Music in the Oshawa Schools

In the early years the teaching of singing or instrumental music in the schools was not greatly stressed, although it was listed to be taught as a subject on the 1862 curriculum.

Most of the teachers did not have the training or musical ability to teach it, neither did they have the time to devote to it, in their classes. A few accounts were noticed in the papers that some of the schools, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, had given concerts in singing. These no doubt were made possible by the fact that they had had teachers of outstanding ability.

In the rural areas, it was entirely up to the teacher whether or not any music was taught in the school. Those schools were un-graded; some were quite large, consequently the teacher found plenty to do to keep up the curriculum without any extras.

A time or two it was reported in the “Vindicator” that a music teacher had been hired for the common school on Centre Street.

In the 1850’s and 1860’s, vocal teachers came to the village and conducted classes (“singing schools”) for the young people, during the winter months. Those attending paid the teacher’s fees. They were taught by the tonic sol-fa.[1] At the end of the season a concert was given. The young folks enjoyed these schools as there was not much diversion for them outside of their daily routine. The classes were also called “sparking school.”

            However by the early 1920’s more real interest was starting to be shown towards having music taught regularly in the schools. Much credit is due to the teachers of those days, who had good musical ability and who taught singing to the children in their classes. Those teachers had been given instruction in this work in their normal school training. Thus the interest gained momentum.

Mrs. H.A. Twilley, Mrs. Wilbur Fisher and other interested people added this support to the cause by starting an agitation in the Home and School Club for a supervisor to be hired. They asked for a comprehensive program of musical instruction to be started in the schools.

Miss Beatrice Minaken a retired teacher living in Oshawa at present can take the credit for having organized the first orchestra in the schools here. She plays the violin herself and trained a group of children with violins, a horn, coronet, and piano accompaniment; this was in Albert Street School in 1920.


[1] Do, re, mi, etc.

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