In the spring of 1870, the Franklin Academy of Music began holding classes in Franklin County, but before the first year ended, it was determined that there was insufficient room for those desiring to further their musical education and a new location was sought.
The City of Xenia was eager to have such an institution and so provided several inducements to encourage the trustees to locate in the city. Soon the new location was agreed upon and in April 1871 the instruments were shipped to the new location on Water (West Third) Street. The school was then opened under the name “The Miami Academy of Music.”
A catalogue was produced for the 1870-72 session which listed A. N. Johnson, President. Also included were C. B. Hunt, Principal and J. A. Brown, Treasurer.
Interest in the school grew rapidly. After the academy had been open for only one year, the student body consisted of students from 13 states including Ohio.
In addition, the students at Xenia College who were interested in music were also enrolled. Obviously this would have been a duplication of effort to have music taught in both locations. In the first year class, there were 37 ladies and 12 gentlemen enrolled.
An advertisement gave the following information: “Xenia is a beautiful and healthy city of 7,000 inhabitants on the Pittsburg, Cincinnati and St. Louis, 65 miles from Cincinnati, 55 miles from Columbus, 14 from Dayton, and about the same from Springfield. It occupies a four-story building situated in the midst of grounds pleasantly ornamented with shade trees, etc. near the Depot and which contains all of the requisite conveniences and apparatus for the complete and successful study of music. It is situated on West Water Street, about half a mile from the business portion of the town and consequently free from the noise and attraction of business. The building is wholly devoted to musical instruction and the accommodation of its students. The rooms are furnished with pianos and organs, for the use of students who practice in the building.”
The academy was in session from the middle of September to ensuing July, with the exception of holiday weeks. The instructors preferred to have the students start their instruction at the beginning of the first term, however those who wished to begin mid-year would be welcome.
Each term was a period of twelve weeks with the fall term beginning in September, the winter term in January and early April for the spring term. The departments were the Piano Department, Voice Department, Through-Base and Cabinet-Organ Department, the Pedal-Organ Department, Harmony Department, Band and Orchestra Department. Obviously anyone interested in a musical career would have ample opportunity to explore a variety of musical lessons.
Fees established encourage students to enroll in more than one course of studies at a time. A student enrolled in one study was charged $15, but the student who engaged two paid $20. A bargain was given to the student who signed up for three studies with a fee of $25. Students were encouraged to sign for no more than three studies a week because each course consisted of five lessons per week which occupied about eight hours each day.
If an instrument had to be rented the fee was 30 cents per week for four hours a day. Board amounted to $4 weekly which included meals, bedroom, bedding, furniture and carpet. Students were welcome to have a fire in the bedroom fireplace for an extra fee of $2 to $5 per week. This would have been a good option in view of the fact that here was no central heating in the building. If the student wanted to have a lamp in the bedroom, this was an additional cost of $1 to $3 per week. Incidental expenses were estimated at 25 to 50 cents a week. All fees were paid in advance.
Students who were local or had family in the area were not required to live in the dorm but no matter where the student resided, strict rules of behavior were mandatory.
Neighborhood residents were encouraged to come to the academy to listen to the more advanced student’s performances. The teaching staff was confident that having the students perform before an audience would enhance their ability to perform before audiences after graduation.
A music store was located inside the building. Pianos and organs were for sale along with music books.
Mr. A. N. Johnson, President of the Academy was recognized as a leading writer of instructional music books. Publications such as “Johnson’s Thorough Bas”, ‘Johnson’s Singing School Text Book” and “True Juvenile Song Book” were among the books which he published and sold in the music store as well as other music stores throughout the country.
The academy has been gone for many years, but many of the students went on to provide beautiful music for audiences throughout the world for many years.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.