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VanderCook College of Music


Hale A. VanderCook

Hale A. VanderCook was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1864. He was performing in bands by the age of 14, and became conductor of the J.H. LaPearl Circus Band in 1891. He settled in Chicago and founded VanderCook Cornet School (later VanderCook College of Music) in 1909. The purpose of the school was to train musicians as performers, directors, and teachers.

 VanderCook composed over 70 marches as well as numerous series for solo brass instruments. Among his most famous marches are American Stride, Olevine, Pacific Fleet, Pageant of Columbia and S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. He published his Course in Band and Orchestra Directing in 1916. VanderCook studied cornet with Frank Holton and A.F. Weldon. He published Modern Method of Cornet Playing in 20 Lessons in 1922. He died in Allegan, Michigan in 1949.

“No man can be rightly taught unless he is aware of a real need in his life and in his work.”


Hubert Estel Nutt

Hubert Estel Nutt (1897-1981) was co-founder and former President of VanderCook College of Music. His role in training music teachers and developing the College’s curriculum and purpose influenced several generations of music teachers throughout the country.

Nutt's Life and Background

Hubert Estel (“H.E.”) Nutt was born on December 22, 1897 in Harrison Township, Pulaski County, Indiana (50 miles southwest of South Bend). His father was a classroom teacher, administrator, and teacher trainer in the public schools, with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. H.E. attended Marion Normal College’s Academy where he favored science and history. He later attended Indiana State Teachers College in Terre Haute where his musicianship developed on the string bass, flute and piccolo. He then transferred to the University of Kansas, pursuing a degree in Biology, but continuing his music studies by directing the university band and orchestra. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1916 with a B.A. degree and began teaching in the public schools of Cincinnati, Iowa and College Springs, Iowa from 1916-18. He was Assistant Professor of Biology and College Band Director at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas from 1919-22.

During that same time period, he began working on a Ph.D. program in biology at the University of Chicago between 1920-1922. However, once he became acquainted with H.A. VanderCook and started cornet lessons in 1921, he was so impressed with VanderCook as a teacher that he ceased his studies at the University of Chicago. H.E. accepted a teaching position in the Chicago Public Schools (including Austin and Wells High Schools) in 1922 which he continued until 1953. Over the years his positions included directing the Elgin Municipal Band and the 122 Field Artillery Band. He was Assistant to Victor Grabel with the Western Electric Industrial Band, and Director of the boys’ bands at the Hull House and Union League Boys’ Clubs.

H.E. continued his close association with VanderCook and his Cornet School. Together the two men formalized the curriculum and established VanderCook School of Music which received state accreditation in 1928. H.E. was in the first graduating class, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education in 1931. VanderCook School of Music became one of the first three institutions in the United States to award degrees in instrumental music education.

In 1946, H.E. co-founded the Midwest National Band and Orchestra Clinic, a place where band directors experimented with new music and techniques and could hear young bands perform.

H.E. became President of VanderCook College of Music in 1966. During this time he created over 100 unpublished worksheet-type presentations on topics such as conducting technique, classroom organization and discipline, vocal and string instruction, theory and arranging, and many other areas of music instruction that promoted and expanded the ideas of H.A. VanderCook. He retired as President of the College in 1974, but continued on as a faculty member and maintained a vigorous teaching schedule and Clinic-related work. He died in 1981 in Evanston Hospital.

Nutt's Role as Inventor

From the Nutt-VanderCook merger came a number of ideas by H.E. including mechanical teaching aids and visual learning systems. These were tested with scientific objectivity in H.E.’s “laboratory” at Austin High and VanderCook School, and represented some of the earliest innovations in school instrumental music teaching. H.E. created instructional aids such as the “tape met,” embouchure mirror, musical checkers, and the “no-slouch” chair. He designed the VanderCook College of Music building located at 3209 S. Michigan, including the light fixtures that allowed high diffusion of unshadowed light upon a music stand. His interest in recorded sound prompted him to carry a portable recording device to school band concerts as far back as the 1930s, perhaps some of the first recordings of these types of ensembles. H.E. was also interested in “semiotics,” the language and science of gestures. He created many detailed instructions for the band director, depicting such things as holding the baton, facial expression, and body posture.

Nutt's Role as Teacher

H.E. was known for the outstanding quality of his work with ensembles and his dedication to training others to be conductors. He was committed to students’ musical development in both practical and theoretical areas. H.E. taught science and music in the Chicago public schools, including Wells and Austin high schools. At Austin high school he directed a successful all-girl band and orchestra. He also directed the Elgin Municipal Band, the 122nd Field Artillery Band, the Western Electric Industrial Band, and the boys’ bands at Hull House and the Union League Club. At the college level, H.E. taught biology at Hendrix College in Arkansas and helped to develop and formalize the music curriculum at VanderCook College of Music. During his long career at VanderCook, H.E. taught a variety of classes. Perhaps due to his science background, he emphasized the necessity of testing to determine if students actually learned. He developed many musical “tests”, such as Directing Test Etude No.1.

Nutt's Role as Administrator

The growth and expansion of VanderCook School of Music may be attributed to a number of factors, including H.E.’s organizational ability, the decline of the professional musician, and the rise of the school band movement during the early 1920’s. H.E. helped to formalize the School’s curriculum, acquire the building at 1655 Washington, and receive state accreditation. He became President of the College in 1966 and remained its educational leader until close to his death in 1981. H.E.’s fundraising abilities were his biggest administrative asset given their immediate and long-term effects in securing the School’s existence. The relationships he forged between VanderCook and members of the music industry coincided with his personal philosophy and led to the rise of the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. By the time of H.E.’s death, VanderCook College had graduated around 1200 students and was accredited nationally. The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic was in its 35th year of existence, and the College was located in a building H.E. designed, adjacent to the Illinois Institute of Technology.

VanderCook Bibliography

Nutt Bibliography

The mission of VanderCook College of Music is to enrich the lives of present and future generations by developing uniquely skilled music teachers who exhibit strong character, professionalism, and a commitment to excellence.

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