Daniel J. Shevock


Daniel J. Shevock is a music lecturer at Penn State Altoona, and previously taught for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Experiences growing-up in a rural town, and teaching in urban schools, helped form his awareness of the value of democratic pedagogy, creativity, ecological literacy, and social justice. Dan musics on the vibraphone and drums, and is an ardent reader. His scholarly interests include music improvisation, history, and social philosophy. Dan has published articles in Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education; Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education; Research Studies in Music Education; TOPICS for Music Education Praxis; and Music Educators Journal; has presented many sessions at conferences; and serves on the editorial review board for TOPICS for Music Education Praxis. Dan’s degrees are from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Towson University, and Penn State. He is a passionate member of NAfME (Creativity SRIG Chair-Elect), PMEA, and the MayDay Group.


Satis Coleman’s Philosophy Through Progressive Educational Thought

In order to confront patriarchal values in our field today, music educators must know the philosophies of historic women music educators.  Music educators’ general underestimation of the value of historic women is a critical concern; “underestimation devalues women for future girls and boys” (Howe 2009, 179).  Often, historians recommend more studies on women music educators (McCarthy 2012, 162).  In this paper, new light is shed on the life of historically underrepresented, but important, female music educator Satis Coleman (1878-1961); exploring her philosophy of music education from the perspective of progressive educational thought.

Progressive education was prominent during the first half of the 20th century and focused on learning as social experience and teaching as reflective practice.  John Dewey, who is often cited in music education literature, was progressive education’s foremost philosopher (Noddings 2012).  Coleman and Dewey’s philosophies were both influenced by the educational theories of Johann Herbart (Boston 1992, 28-29; Howe 2014, 109 + 168) and Coleman’s ideas “echo those of Dewey” (Southcott 2009, 23), including her referencing Dewey in her discussion of student interest in music (Coleman 1939, 16).  In music education, Coleman has been studied since 1990—Southcott 1990; Boston 1992; Volk 1996; Southcott 2009; Shevock 2015.  Coleman has been understood within the context of progressive education (Boston 1992, 107; Shevock 2015; Southcott 2009; Tellstrom 1971).  A deeper understanding of how Coleman and Dewey relate to each other could be fruitful.

Dewey’s educational philosophy didn’t emerge in a vacuum.  Lamb (2014) lists eleven women who influenced Dewey, and, from this list, Jane Addams was broadly influential as “the first female public philosopher in the U.S.” (197).  She founded Hull House; was a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1931; and a founding member of WILPF, NAACP, and the ACLU.  Further, Dewey named his daughter for Addams (Addams 1994, 29).  Addams also appears in music education literature, though not as frequently as Dewey.

In Tellstrom’s Music in American Education, Coleman was used to typify tenets and teaching techniques of progressive music education, especially in contrast to fellow progressive educator Will Earhart (Tellstrom 1971).  More recently, her philosophy has “been partially lost to the annals of music education history” (Shevock 2015, 57), possibly because our history is “gendered” (60).  Because of her extensive publication, Coleman is understood as a teacher and music education philosopher (Boston 1992).  Previous scholarship has focused on: Coleman’s teaching as an antecedent to world music pedagogy (Volk 1996); as an antecedent to eclectic music education (Boston 1992); the spiritual aspects of Coleman’s philosophy (Shevock 2015); and as a manifestation of Johann Herbart’s Theory of Recapitulation (Southcott 2009).  Because she wrote extensively, scholars are able to cast light on her philosophy within the context of varied theories that are relevant today.  There were two guiding questions for this research:

How does Satis Coleman’s music education philosophy (aims and means) relate to and diverge from the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Jane Addams?

What does each educator believe about students living the good life (assumptions) and how does education foster this?

According to Action Ideal # 1, “music learning works best when we are mindful, reflective, and critically aware of cultural contexts,” and historical analyses of progressive music educators may clarify why and how this can be enacted.  In particular, Coleman’s role as an antecedent to world music is relevant (Volk 1996).  Biographies of historic women and understanding philosophical bases for practices are areas of interest to music education historians (Howe 2014, xvi).  One way historical scholarship can affect mindful, reflective music education praxis today is through revealing philosophical bases.  With an eye toward the possibility of improving current praxis, the purpose of this historical research is to clarify the ways in which Satis Coleman’s philosophy of music education connects to the seminal progressive philosophies of John Dewey and Jane Addams.

Data for analysis include Coleman’s Creative Music for Children (1922) and Your Child’s Music (1939), books that bookended her New York teaching career.  The first book was written for the music education community, while the second was written for a broader audience.  These are analyzed in relation to John Dewey’s Moral Principles in Education (1909), Experience and Education (1938); and select essays from Jane Addams’s On Education (1994).  Aims, means, and assumptions served as “provisional codes” (Saldaña 2009, 120) to reveal important themes of each educator’s philosophy.

The current study can deepen our understanding of Coleman’s philosophy by focusing qualitatively on aims, means, and assumptions and comparing and contrasting these with Dewey and Addams’s aims, means, and assumptions.  This presentation begins with an introduction to Satis Coleman, an argument for her importance to the music education field, and placing her historically within the influence of progressive praxis—e.g., through the laboratory school movement.  Next, each of the texts will be introduced and illuminated in reference to philosophy.  Comparisons and distinctions will be drawn and supported.

Preliminary findings include connections of means and ends among Coleman, Dewey and Addams such as beginning with interest (Addams 1992, 213; Coleman 1922, 3), not isolating various components of an experience (e.g. Addams 1994, 112; Boston 1992, 32; Dewey 1997, 35), avoiding competition (Coleman 1939, 52; Dewey 1975, 24-25), coming to understand other cultures (Addams 1992, 217; Coleman 1922, 65), and experimentation (for Coleman through improvisation) (e.g. Boston 1992, 62; Dewey 1975, 56).  Ends include developing independence (Coleman 1922, 141; Dewey 1975, 11) and responsibilities to society (Addams 1994, 99; Coleman 1939, 12-13; Dewey 1975, 7).  Assumptions involve each educators understanding of human flourishing.  This study is currently in the analysis phase and will be complete by the conference.  Following Gates (2005) insight, Coleman’s understanding of individual acts and social/musical habits will be compared with Dewey’s [living “by means of a musical environment” (12)], and differences between each educator’s ideas of growth and environment will be discussed.  This presentation will conclude with how Coleman’s philosophy can be important to challenges music educators encounter today.