Music in Worcester Schools
The Hollis Dann Music Series
By Margaret Rothenberger Scheid
During the time that I attended and graduated from Worcester Elementary and High School (1923-1933), the Hollis Dann Series for Music was used by the students and teachers. Possibly it was used prior to 1923 since the copyright dates vary and the earliest one is 1915.
My father, Alvin K. Rothenberger, Sr., of Krebelle Farms in Worcester told me that when he was at Cornell University (1908-1911), Professor Hollis Dann was the Head of the Music Department at Cornell.
The first grade students did not use a book; the teacher would teach the songs by rote. As soon as second graders could read, they were given music books.
Music was a daily lesson and all children enjoyed learning the syllables so that one could sight-read music.
Worcester was very active musically. Special teachers came once a week into the classroom to work with us in music. Most classrooms had a piano for accompaniment.
Our elementary music teacher, Mr. Thomas Middleton, Sr., of Norristown introduced us to our first instrument. It was the harmonica. This was in 5th and 6th grades. We each paid 50 cents for a small Hohner Harmonic and learned to play many folk tunes.
About 1930 a string program was introduced by the school and taught by Mr. Oliver Bernd from Red Hill, who was also a director of the Red Hill Band for many years. We were taught in small classes after buying, renting or borrowing a violin, viola or cello, or a brass or woodwind instrument. Our orchestra played at programs, festivals and most any occasion. I remember playing my violin at a noon luncheon meeting of the Norristown Lions Club to which Mr. Ernest Heebner, our principal, had taken me.
We were encouraged to play, sing or dance for the “Hobby Fair” assemblies or the Spring Operetta, which was held at the Farmers Hall, as were all assemblies, since the school had no gathering room.
“Pomp and Circumstance” was the chosen music for the yearly graduation.
Our Glee Club was also very active, practicing weekly and singing in harmony for any or all occasions.
Many of us were studying privately on other instruments. One of our grade school teachers, Miss Alice Smith of Skippack, was teaching piano and organ, so many
students became her piano or organ students. This I did also after studying with my mother, Helen Moyer Rothenberger, who had retired as organist of St. Johns Episcopal Church in Norristown to become a farmer’s wife and mother of four. Next, I studied with Raymond Stong of North Wales, a pianist at the Schwenkfelder Church, and then with Catherine Morgan during my high school days. She was the organist at Haws Avenue Methodist Church in Norristown. During the same period I was studying violin with Kathryn Fox of Norristown.
My music background led me into a life of music. I graduated from West Chester University with a B.S. in Music and English. I taught from 1939 to 1977 in Montgomery County schools (North Penn and Wissahickon School Districts),directed choirs in the Norristown and Central Schwenkfelder Churches, and taught piano privately. From 1988 to 1998 I directed the music of the Sarasota Lakes Community Church in Sarasota, Florida. From 1993 to2002 I played for many programs, church services, and luncheon programs for residents of Peter Becker Community, where I now live with my husband of 62 years, Robert W. Scheid.
Margaret R Scheid
August 15, 2003