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THE EARLY YEARS
The U.S. Army School of Music can trace its roots back to the early years of the 19th century. The first record of an organized music school was when eleven men from COL Macomb's 3d Artillery Band were either transferred or went directly to the 6th Infantry Band School on Governor's Island, New York City. They were trained to play flutes, oboes, bassoons, clarinets, French horns, serpents, bass drums, and tambourines. There are also indications that a small number of men were sent from West Point to the school to learn new percussion instrument techniques which differed markedly from the rudimental drumming used for drills and parades. The first Teacher of Music for the Military Band was musician Daniel Loomis. He was one of the original eleven men transferred from the 6th Infantry Band School to West Point. Post Orders indicate his appointment occurred on 26 May 1816.
THE SCHOOL OF PRACTICE
During and prior to the Civil War, musical training occurred at the "School of Practice for U.S.A. Field Musicians" at Governor's Island, New York. The earliest reference about the school is found in a book "Ten Years in the Ranks, U.S. Army" written by a young Soldier age 12, Augustus Meyers. He wrote about his experiences at the school. The living quarters were sparse, consisting of double bunk beds with insufficient space for comfort or convenience. The beds were large sacks stuffed with straw. The meals consisted of boiled salt pork and beef, rice soup, bread, potatoes, bean soup, and coffee. The daily duties began with reveille, with the fife and drums performing at the official entrance to Governor's Island. At 0800, the guard mount ceremony commenced followed by a period on uniform and equipment maintenance. School started at 0900 until 1100 followed by musical training from 1100 to 1200 and 1400 to 1600. The young drummers and fifers performed at retreat. This schedule occurred every day except Saturday when all instruction ended at 1200. In addition to board, lodging and musical training, the boys received $7.00 a month.
The School of Practice studied from “The Drummers and Fife Guide” by George
G. Bruce. A board of musicians assembled by the War Department adopted this book as the official text for the school. This manual was used until the end of the Civil War. In 1869, a board of appointed officers investigated the system of training field musicians. The board approved a method book called "Strube's Drum and Fife Instructor" by Gardiner A. Strube.
Army regulations of 1863 allowed the superintendent of recruiting depots to enlist, as field musicians, boys of twelve years of age and upward who had a natural talent for music. After enlisting, field musicians of the Regular Army could be sent to the School of Practice on Governor's Island, New York. They were billeted opposite from Brooklyn, at the Old South Battery.
PARTNERING WITH CIVILIAN INSTITUTIONS
Seeking ways to improve Army morale in the early 1900's, Army commanders argued to Congress that bands stimulated the fighting spirit in their men. Congress authorized a school for Army bandleaders at Fort Jay (originally Fort Columbus), Governor's Island, New York. This school began operations in 1911. The school originated with the efforts of Dr. Frank Damrosch, director of the Institute of Musical Art of the City of New York and Arthur A. Clappe, a former graduate of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, England. Ten free wind instrumentalist scholarships were offered to the Secretary of War to train Army musicians to become bandleaders. Ten candidates were sent to Fort Jay to take the entrance examination for admission to the Institute of Musical Art, and five candidates were selected out of the original ten.
In 1912, preliminary theoretical examinations were sent to all regiments in the Army to screen bandsmen for the Institute. Seventy-five bandsmen took this test, but only 10 were selected for the final exam. Five were selected for entrance into the Institute. In June 1913, the first class graduated from the school. The course of instruction was modeled after courses for training bandleaders in Great Britain, France, and Germany. The curriculum included: musical form, applied acoustics, history of music, wind band instrumentation, military band arranging, ear training, conducting, and pedagogy. Dr. Frank Damrosch supervised the training. Training was accomplished at the Institute and at a branch established at Fort Jay. Mr. Arthur Clappe directed the training at Fort Jay. The instructors were selected from some of the most famous teachers in the United States. Percy Grainger taught oboe at the school.
A band of 25 recruit musicians were added to increase the musical experience and to prepare students to assume bandleader duties. The Recruit Practice Band was established in 1914. The recruits formed various groups and received individual instruction from the band leader students. Twice weekly, the groups as