing Classes
1888 Splendor S. W. Straub Singing Classes, Conventions
1890 Christian Life Songs S. W. Straub Sunday Schools, Prayer Meetings
1890 Good Luck! S. W. Straub Singing Classes, Conventions
1891 Anthems of Joy (with T.
S. W. Straub Church Choirs
1893 Bright Light S. W. Straub Sunday Schools
1894 Straub’s New Model S. W. Straub Singing Classes, Conventions
1896 Beautiful Songs & Living
S. W. Straub [reprint]
1896 Happy Moments &
S. W. Straub [reprint]
1896 Combined Song Magic &
S. W. Straub [reprint]