From the Archives with Byron Hanson: October 2013

October 14, 1891, Wellington, Kansas -

In this month of his birth, let us share a few episodes in the life of our founder, Joseph Edgar Maddy, or “Joe” Maddy, as he preferred to be called.

Having left his first orchestra job believing he’d been denied advancement because of his youth, Joe devised the “challenge system” for advancement in his school orchestras and later the “Promotion Geared to Attainment” motto that was posted on our JVS wall for many years. Yet, as music competitions became a national obsession, Joe was quick to condemn those who put competition for prizes ahead of artistic goals. His 1930 guide to band competitions made it clear that the issue is not who wins, but rather that all grow and develop their musical skills in the process. Consider the section titled “A Few Cautions”:

“The Committee deprecates a tendency toward undue rivalry in these contests in some sections and toward making winning the chief objective….it would be very unfortunate if that which aims to stimulate earnest work and highest achievement should be hampered in doing so through excessive rivalry among band directors. (The purpose) is to train bands and not to win contests, and those will be most appreciated in the long run who give the greatest educational service to their players, individually and as a group. It is the committee’s opinion that no band should enter the contest unless its director feels it will benefit thereby even if it loses, for but one band can win and all should be benefited.”

Without even a high school diploma, and only a few college courses in hand, Maddy ran into some obstacles when first hired as a Music Supervisor in the Rochester public schools, but he had an interview with Rush Rhees, President of the University of Rochester, and, in his words, “I was pronounced sufficiently educated to receive a life certificate to teach music in New York State.” Three years later he survived the same challenge in Richmond in an even more remarkable way: “In Indiana all school employees had to hold teaching certificates except superintendents and janitors. Indiana would not accept the New York State Certificate [so] I was elected assistant superintendent the first year to get around the requirement ... the law was quickly changed [and the result was that] I had to pass examinations in all four years of high school subjects...to teach music in Indiana.”

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