Henry Tovey, A Renaissance Man

Henry Doughty Tovey will always be best known as the composer of the music for the University of Arkansas Alma Mater. For everyone who ever attended school there or came to University events like football games, the melodic strains and rich harmonies of that song evoke deeply-felt memories. Without question, Tovey had tremendous musical talent. But that was only a hint at what this man would give to the university, the town of Fayetteville and yes, even the State of Arkansas over the twenty-seven years of his life here.

…Tovey spent the summer of 1909 with friends in Chicago where he discovered the latest version of the Victor gramophone. He immediately purchased one along with a large number of recordings of standard operas including performances by world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso… The gramophone came to serve a key role in Tovey’s grand scheme to offer music education throughout the entire state. Ultimately, his concept caught fire across the nation and even in other places around the world. … Tovey’s growing reputation regarding this teaching method resulted in an article about him published in The Musician, the national journal of music instructors… “The address by Henry Doughty Tovey of the University of Arkansas, which we give in this issue in part, is highly interesting in the demonstration it makes of the wonderful educational power of the talking machine and because it presents such a practical way of working out results. In his plan there is suggestion for every music teacher, for he can use the talking machine in the home and suggest selection of records, and this will have splendid educational results both on the pupil and the entire home.”

…In April 1917, Tovey received notice from Schirmer’s of New York City that their new book, “Energy of American Crowd Music,” would include a chapter about Tovey and his work. No record of this book has been found, but an article thus entitled stated in the preface that “everything we see hear, feel, experience in any way becomes subject matter for music, poetry, painting and sculpture. The things seen and heard in Kentucky or New England or the Ozarks become material for us…”

Much more about this trailblazer in The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville. Available in paperback, $19.95.

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