My Hero of the Week

This week we were asked to choose a historical figure and pose the first three questions we’d ask. 

The first part of this assignment required a lot of thought. There are so many historical figures that I first had to choose an era, a place, and a situation. I finally decided to narrow my selection to the people in my field of study, music. Even then, the sheer number of heroes is massive. Would I talk to a classical composer, or an accomplished performer?


Image of Lowell Mason from

I finally decided to narrow my focus even more. Since I’ve spent most my life as a music teacher, I decided to look into people noted for that. And while many, many performers are excellent teachers, I wanted to find someone most remembered as a teacher. So I decided to direct my questions to the first known music teacher in America, a man named Lowell Mason. If you’re not familiar with his name, you might recognize some of his church music. He composed the melodies for many traditional hymns such as Nearer, My God, To Thee, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and the most commonly used arrangement of Joy to the World. The National Association for Music Education, known as NAfMe, inducts a handful of teachers each year into a select group known as the Lowell Mason Fellows.

Now that you know a bit about this man, here are the questions I’d ask him:

  1. Your first career was as a bank clerk, but you studied music composition in your free time. Within ten years, you became a church choirmaster and published a book of hymns. Yet, you still considered music a hobby and resisted giving up your banking career. If you had so much passion and talent for music, why did you resist claiming it as a profession? Was it reluctance to give up a steady, respectable job? Was it family pressure? (I feel a story coming on!)
  2. Most musicians of note devote time teaching students who already show a high level of skill. But you taught in the Boston Public Schools. What inspired you to share your talent with all children? Was it your goal to inspire, or did you wish for all people to understand and appreciate music?
  3. After retiring, you traveled extensively in Europe. How did music education there compare with what you established here in America?

To whom would you direct your questions?


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
This entry was posted in history, Patricia Kiyono and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My Hero of the Week

  1. jeff7salter says:

    Though I’m quite familiar with those hymns, I don’t recall ever hearing this guy’s name.
    Excellent questions, however. Especially that first one.
    Funny how (for generations) many individuals shoved their creative pursuits to the back burner and continued on with rather pedestrian careers in order to bring home the bacon. Understandable, of course, because one must provide a steady income for one’s family. But it makes me wonder how many artistic geniuses there were who never had the opportunity to “emerge” because they were grinding out a predictable salary job… to pay the bills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      It would be scary for anyone to leave a steady job for the unknown. And as popular as those hymns are, I don’t think there are many who could name the composer of the melodies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff is on the right course with the answer to your first question, Patty. I may add that Mason lived long before the realization of “ASCAP” , and therefore, any other way of protecting a composer’s assets. ASCAP was created in 1914 by John Philip Sousa , Victor Herbert and others, prompted by the death in destitution by Stephen Foster, even though his works were very popular and making money for The Christie Minstrals and many others. The U.S. Copyright act was not even enacted until 1909, and a landmark decision in 1917. (I can’t remember exactly what it was).
    And back then, a clergyman leaving his ‘calling’ may have been a real scandal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Mason wasn’t a clergyman, though. He left the banking world (finally) to direct church choirs and teach music in the Boston Public Schools. But his legacy of church music makes him known outside of music education.


      • Headsmack! Sorry, Boy, I had a busy day. But still, music was not an easy way to make money and it was impossible to control the use of your work, or collect profits. Banking was secure.


  3. Joselyn says:

    I have often wondered what talents are missing from our world simply because the individual was not able to pursue them in a way that showcased them. This thought struck me when I was watching the Atlanta Olympics and they kept referring to Michael Johnson as they ‘fastest man in the world’ because he set two incredible world records. I thought what if there is a kid out there who is faster but didn’t have the opportunity to participate in track meets or even run with a watch to time him or herself.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What great questions. Too bad we’ll never know the answers. I have to admit that despite knowing of those hymns I could not place the name.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s