Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Ogren, Christine A.

First Committee Member

Bills, David B.

Second Committee Member

McCarthy, Christine L.

Third Committee Member

Sanders, Katrina M.

Fourth Committee Member

Stalter, Timothy J.


This dissertation explores the roots, growth, and significance of vocal music activities in Iowa's rural schools and communities, from roughly 1900 to 1940. Specifically, it analyzes the development of rural school choirs, sponsored by Iowa State Teachers College (ISTC), and the development of extension music outreach, sponsored by Iowa State College (ISC). Functioning as the state's sole state normal school, ISTC had primary responsibility for training the state's teachers, including its rural teachers. Part of ISTC's outreach to rural teachers entailed teaching them how to teach vocal music, a relatively new subject required in Iowa's public schools. From this outreach grew rural children's choirs, comprised of students who passed competency tests and performed for local and state events. Functioning as the state's land-grant institution, ISC conducted extension activities in local communities from fairly early in its history. Eventually, 4-H programming for girls, home demonstration projects for women, and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) activities came to incorporate music study and eventually performance. The highpoint of the musical activities associated with ISC came in 1934-1935, when girls' 4-H clubs and farmwomen's groups studied and then performed the opera, The Bohemian Girl. With calls for the revitalization of rural communities through increased recreational opportunities and the rededication of country schools as community social centers throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, vocal music activities in Iowa's schools and communities came to play a key role in building up and sustaining a sense of community in Iowa's rural neighborhoods. Because both ISTC-supported rural choirs and ISC-supported music outreach grew out of and had an impact on participants' communities, this dissertation provides a sense of the social and economic changes occurring in rural Iowa during the early decades of the twentieth century. This dissertation draws on John Dewey's writings about art in order to delve more deeply into the connection between the fine arts and community.


Arts, Education, Iowa, John Dewey, Music, Rural


vi, 249 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-249).


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Copyright 2013 Erin Kaufman