A Journey in Musical Appreciation

A Journey in Musical Appreciation

My introduction to Charlotte Mason was similar to many of you who started homeschooling before the current era of blogs and podcasts. Ten years ago a good friend gave me a copy of For the Children’s Sake, and we had many discussions about it in the year leading up to our daughters starting kindergarten. She ended up going in a different direction with the education of her children, and although I became part of an encouraging homeschool community, no one else was familiar with Charlotte Mason or pursuing her philosophy and methods. I was left to figure things out on my own.

In 2012 I went to the CMI conference in North Carolina where I attended a very small information meeting in which Deani Van Pelt instructed us in how to access and utilize the new Charlotte Mason Digital Collection (CMDC), then housed at Redeemer University College. I can remember how invigorating it was meeting people who were actually teaching their children the same way I was and being able to ask questions about the practical application of the method. Over the years I became more and more comfortable with narration, picture study, natural history, and other aspects of a Charlotte Mason education. But other areas, such as music appreciation, always left me feeling like we were missing something—partly because I didn’t see the fruit in it and partly because searching through the CMDC turned up more questions than answers. Every programme I viewed kept referring to “Our Work” in the Parents’ Review. Unfortunately the last available publicly scanned Parents’ Review volume is from 1906, and the earliest consecutive programmes begin in 1921. What was included in these Parents’ Review articles? Looking through old exam questions it was obvious they must have been doing more than just reading a biography and listening to music.

My oldest child is in Form 4 this year. The amount of resources available for informing and carrying out a Charlotte Mason education today in comparison to when I was first introduced to Miss Mason is astounding. It’s an exciting time and I’ve been curious what solfa, geography, brush drawing, music appreciation, and nature notebooks should really look like, but the reality is I’m running out of time with my oldest daughter. Realistically, I don’t have time to implement all of these newly uncovered ideas with her. However, being in the unique situation of having a six-year gap between my two oldest and my two youngest children gives me an increased motivation and desire to keep learning more about an authentic Charlotte Mason education and to carry it out to the best of my ability. I’m able to look back and ask myself what I would do differently the next time around. Therefore, when I was offered the opportunity to discover more about what music appreciation meant in the PNEU I was excited to take advantage of it.

There are so many questions. What musical compositions did they study? How often did they listen to each one? Did they read biographies about the composers? What was in the “Our Work” sections of the Parents’ Review? How were they able to answer exam questions such as this one from Programme 90:

Write three lines on any five of the following,—J. C. Bach, sonata form, “The Marriage of Figaro,” rondo, “Nannerl,” G minor symphony, Archbishop of Salzburg. (PNEU, 1921)

What composers did they select and would any of them have been considered “modern” during their time period? What was a music appreciation lesson supposed to look like? Eagerly I started on my journey along the trail of Parents’ Review articles.

A Different Kind of Musical Training

The exploration of music appreciation was first set in motion when Charlotte Mason met Mrs. (Ella) Howard Glover’s “musical baby” on a visit to London in 1895. She was so impressed she convinced Mrs. Glover to write an article about her ideas on music appreciation (Franklin, 1923a, p. 33). This article, which appeared in the next year’s Parents’ Review with the title “A Musical Baby,” recounted her experience with her young son, during which he showed competence in listening to and recognizing music without being taught to play an instrument.

In the opening paragraph of her article about her “musical baby,” Mrs. Glover mentioned the lack of attention given to training the ear, especially when compared to the emphasis given to training the eye. Her paper focused on her personal observations of her own child and her inferences drawn from that experience. Given the focus on child training at the time, it seemed strange to her “that so little attention ha[d] been paid to the early development of the musical sense” (E. Glover, 1895, p. 760). Her hope was that interest would be awakened in that area.

She went on to relate how her three-year-old son learned to recognize and sing familiar music, name the composer of the pieces he knew, distinguish the sheet music of specific pieces, and even recognize a composer’s style after having the best music played to him daily. Although it sounds quite remarkable, Mrs. Glover claimed she wrote the article “merely to show how much can be done with average abilities, given an intelligent musical atmosphere from the earliest point, that is to say, from birth” (p. 760).

Mrs. Glover showed that playing an instrument was not a prerequisite for enjoying music, and apparently this idea of listening to music with understanding originated with her:

So many people were not able to play an instrument, but if they were helped to understand music, they would be able to get great enjoyment out of hearing it. Mrs. Glover was the first to have the idea of helping children to listen to music with understanding. (E. Glover, 1922, p. 506)

The Beginning of Music Appreciation in the PNEU

Six years after her “Musical Baby” article was published, Mrs. Glover read a paper at the 1902 PNEU Annual Conference. The paper was entitled “Our Relations With Music and Art” and openly reflected her role and experience as a mother:

I speak to you, not from the teacher’s point of view, but from the standpoint of the parent who aims at making the home a centre of culture, where a first acquaintance with the arts shall be formed, an acquaintance destined to ripen with the years into a close intimacy, colouring and ennobling the whole of life. (E. Glover, 1902, p. 576)

She emphasized the importance of developing a taste for the best in music:

The atmosphere of a home and the bent of the people with whom we live, have far more influence on our tastes than heredity.

We are daily awakening to the need of cultivating a love for Nature in our children, but we do not recognize that it is quite as important to foster a love for Art, though music and pictures appeal just as strongly to a little child as Nature does. I cannot help thinking that by this neglect we lose a very valuable adjunct to education. (pp. 576-577)

In her paper, Mrs. Glover described a musical environment for the child that was to begin at infancy. For children aged 7 to 12, she recommended concerts as an occasional treat. The parent or teacher should make sure the child was familiar with at least a portion of what would be played and should look at the programme ahead of time in order to help the child become “acquainted with the chief subjects of the symphony or concerto, so that he may understand the ‘working out’ to a certain extent” (p. 581). Children age 12 and older could enjoy attending good concerts more regularly.

Although she endorsed beginning music instruction by learning to play the piano, she lamented there were not more opportunities to play ensemble music, as children in a family tended to all play the same instrument. Instead of letting them all continue to play piano and violin, she recommended persuading “one or two in the family to take up the viola, ’cello, clarionet, or other instruments, which are so sorely needed for amateur chamber music and orchestra” (p. 581).

She thought the finest music should be played even to the youngest children:

Do not imagine that you must play down to your little child; as in everything else, give him the very best from the commencement, though you may do well to select simple and melodious compositions with well-marked rhythms. Let your répertoire take a wide range, embracing operas and oratorios, as well as pieces specially written for the piano. (p. 579)

Her closing paragraph included a call to provide the best for our children:

We are all capable of appreciating beauty as it appeals to sound or sight, and whether we love the best, or are satisfied with the second best, will depend very much on what forms or types of beauty were held up to our awakening intelligence. (p. 586)

Afterwards Mrs. Franklin responded to some comments by saying wistfully:

… if only we can find a way to carry out the programme offered to us by Mrs. Glover, we shall be able to develop in our children more joy in music and art than is usual in the British public… (p. 588)

As if in response to Mrs. Franklin’s wish, music appreciation was officially adopted by the PNEU within three years after the conference, and Mrs. Glover began writing music programmes for parents to use at home with their children:

Charlotte Mason held that the child should be brought into touch with as many interests as possible—’Education is the science of relations’—and Music was one of these. In her Parents’ Review School, a course of singing was always set, but in January, 1905, there was a big step forward and we read the following note by Mrs. Howard-Glover under ‘Our Work’:

‘In order to complete the scheme of musical education already set forth in the syllabus of the Parents’ Review School, it is proposed to publish quarterly in this magazine a list of six pieces, with which the pupil is to become not only acquainted but familiar during the term…’ (Hugman, 1952, p. 134)

Mrs. Glover’s Music Programmes

Charlotte Mason strongly encouraged Mrs. Glover to write programmes “of music to be heard and understood” (Franklin, 1923a, p. 33). While Mrs. Glover may have doubted her ability to provide them, she was persuaded to start the PNEU off in Music Appreciation, and in the end she earned the “gratitude… for the valuable piece of educational work she ha[d] done” (PNEU, 1911, p. 950). Her success in the effort was doubtless due at least in part to Miss Mason’s belief in her:

Miss Mason had the wonderful gift of revealing to the parents, student, teacher and child their own innate powers and of helping them to use these to the full. She trusted and believed in us and so we dared not fail her. (Franklin, 1923a, p. 33)

After providing that first list of musical selections for the January 1905 term, Mrs. Glover continued writing the PNEU music programmes for the next seven years. She began her first music programme (also the PNEU’s first music programme) with the following text:

In order to complete the scheme of musical education already set forth in the syllabus of the Parents’ Review School, it is proposed to publish quarterly in this magazine, a list of six pieces, with which the pupil is to become not only acquainted, but familiar, during the term.

The execution of music, and practice in the technique of the art, is only one side of a musical training. It is also necessary to train the ear to an understanding of the classics, in order that a child may enter into the heritage which genius has bequeathed to him; in order, too, that he should understand and love the literature of music, in the same way that we try to imbue him with an appreciation of all the great masterpieces of writers and painters.

With this end in view, it is suggested that during the coming three months the teacher, parent, or any available friend, should play the following compositions to the children, beginning with one movement if necessary, and gradually extending the répertoire, until they become well-known and loved. If no executant is at hand, the services of a pianola need not be disdained, although, of course, it must be regarded as a second best.

A daily musical half-hour of this nature will be found to awaken keen musical enthusiasm in the children, even in those who have shown no aptitude in their music lessons, and the idea of music will be lifted above the drudgery which is inseparable from the practice of technical difficulties.

A clever teacher will further make use of this opportunity for hints on musical form and musical history, as brought out and illustrated in what is being played. The pieces selected this month do not present any great difficulty, and might be studied and performed by the more advanced pupils themselves. (Glover, 1905, p. 71)

At the bottom was a note:

All children in the P.R.S. must include the above “Music” in the Term’s work.—Ed. (E. Glover, 1905, p. 71)

The first eleven music programmes each included a list of six specific compositions (or selected portions from larger works), along with the identifying information to purchase the sheet music. It is important to note that each programme featured music by multiple composers, and also contained a combination of songs and instrumental music. Occasionally different variations of sheet music were listed under a selection. There was no further direction regarding how the daily musical half-hour was to be used.

Although it is possible that other books were assigned in the curriculum programmes, no additional help was given in the Parents’ Review to aid the teacher in discussing musical form, and no historical information was mentioned in these early music programmes. It seems the initial plan was to publish these lists quarterly, but shortly afterwards, in Music Programme 5, this was revised to three times a year before the holidays:

In order to complete the scheme of musical education already set forth in the syllabus of the Parents’ Review School, it is proposed to publish in this magazine, before the holidays, three times a year, a list of six pieces, with which the pupil is to become not only acquainted, but familiar, during the term. (E. Glover, 1906, p. 310)

Apparently not all parents were equipped to play the musical pieces to their children, because the following additional paragraph was first included in the introduction to Music Programme 7 in 1906 and was continued until the last of Mrs. Glover’s music programmes:

There are many households where it is not easy to arrange for the carrying out of this programme at home. A desire has been expressed that a pianist should be engaged to play the pieces once a week to children in London, the expense being thus shared by several families. Will any parents, who desire to co-operate in this scheme, communicate with Mrs. Lock… ? (E. Glover, 1906, pp. 953-954)

No particular themes were mentioned to explain the selection of compositions from the various composers listed in each of the first eleven programmes. Some composers showed up multiple times while others only made one appearance (Dr. Arne, Gounod, Graun, Handel, Haydn, Humperdinck, Edward MacDowell, Moszkowski, Rachmaninov, Rubinstein, Sinding, Emil Sjogren, and Weber). Beethoven showed up the most often with six occurrences. Brahms, Schubert, and Schumann were next in line with five. Then Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Wagner appeared four times and Liszt and Mozart each appeared three times. Grieg, Scarlatti, and Tchaikovsky only occurred twice.

The 1906 PNEU Annual Report and subsequent ones available in the CMDC included most of the music programmes. Mrs. Glover’s first eleven programmes can be accessed in the CMDC.

A Look Ahead

As time went by, the music programmes experienced some changes and refinements. However, even with various influences, the components which prompted Charlotte Mason’s integration of Music Appreciation into the Parents’ Union School remained intact. Perhaps the biggest change was when the format was changed so that each music programme featured only a single composer. I will explain these and other changes in my next article when we continue our journey through music appreciation in the PNEU. Stay tuned!


Franklin, H. (1923a). C.M.M. the friend. In In memoriam Charlotte M. Mason. (pp. 31-33). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1895). A musical baby. In The Parents’ Review, volume 6 (pp. 760-763). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1902). Our relations with music and art. In The Parents’ Review, volume 13 (pp. 575-589). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1905). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 16 (p. 71). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1906). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 17 (p. 310). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1906). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 17 (p. 953-954). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1922). Outline of a lecture on musical appreciation. In The Parents’ Review, volume 33 (p. 506-512). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Hugman, K. (1952). Our music appreciation. In The Parents’ Review, volume 63 (p. 134-135). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1911). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 22 (p. 949-951). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1921). Examination 90: Forms IV & III. London: Parents’ National Education Union.

Dawn Tull has been homeschooling her children using Charlotte Mason’s methods since 2009. Although earning an MS in Business Management has left her underqualified to manage her own household, she has slowly been accepting the fact her four children were born unique persons. After relocating their family numerous times, she and her husband Donnie, currently live near Knoxville, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Researching and pursuing the truth is important to her and has given her a heart for supporting and encouraging other homeschool families. She enjoys studying and discussing Miss Mason’s philosophy with a local study group and taking advantage of the outdoors with a natural history club.

©2019 Dawn Tull

4 Replies to “A Journey in Musical Appreciation”

  1. That is great to see a timeline of change through the programmes! I do know that I read in an article that playing the music on a home speaker (I can’t remember if they said grammaphone?) was recommended and the fact that we have recorded music so readily available now makes listening and appreciation so much more enjoyable!!!! And it’s wonderful to have so many BBC programs available online to learn about things like “sonata form” to teach our kids! Thanks for this research!!!

  2. Yes, I think we sometimes take for granted what opportunities exist for us with modern inventions. Or don’t realize how the lack of them may have affected what the PNEU did. I’m excited to share my research with everyone. Hopefully it will help all of us realize more of what Charlotte Mason desired for us in this area.

  3. Dawn, this is fantastic work. Thank you for looking into this and presenting these ideas so clearly for us! I look forward to the next.

  4. This reminds me so much of Suzuki music methodology! I always think Suzuki and Charlotte Mason would have been friends.

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