A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mason, Lowell

MASON, Lowell, Mus. Doc., born at Medfield, Massachusetts, Jan. 8, 1792, died at Orange, New Jersey, Aug. 11, 1872. He was self-taught, and in his own words 'spent twenty years of his life in doing nothing save playing on all manner of musical instruments that came within his reach.' At 16 he was leader of the choir in the village church, and a teacher of singing classes. At 20 he went to Savannah in Georgia, as clerk in a bank, and there continued to practise, lead, and teach. In the course of these labours he formed, with the help of F. L. Abel, a collection of psalm tunes based on Gardiner's 'Sacred Melodies'—itself adapted to tunes extracted from the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. [See Gardiner, vol. i. 582b.] This collection was published by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston in 1822 under the title of 'the Handel and Haydn Society's collection of Church Music,' Mason's name being almost entirely suppressed. The book sold well: it enabled the Society to tide over the period of its youth, and establish itself as one of the characteristic institutions of Boston, it initiated a purer and healthier taste for music in New England, and it led to Mason's removal to Boston and to his taking 'a general charge of music in the churches there,' in 1827. He then became president of the society; but as his object was not so much the cultivation of high class music as the introduction of music as an essential element of education in the common schools, he soon left it and established the Boston Academy of Music in 1832. He founded classes on the system of Pestalozzi, and at length in 1838 obtained power to teach in all the schools of Boston. At the same time he founded periodical conventions of music teachers, which have been found very useful, and are now established in many parts of the States. He also published a large number of manuals and collections which have sold enormously and produced him a handsome fortune. He visited Europe first in 1837 with the view of examining the methods of teaching in Germany, and embodied the results in a volume entitled 'Musical Letters from Abroad' (New York, 1853). He was for long closely connected with the Public Board of Education of Massachusetts, his kindness and generosity were notorious, and he was universally admired and esteemed. His degree of Doctor in Music, the first of the kind conferred by an American college, was granted by the New York University in 1835. The last years of his life were spent at Orange in New Jersey, the residence of two of his sons. He formed a very fine library which he collected far and wide, regardless of expense.

Of his sons, William, born 1828, received a liberal education in music, and was long recognised as a leading pianist in New York; while Lowell and Henry are respectively president and treasurer of the Mason and Hamlin Organ Company at Boston.

[ A. W. T. ]