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Pete Seeger in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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Vanett Lawler papers (MENC records)

Pete Seeger Correspondence in the Vanett Lawler papers (MENC records)

Vanett Lawler (1902-1972) was an administrator in the field of music education both in the United States and abroad. Her work for the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) (later the National Association for Music Education (NAfME)), Pan American Union, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and International Society for Music Education helped create new legislation favorable to the arts, encourage and publish research pertaining to music education, and promote international music education and cooperation. This collection contains her professional papers pertaining to her work for the Music Educators National Conference as Assistant Executive Secretary, Associate Executive Secretary, and Executive Secretary, from 1930 until her retirement in 1968. The collection also includes Lawler's papers pertaining to her work with the Pan American Union while on loan from MENC, as well as her work with the National Education Association, of which MENC is an affiliated organization (and, beginning in 1956, was housed in the NEA building in Washington, D.C). Materials include correspondence, periodicals, photographs, articles, meeting information and agendas, program proposals and outlines, speeches, and various other documents pertaining to MENC, other arts organizations, legislation, and general music education and music information.

The Vanett Lawler-MENC papers covers the period from 1927 to 1975; the bulk of the materials date from 1944-1968. The collection consists of professional papers including correspondence, speeches, performance programs, bulletins, memorandums, project proposals and information, financial records, music education reports, meeting agendas and business, order forms, photographs, press releases, and periodicals. Materials cover Lawler's work with MENC, the Pan American Union, and the National Education Association.

Collection number: 88-7-MENC
Bulk dates: 1944-1968
Inclusive dates: 1927-1975 and undated
Finding Aid

To access this collection, please contact SCPA's curator.

Series 1: MENC correspondence, 1944-1971 and undated (4.5 linear feet)
This series includes a number of letters between Vanett Lawler and Pete Seeger, and a letter from Seeger to Charles Fowler, American writer and consultant in the arts, on the subject of music education that focuses on traditions that fall outside of the realm of western-European art music. Pete's interest in the music of all cultures inspired him to introduce these various traditions to audiences all over the world. (S, 1 of 3 - Note: Original Pete Seeger letter is housed in fireproof shelving; a facsimile is in this folder, 1963-1968.)



Letter from Seeger to Lawler - Text: "Dear Vanett, From time to time I pick up a copy of MENC Journal, when I am singing in some school or college. Last week I looking through the January issue, and while I found much that I agreed with and admired, I couldn't help but be shocked by some of the widely held assumptions. For example, Simon Anderson, "The music eduactors job is to perpetuate Western art music and to open doors to its perception in the minds of the children of the nation." Perpetuating Western art music is certainly important but to imply that it is, "The" job of all music educators seems to me, not only going too far, but downright wrong. My father has a word for it; "Europo-centrism", and it runs through most of American education of all sorts. It seems to me not only scientifically incorrect, but unfair to non-European children such as, America[n] Indians, and Afro-Americans. In this case, it passes up the great chance to open up the ears of young people to the wealth of magnificent music in other parts of the world. For example, India. It seems to me the problem ought to be attacked head-on. I'd love to try writing an article on the subject myself," (con't.)


Second page of note from Seeger to Lawler - Text: "but I have no authority in the field. Somebody ought to do it, however. Would the Journal be willing to print it? I guess you know that father is as spry as ever. I saw him a few months ago in Santa Monica. All best wishes, Pete"