Lowell Mason (January 8, 1792- August 11, 1872) was a leading figure in American church music, the composer of over 1600 hymns, many of which are often sung today. He was also largely responsible for introducing music into American public schools, and is considered to be the first important music educator in the United States. Mason was born and grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, but spent the first part of his adulthood in Savannah, Georgia, where he worked first in a dry-goods store, then in a bank. He had very strong amateur musical interests, and studied music with the German teacher Frederick L. Abel, eventually starting to write his own music. He also became a leader in the music of his local Presbyterian church, where he served as choir director and organist. Under his initiative, his church also created the first Sunday school for black children in America.
Following an earlier British model, Mason embarked on the task of producing a hymnal whose tunes would be drawn from the work of European classical composers such as Haydn and Mozart. Mason had great difficulty in finding a publisher for this work. Ultimately, it was published (1822) by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, which was one of the earliest American organizations devoted to classical music. Mason's hymnal turned out to be a great success. The work was at first published anonymously?Mason felt that his main career was as a banker, and he hope not to damage his career prospects.
In 1827, Mason moved to Boston, where he continued his banking career for some time but also became music director for several churches. Mason became an important figure on the Boston musical scene: He served as president of the Handel and Haydn Society, taught music in the public schools, was co-founder of the Boston Academy of Music (1833), and in 1838 was appointed music superintendent for the Boston school system. In the 1830s, Mason set to music the nursery rhyme 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
In later life, Mason continued his work of teaching, writing, publishing, and organizing; he remained an important and influential figure throughout his life. He died on a large estate he had purchased in New Jersey, near New York City.
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