24 April 2008

M.V. Hood

Historical Research Critique

Shelly Cooper, “Marguerite V. Hood and Music Education Radio Broadcasts in Rural Montana (1937-39).” Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 53, No. 4. (Winter, 2005), pp. 295-307.
One of the fruits of Shelly Cooper’s 640-page dissertation on the life and work of Marguerite Vivian Hood (1903-1992) is this concise article focusing on Hood’s foray into radio broadcasting. While some MENC members may know that Hood was MENC President from 1950 to 1952, fewer would likely know of her resourcefulness — during the Great Depression — in putting the latest technology to work in the name of music education. Cooper may well be the leading authority on Hood, her work being informed by extensive interviews and source documents. She undertook this dissertation project not only because no previous biography of Hood had been written, but to fill in the lack of studies on prominent women in music education (Cooper, 2004).

Considering that she graduated high school at 16 and college at 20, Marguerite Hood would be seen as precocious by today’s standards and certainly intellectually ambitious by 1920s standards. While still in her 20s, she became Montana’s State Supervisor of Music. This reviewer finds no evidence (from available sources, at least) of Hood’s having been married; and it would be in keeping with historical accounts that most woman born in 1903, once married, would have undue constraints on her career ambitions. Dedicated to the music education of Montana’s school children, and faced with resources greatly limited by economic times as well as rural isolation, she exploited the new craze for radio. Cooper cites statistics (p. 295) showing an increase in radio ownership from 1929 to 1939 from 10 million to 27.5 million, listenership being much higher owing to multiple families gathering around one radio (particularly in urban areas). Harvey Jackins attested to the far reaching influence of 1930s’ radio when he recalled one person after another walking past subconsciously singing, “How in the heck can I wash my neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?” Cooper compares the impact of radio in that era to that of computer technology on people’s lives today. During the Depression, wrote Erik Barnouw, radio won "a loyalty that seemed almost irrational. Destitute families that had to give up an icebox or furniture or bedding still clung to the radio as to a last link with humanity." (Quoted in Garofalo, 1999). Recognizing the implications radio held for music education, Hood promoted three music education radio programs — all broadcast during school hours — through a monthly column she wrote. Produced nationally by NBC and CBS, the programs all offered printed materials — which Hood encouraged teachers to avail themselves of — to make the broadcasts more meaningful to students.
It was a creed of Hood’s to behave pro-actively, to which her own later writing attests:
For some reason or other, to date we have been so engrossed in the business of teaching that we have neglected to assume our responsibilities in advance planning for the profession. And so it has become all too common to lock the door after the horse is gone—to take action after something has happened to cause professional problems for us. (Hood, 1952)
And so, in anticipation of a change in the wind, she also encouraged her readers to write the radio stations in appreciation of this kind of programming, hoping to keep it on the air. Her apprehensions were realized when the state of Montana stopped broadcasting the NBC Music Appreciation Hour due to scheduling conflicts, adding to the already problematic reception of national radio signals in mountainous areas. She determined that broadcasts needed to originate in Montana and set about to produce them herself. In these years, most music on the radio was performed live and there were no performing ensembles of sufficient calibre in nearby areas to realize live broadcasts. Use of phonograph records for radio broadcasts was relatively new, and considered a grave threat to the house musicians who were, at this time, forming performing rights associations to protect themselves (Garofalo, 1999). Persevering in the face of prohibitive royalties required to play records on the air, Hood wrote to prominent figures in the recording world to plead Montana’s case. She succeeded in getting the fees waived so long as her cause was non-commercial.
Cooper quotes from materials Hood created to accompany these broadcast geared to 4-8 grades that pertain to teacher attitude, room set-up and procedure. She also lists a sampling of program titles, reflecting Hood’s cross-curricular approach. This picture would been further served by quotes from the actual music appreciation commentary, especially considering that these transcripts are not readily available.
 Cooper does relate in her article that “highly descriptive” narration was followed by worksheets (p. 301). Hood’s legacy of articles and books — published over a forty-year period — can suggest the tone of these scripts. Here she advises, in 1931, how to conduct a listening lesson:
It is possible to have a distinct reaction to the mood of music, and yet not be able to express that reaction in words. Any thoughtful idea should be respected, no matter how far it is from our interpretation (Hood, 1931).
Nothing, it would seem to this reviewer, in in this 77-year-old article of Hood’s comes across as being dated; she could easily be describing the classroom setting of today. This would lead one to conclude that her theories on effective music education, or education in general, were remarkably progressive. Under ‘Desirable Materials and Activities’ to accompany her broadcasts, Hood lists “a phonograph and records of at least some of the numbers used in the lesson” (Cooper, 2005, p. 301). It is apparent, though not clear in Cooper’s article, that Hood broadcasted the music along with the narration — the very thing she needed permission from the American Society of Recording Artists to do — but hoped that teachers would have their own records for supplementary listenings preceding or following the broadcast. Ever mindful of the need to keep students engaged, Hood featured (Cooper, 2005, p. 302) a range of music from Baroque to Contemporary along with what would now be termed World music.
Our aim is not to insist that these students like all music considered good—we ourselves do not do that. Our aim is to help them attain intelligence in deciding for themselves whether or not they like it (Hood, 1931).
Hood obtained a grant to study radio broadcasting in New York in conjunction with New York University, CBS and NBC for two months. Immediately following, she began teaching a radio course at Montana State U. (Cooper, 2005, 302-3). She pursued further radio studies some time later (Cooper does not specify when) in Ohio. In 1939, Hood left Montana, and her radio show, to obtain a Masters degree at University of S. California. Her drive for self-improvement and more effective advocacy are born out in these choices.
Cooper concludes that Hood modeled the style of vision to which all music educators should aspire, citing other scholars of similar mind. Keeping pace, therefore is required not only on the technological front, but on the changing demographic and needs of the student body. Hood modeled not only making optimal use of whatever resources are available, but the will to create new resources. The reviewer closes with another quote from Marguerite V. Hood:
Music education has nothing to fear but itself and its own failure to be a part of the world around it (Hood, 1952).


Cooper, Shelly (2005), “Marguerite V. Hood and Music Education Radio Broadcasts in Rural Montana (1937-39).” Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 53, No. 4. (Winter, 2005), pp. 295-307.

Cooper, Shelly C. (2004) “Marguerite Vivian Hood (1903--1992): Her life and contributions to music education” Arizona State U., DAI, AAT 3123530.

Garofalo, Reebee (1999), “From Music Publishing to MP3: Music and Industry in the Twentieth Century.” American Music, Vol. 17, No. 3. (Autumn, 1999), pp. 318-354.

Hood, Marguerite V. (1931), "’Practical’ Listening Lessons: Are They Possible?” Music Supervisors' Journal, Vol. 17, No. 5, (May, 1931), pp. 21-58.

Hood, Marguerite V. (1952), “Music in American Education: Our Heritage Demands Action, Not Defense.” Music Educators Journal, Vol. 38, No. 4, (Feb. - Mar., 1952), pp. 17-19.

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