The Road to the Classics: a 1928 point of view

The Road to the Classics: a 1928 point of view

by Douglas Yeo

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1928, the Theodore Presser Company published a book to teach how to play piano, Music Play for Every Day: The Gateway to Piano Playing. It is one of a legion of such books published in the last century. Perhaps you had piano lessons with the Thompson or Schuam method. Or even this book. They all make it sound so easy.

Many years ago, a friend gave me a photocopy of a page of this method, a drawing titled The Road to the Classics.  I’ve recently obtained an original copy of this book and the drawing is found below.

Hand in hand, the young boy and girl start on the path toward TRIUMPH. How do they get there? PRACTICE. KEEP AT IT. THE JOY OF WORKING. And CAREFUL STUDY. What are the pitfalls? VALLEY OF LAZINESS. FOREST OF POOR MUSIC. And the SWAMP OF JAZZ. Yes, it actually says “swamp of jazz.” Wow.  And who lives in the pantheon of TRIUMPH? BACH, BEETHOVEN, MOZART and their friends. Even MACDOWELL. MacDowell? Between Gounod and Schubert?

Take a few minutes to look at this. If you were making up a drawing to inspire beginners to take up the study of music, what would you include? How would YOU tell the story of musical inspiration?