ASTA History

Introduction, from "
A History Of The American String Teachers Association: The First Twenty-Five Years" (to download the entire history, click here).

In February of 1946 at the national meeting of the Music Teachers National Association in Detroit, Michigan, groundwork for the new national string organization was laid. At a session of the violin forum, a representative from the National Guild of Piano Teachers suggested that a group of similar scope should be organized to promote string playing and instruction and volunteered the services of the piano teachers in assisting in the organization of such a group. While those string players present at the forum agreed that some sort of organization was needed in the string field, they were chagrined to think that a string group should need the prodding and guidance of pianists in organizing. As a result, the group authorized the creation of a committee of string teachers which would look into the feasibility of organizing a Violin Teachers Guild. That committee consisted of Dr. Karl O. Kuersteiner, Dean of the School of Music at Florida State College for Women at Tallahassee (now Florida State University), chairman; Rex Underwood, head of the Violin Department, University of Oregon; Hugo Kortschalk, head of the Violin Departments at Yale University and the Manhattan School of Music; and Duane H. Haskell, head of the Music Department at Northern Michigan College (now Northern Michigan University).

This committee was charged with initiating correspondence with as many teachers and performers as possible in order to ferret out ideas of the scope of and general program for a proposed national organization and to determine if there were sufficient interest nationally to merit the formation of a string group.

By a fortuitous coincidence, a considerable number of string instrument teachers (many of whom had been at the Music Teachers National Association meeting in Detroit) were present at a number of the sessions of the Instrumental Classes Committee during the Music Educators National Conference national convention held in Cleveland, Ohio, in March of that same year. A presentation and demonstration by George Bornoff at these meetings on the general topic of beginning violin class teaching stimulated the group to heated discussion of the state of string teaching and helped prove that the future of string instruments need not necessarily be dark. This informal discussion indicated that the time might be ripe for a tentative formation of a national organization of string teachers; this movement was given impetus by the report of actions taken at the Music Teachers National Association meeting. The string instrument teachers decided to hold one final informal meeting of all interested persons at the Statler Hotel on March 30. At this meeting ideas resulted in concrete action.

To call this meeting an informal one is apparently a classic understatement. The meeting was held in the ball room of the Statler Hotel, where workmen were busily laying rugs, setting up tables, and in other ways preparing for the next event scheduled in that room. The nineteen people who were present sat in a circle amid the confusion and expressed their collective concern over the lack of a string organization which could serve both MTNA and MENC in a capacity similar to that of the national band, orchestra, and chorus associations. Duane Haskell was elected acting chairman of the meeting and Marjorie M. Keller, supervisor of instrumental instruction in Dallas, Texas, was appointed acting secretary. Dr. Karl Kuersteiner reported on the recent organization of a planning commit-tee at the MTNA meeting, and discussion then centered on the feasibility of planning for the organization of a national vehicle which would be designed to serve both MENC and MTNA and would also include those, not members of either organization, who were contributing to or interested in the field of string instruction.

Dr. Kuersteiner recommended the following general objectives for the proposed national organization:

  1. Improvement of string pedagogy;
  2. To make known the meaning, function, and value of individual and group experience with the music of stringed instruments;
  3. Development of professional relationships with other groups;
  4. Assistance toward manufacture and repair of stringed instruments. 

These four objectives were accepted as tentative objectives, to which were added four others:

  1. To promote wider performance of chamber music and string orchestra literature;
  2. To provide opportunities for children in our schools to hear good string playing;
  3. To cooperate with college and university string departments in the development of their teacher-training curricula;
  4. To modernize string materials.

The most effective methods of forming a group which would be national in scope were thoroughly discussed, and upon determining that at least one representative from each regional division of MENC was present at the meeting, the following motions were passed: (1) That an executive committee of four be appointed to cooperate with the MTNA committee; and (2) That a committee-at-large should be appointed which would serve as an advisory council to the executive committee. All those present at the meeting were appointed to this committee-at-large. A listing of both committees' members follows:

Executive Committee

Karl O. Kuersteiner, Florida State College for Women, Tallahassee, Florida

Arnold M. Small, Department of Music, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

Marjorie M. Keller, supervisor of instrumental instruction, Dallas, Texas, executive secretary and treasurer

Duane H. Haskell, Northern Michigan College, Marquette, Michigan, executive chairman


Maurice Baritaud, State Teachers College, Potsdam, New York

Alfred Boyington, Washington State College, Pullman, Washington

George Bornoff, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York

Arnold V. Clair, State Teachers College, Potsdam, New York

Frank W. Hill, Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Harry A. King, State Teachers College, Fredonia, New York

Howard Lee Koch, Brightwaters, New York

Thurber H. Madison, School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

George Poinar, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio

Cornelia B. Potter, Katonah, New York

Paul Rolland, School of Music, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois

Melvin Schneider, Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Samuel W. Spurbeck, State Teachers College, Potsdam, New York

Rex Underwood, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

Gilbert R. Waller, East Texas State Teachers College, Commerce, Texas

In order to meet current expenses, each member present donated one dollar to a fund established to defray miscellaneous expenses. The executive committee was empowered to assess the committee-at-large for additional funds if necessary. After a discussion of several titles for the organization, Howard Lee Koch moved that that "American String Teachers Association" be adopted as the tentative name. Frank Hill seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that each member present should receive the minutes as soon as the executive committee could make them available. After each member had thoroughly examined the minutes, he was to submit to the executive chairman suggestions, such as additional objectives, purposes, aims. Suggested objectives were to be divided into two classifications, general and specific. Thus, with a tentative name, a tentative set of objectives and guidelines, an operating capital of nineteen dollars, and a commitment to spread the news about the organization to their colleagues, the group adjourned and returned to their respective homes.