Music Advocacy – Sinfonia’s Legacy

Peter Dykema on Music Advocacy


Peter W. Dykema, during his Presidency, leads singing in the courtyard of Russell Hall at Columbia University.

Supreme President Peter W. Dykema was a strong believer in the power of music to unify a community and actively promoted and encouraged community singing.

Since the Fraternity’s earliest days, the advancement of music in America has been an integral part of its reason for being. But how has that goal played out in tangible ways?

The earliest major contribution to promoting creativity in music in America was a national composition contest, initially inaugurated by resolution at the 1911 national convention and carried on intermittently until 1960. Arnold Schoenberg (Alpha Epsilon Honorary 1935), Howard Hanson (Iota 1916/Alpha Nu Honorary 1928/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1930), Joseph W. Clokey (Alpha Theta 1923), and Rollin M. Pease (Iota 1917/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1948) are among the prominent Sinfonians who served as judges for these contests. Throughout the years, many chapters have sponsored composition contests as well.

Under the dynamic leadership of Peter W. Dykema, the Fraternity experienced a period of substantial growth and development in the 1920s that catapulted Sinfonia onto the national musical stage. Dykema had served as national president of what is now the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) from 1916 to 1917, during which time he was brought into the Fraternity through election to honorary membership in the Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory. He was a strong advocate of group community singing, serving as editor of the Twice 55 Plus Community Songs series. in addition to serving as the 1924-1925 chairman of Kiwanis International’s Committee on Music. Dykema’s multiple professional affiliations helped lead to the Fraternity establishing strong collaborative relationships with the NAfME and organizations such as the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). For two decades, national conventions of the Fraternity were simultaneously scheduled with those of the MTNA. In addition, Dykema’s dual involvement in both the NAfME and Sinfonia symbolized a connection that has continued through over thirty Sinfonians who have served as national president of NAfME over the years, one of whom – William B. McBride (Omega Honorary 1928/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1964) – served as president of both the Fraternity and the NAfME, as did Dykema before him. Several Sinfonians who served as national president of NAfME have been elected to national honorary membership in the Fraternity. For a number of years, beginning in 1930, both organizations were headquartered at the Lyon & Healy Building (now a part of the DePaul University campus) at 64 East Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.

A tangible and lasting reminder of Sinfonia’s support for music camps dating from the Dykema era is the Sinfonia Lodge at what is now the Interlochen Center for the Arts, dedicated in 1928, the year Interlochen opened, by Dykema and Interlochen co-founder Joseph E. Maddy (Epsilon 1927). Still in use today, the building now serves as the headquarters of the High School Boys Division for the Interlochen Arts Camp.

Sinfonia Lodge at Interlochen

Beginning in 1949, the Fraternity provided an Outstanding Musician Award for summer music camp participants (originally for male students only), the first of which was presented at Interlochen. In addition to Maddy (who served as president of NAfME from 1936 to 1938 and was recognized as the 1960 recipient of the Fraternity’s Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award), two other Interlochen leaders -Thaddeus P. Giddings (Alpha Mu 1930) and Roger E. Jacobi (Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1972) – were Sinfonians. In the early 1960s, a “Sinfonia Club” functioned at Interlochen, as reported in the November 1963 issue of the Sinfonian, with meetings held in the Sinfonia Lodge. The goal of the club was to provide a networking location for Sinfonians participating in the camp, as well as to expand awareness of the Fraternity among high school and university age camp participants. A similar group was considered at the Brevard Music Center near Asheville in western North Carolina. Twice, in 1970 and again in 1973, Interlochen hosted the Fraternity’s national convention. To this day, Sinfonians who serve at Interlochen during the summer continue to network and build upon the bonds of brotherhood.

1954 saw the launch of what is now the Sinfonia Educational Foundation, initially led by Arthur A. Hauser (Rho 1936), president of the Theodore Presser Publishing Company. Over the years, the Foundation and the Fraternity have worked as “one Sinfonia” in advancing music in a variety of ways, including the commissioning of new works, support of the Outstanding Musician Award, research grants, scholarships, and matching grants for chapter projects.

Through the years, chapters have supported and/or carried out a variety of projects, manifesting themselves in marching band competitions, jazz festivals, inter-fraternity sings, contemporary music festivals, new music premieres, and in service to school music programs. Notable among these endeavors is the Lawndale Project, an effort of Northwestern University supported by the Iota Chapter. In the mid-1960s, the university began busing students to Chicago’s poverty stricken districts in order to tutor at-risk high school students. The Iota Chapter sent several brothers to teach music theory and history. The brothers dedicated entire Saturdays in hopes of “giving the student an opportunity to really excel and be recognized as a person, not as merely a member of a race” according to James E. Trapp (Iota 1966), a past president of the chapter. In 1968, Northwestern dropped the Lawndale Project and the organization was in danger of falling apart. However, Iota stepped in and assumed full responsibility in leading the program, allowing it to continue for several more years. Soon, Iota was taking the high school students to the Northwestern campus to attend performances such as Handel’s Messiah and Bach Mass in B Minor. After the concerts, the brothers and students would study the musical scores and discuss the works.
The Fraternity’s Diamond Anniversary in 1973 saw the implementation of several projects, including a Sinfonian speakers’ bureau – Speaking of Music – made up of Sinfonian volunteers such as Gail Kubik (Alpha Nu 1934/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1958), Martin Mailman (Zeta Psi 1961), Leroy Anderson (Gamma Omega Honorary 1969), and Thor Johnson (Alpha Rho 1932/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1948). Another project was a made-for-television film about music in American colleges, Listen to the Music, made possible with a grant from the Selmer Company. The film’s soundtrack was also carried on radio stations. In addition, in collaboration with the Alfred Publishing Company, the Fraternity produced a series of recordings titled Careers in Music. Among those Sinfonians who were featured on the series were Stan Kenton (Gamma Epsilon 1961) on jazz and Paul Hume (Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1971) on music in journalism.

As the 1970s wore on however, there were growing concerns and fears about the reduction and/or elimination of arts instruction in the public schools. Lucien P. Stark (Alpha Beta 1947), national president from 1976 to 1979, called upon Sinfonians to take an active role as advocates and defenders of music.

“The broad range of interests represented in Sinfonia places us in a unique position to help convince Americans that the arts are not educational frills or mere enrichment courses”

he wrote in 1977,

“… [rather] they are basic to the educational and cultural development of our nation.”

That fall, representatives from NAfME were invited to speak at regional conventions and outline tangible strategies by which Sinfonians could become engaged in ensuring the future of music in the schools. In September 1980, Emile H. Serposs (Beta Gamma Honorary 1944) national president from 1979 to 1982, wrote,

“We have the manpower and the capabilities to exert a positive force for music in our individual communities. What is needed is a resurgence of that strong sense of commitment to the art we love that motivated the founding of our fraternity eighty-two years ago.” (The Sinfonian, September 1980, p. 3)

At the 1991 national convention in New Orleans, Robert L. Hause III (Epsilon 1955), in his presidential acceptance speech, placed a renewed focus on the Fraternity’s role in supporting music. Commenting on a question posed to him earlier that morning in a question and answer session, “If there were only one thing you could accomplish as president, what would it be?” Hause noted,

“… it would be to make our Fraternity a positive force for music in America. … That should be the thing which motivates us most of all. We must see that something is done about it. We want this Fraternity to …to be a positive force for music in this country.”

This goal was echoed in the words of Phil Schroeder (Beta Pi 1985), Committeeman-at-Large from 1991 to 1996, “…we must pursue a strategy at the national level that advances the cause of Music in America…we must now begin to take responsibility for what is happening to music and the arts in our society.” The 1991 convention’s National Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the Fraternity to “adopt a plan whereby Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia takes an active role in the campaign to save, strengthen and develop music programs throughout the United States.

The next few years saw evidence of a renewed commitment to music advocacy and support through formal auxiliary membership in NAfME, substantial coverage of music advocacy in the pages of the Sinfonian, and in chapter initiated projects in support of music education across the country. Among these projects was the Detroit Music Enrichment Program (DEMP), organized and carried out by the Delta Iota Chapter at Western Michigan University and other chapters in Province 2 (Michigan), which provided instruments, method books, and financial resources to the public schools of Detroit. In 1994, National President Richard Crosby (Eta-Omicron 1975) and executive director Gary L. Ingle (Pi Sigma 1973) participated in the National Music Education Summit in Washington, DC, an effort to “set the stage for broader cooperation in the music community working towards improving the state of music education nationwide” (The Sinfonian, Winter 1995, p. 4).

The Present Challenge and Opportunity

In his March 1, 1905 President’s Message, Ossian E. Mills wrote,

“Let it be our ambition to make the Sinfonia a power for good, and have faith to believe that in future years its beneficent influence will be felt around the globe.”

With a renewed unifying sense of the importance of brotherhood within our Order, we are poised to focus our attention anew on music advocacy and outreach in a significant way: as individual Sinfonians, as chapters and alumni associations, as provinces, and as a national fraternity.

As music-making in America is becoming more popular as evidenced by large followings of television programs such as Glee and American Idol, and never has there been a more opportune time to instill in all people an awareness of music’s important role in the enrichment of the human spirit. However, public education in America has seen significant funding cuts, not limited to the arts alone. In these challenging times, the advancement of music will require, as 1938-1942 Supreme President Norval L. Church (Phi Honorary 1923/ Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1952) stated, “constant thought and unified action” (Spring 1939 Sinfonia Handbook).

In the words of Col. John R. Bourgeois (Zeta Pi Honorary 1956/Alpha Alpha National Honorary 1997), delivered in the keynote address at the 1991 New Orleans convention,

“School music programs need the kind of visible support which Sinfonians can offer. Your local music directors and teachers need your support in every way possible. And you may be assured that high school students who see the active and positive role of Phi Mu Alpha in their community will be among the individuals most eager to seek membership.”

Col. John R. Bourgeois

The Guide to Music Advocacy and Outreach is presented to collegiate chapters, alumni associations, provinces, and individual Sinfonians as a tangible resource to aid in practical grassroots efforts in advancing in America the best in music. Although a thorough guide to the Mills Music Mission has been in print for several years, no comprehensive guide to multiple advocacy and outreach projects is known to exist during the Fraternity’s history. Like the Mills Music Mission, many of the ideas described in this guide are endeavors that can be initiated at the local level, yet through the combined efforts of Sinfonians everywhere, can ultimately have a national impact. Ideas contained within have in part drawn inspiration from successful endeavors from the Fraternity’s history, as well as personalities that have helped form the rich fabric of its membership. With this guide, overly ambitious and unrealistic projects have been steered clear of, in hopes of providing a variety of viable options adaptable to resources, interest and level of time available for Sinfonians from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. It is also hoped that this guide will help to fulfill the Fraternity’s goal of a heightened musical focus, as outlined in the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan.

As a disclaimer, it should be noted that the intent of the Guide to Music Advocacy and Outreach was not to “reinvent the wheel” and restate all that has been previously produced by other organizations pertinent to music advocacy, but rather to pinpoint specific areas in which Sinfonians might make a lasting difference in this regard, and to direct the reader to appropriate advocacy resources. As with many of the Fraternity’s publications, it is hoped that the Guide to Music Advocacy and Outreach will be a living document, revised and expanded upon to meet the changing needs of music in America, with insight on best practices incorporated as they are shared with the National Headquarters.