Pre-Departmental Status, 1871-1915
1871: The first music instructor, Sarah E. Robinson, was hired at the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania (Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania, 1855-1862) in its sixteenth year of existence. This swelled the size of the total faculty to ten. The student body totaled 75 (2 seniors, 9 juniors, 15 sophomores, 25 freshmen, 24 preparatory).
1871-1912: Thirteen teachers served as the school’s single music instructor, teaching mostly piano, organ, and/or voice. Among them was Helen Hoitt Atherton, daughter of President George Atherton.
1874: The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania became the Pennsylvania State College. Music was recognized as an academic subject.
1880s -1890s: Ensembles were established. Rehearsals were mainly held in the “commodious basement” of Old Main with its dirt floor, shifting later to the “new” Old Main fourth floor.
- Glee Club (1888)
- College Orchestra (1890)
- Mandolin Club (by 1897)
- Cadet Band (1899)
- College and Chapel Choirs (1913)
1887: The photo to the right captures President George Atherton with the faculty of Pennsylvania State College, now numbering seventeen. Music instructor Julia Gorsline is pictured at the far right.
Others pictured are professors whose names currently adorn current campus buildings and local streets: Buckhout, Frear, McElwain, McKee, Osmond.
1903: Schwab Auditorium was completed, succeeding the chapel in Old Main as the largest functional space on campus. Music instruction and performances took place here over the coming decades.
1904: Construction on the Carnegie Library was completed. Later, this building would become home to the music department.
1912: With the appointment of Clarence Cramer Robinson, music became a discipline within the School of Liberal Arts. His wife, Lillian Boles Robinson, was appointed as a second music faculty member. Two years later, Wilfred Otto Thompson became a third instructor as the conductor of the Cadet Band. The Robinsons served for ten years; Thompson taught for twenty-five.
Department Status, 1915-1963
1915: Music became a recognized department in the School of Liberal Arts, and Clarence Robinson became Director.
1922: Richard Grant became Director of the Department of Music. After significant stateside tours, he led the Glee Club on a European tour in 1928, with his faculty wife, Irene Osborne Grant, as accompanist.
1929: The music education program was established within the College of Education, with 22 music education majors.
1936: A new Moller organ was installed into Schwab Auditorium.
1942: Hummel Fishburn was appointed chairman of both Music and Music Education. During his 23 years in this position, he wrote information-filled newsletters called OPUS, providing an unbroken window into the status of the Department of Music during that time.
1942: The Department of Music moved from Schwab Auditorium to the newly renovated Carnegie Library, now called Carnegie Hall.
1946: As the campus returned to normalcy after World War II, there were 75 music majors.
1953: The Pennsylvania State College changed names to become The Pennsylvania State University.
1955: The School of Fine and Applied Arts, which included the music department, was created within the College of Liberal Arts.
The photo to the left served as the cover for the 1955 centennial issue of Hummel Fishburn’s OPUS, marking the 100th year of the institution. It includes all sixteen music and music education faculty members, including Glee Club conductor Frank Gullo to his left, with whom he led hundreds of community sings (the “Frank and Hum” team.)
Back Row: Hummel Fishburn, Frank Gullo, Rex Rockwell, Jim Dunlop
Middle Row: Georgia Selsam, Willa Taylor, Frances Andrews, George Ceiga, Barry Brinsmaid, Ray Brown, Bill Noyes.
Front Row: Skip Wareham, Arlene Green, Ted Karhan, Bill Henninger, Jim Burden
1961: The music department was moved to the Armory (now demolished), whose acoustics were described, not surprisingly, as “horrible.”
During this forty-eight year period, a total of forty-three faculty members taught music and/or music education. Those with the longest service were Hummel Fishburn and Willa Taylor, 36 years; Elmer “Skip” Wareham, 35; William Henninger, 34; Raymond Brown and William Noyes, 32; Frank Gullo and Ed Gamble, 31; Barry Brinsmaid, 30; James Dunlop, 28; Frances Andrews and Rex Rockwell, 27; and James Beach and Wilfred Otto Thompson, 25.
Becoming a School of Music, 1963-2013
1963: The College of Arts and Architecture was created, and music became a department within the new college.
1964: After a history of moving from space to space, a building dedicated to music instruction was completed. Music faculty members were housed here, and music education faculty members were located across the street in the Chambers Building, as part of the College of Education.
1965: Hummel Fishburn retired after 37 years of service, and separate heads were named for the two areas. The music chair was Robert Baisley (1965-79), and Frances Andrews headed the music education program (1965-1973), succeeded by Warren George (1973-78).
1979: The School of Music was created, and music education joined with music to become a unit of the College of Arts and Architecture.
The school's first director, Maureen Carr (1979-83), was succeeded by Lyle Merriman, under whom the school evolved into its current structure as a comprehensive School of Music. Central to that evolution was the unique convergence of three nationally-prominent music administrators at Penn State: President Bryce Jordan (1983-90), Director of the School of Music Lyle Merriman (1984-97), and James Moeser (1987-93), dean of the College of Arts and Architecture.
1994: As part of the school's growth, a second building was constructed beside the original building. For the first time in history, all music instruction occurred within the same facility.
1997: Lyle Merriman retired, succeeded as director by Richard Green (1997-2004).
2005: Sue Haug was appointed as director, and has led a further evolution of the quality of the School of Music, now recognized as among the finest in the country. Dr. Haug was recently elected Vice President (and President-elect) of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the nation’s higher education music accreditation body.
2007: President Graham Spanier supported the launching of an annual “President’s Concert” which over the past seven years has been held in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and Washington’s Kennedy Center, among other venues.
In 2013, a distinguished faculty of 51 full-time and seven part-time instruct 293 music majors (208 undergraduate, 79 graduate, 6 Professional Performance Certificate students), in addition to providing ensemble experiences and courses for hundreds of non-majors.
During the 50-year era of music’s existence within the College of Arts and Architecture, a total of 215 distinguished musicians have taught, researched, and performed as members of the faculty. This constitutes a high percentage of the total of 250 faculty members for the full history of music at Penn State from 1871-2013.
Among the longest-serving faculty members who began their tenures at Penn State during this era were: Smith Toulson, 43 years; June Miller, 36; Bruce Trinkley, 35; Donald Hopkins, Douglas Miller, and Ned Deihl, 32; Eleanor Armstrong, 28; Leonard Feldman, Joanne Zagst Feldman, Emma Rocco, Keith Thompson, Suzanne Roy and Raymond Page, 26.
Other long-serving faculty (25 years or more) whose tenure began during this era include current faculty members Steven Smith (appointed in 1973), Maureen Carr (1979), Dan Armstrong (1982), Daryl Durran (1983), Richard Bundy and Joanne Rutkowski (1984), Dan Yoder and Lisa Bontrager (1985), Mark Lusk and Timothy Shafer (1986), and Taylor Greer (1987).
During the past five years the School of Music has presented an annual average of 400 performances by ensembles, students, faculty, and guest artists. Those performances are presented in the University’s many performance venues, including Esber Recital Hall, Eisenhower Chapel, Pasquerilla Spiritual Center Worship Hall, Schwab Auditorium, Eisenhower Auditorium, and the Palmer Museum of Art. In addition to the President’s Concerts, several of the school’s ensembles tour widely, both within the United States and abroad. The same is true of the school’s performing faculty, whose performances occur throughout the world and are featured on many recordings. Music faculty members have also served as prominent leaders in their respective professional organizations.
The School of Music's new Recital Hall was completed in October 2018.