The Place of Art and Music in Education

David O. McKay

3 May 1927

Address given by David O. McKay, Tuesday evening, May 3, 1927 in the Weber College Auditorium, during the Music and Art Week.

President Tracy, Members of the Board of Trustees, and friends: There are many ways of expressing thought. The spoken word and written word express thought. It is difficult sometimes to express feeling or emotion just by the spoken word. However, thoughts may be expressed by words. It isn't true when students stand up and say, I know what I want to say but I cannot say it. They do not know what they want to say or they could say it. The baby expresses its thoughts by crying, etc. A thought can be expressed when the thought is clear. Words stand for ideas, they never convey an idea, they never express from the speaker to the listener as the speaker has it. All a word can do is to call up thought. The thought called up by that spoken word may be illustrated by the teacher who explained to the class the meaning of the word narrative. A narrative, she said, is a short story or a short tale. Now the teacher understood the meaning and it was perfectly clear, and she thought her boys and girls had the same too. Accordingly she told them to write an essay on a narrative for the next day. The following day one of the little boys read is essay and he said, I have a pair of rabbits, and each one has two long ears and a narrative.'

The printed page seldom, if ever, calls up thought. That is, it may not call up the same thought as that which was in the writer's mind. I am wondering if we are not neglecting more important and vital things that these speakers words -- the various ones which we take literally. There are many things in literature that you simply have to get thought into.

With art there are thoughts and feelings which no words can express. Only the language of the soul can be used for that expression. It is the mission of art to interpret the one thing that makes a true artist. It is the clear perception and a strong hand. A clear perception--isn't that one of the fundamental marks of education. An education may be obtained outside of a school. We should first see clearly, have a vivid imaginations, and do independent thinking. A clear perception is the fundamental in education. (Gives example of the Last Supper.)

Probably some of your [sic] have seen that famous painting Mona Lisa. If you have you can see it now but you cannot describe it. The artist would work for an hour on this picture with his whole soul, and then would have to leave it. Then he would start again and keep before him the vision. Art -- you try to describe it by words. Try to paint it and see what it means to be an artist. Try to understand what the artist tries to give. Too little attention has been given to this means of expression. Your boys and girls and mine have had too little opportunity to develop along this line. We used to look upon Art as a means that could be put in any place where there was space. Yet Art is one of the fundamental means of education.

[2] You may go down through the ages, from here back to the cross and see the story of the Gospel in art. Why, it is the story of __ race, the story of the cross. This is not my theme, but before leaving it, I just want to say, President Tracy deserves high commendation for the manner in which he has emphasized art and music in this institution, for the movement to make art a special feature of this school. This school's influence will be felt for good as long as there is an Ogden City, and as long as the Church stands.

Let me say here it doesn't seem right to me to have my picture emphasized this way. We ought to have here tonight the group of Faculty members and Board members. You cannot separate the institution from the group of loyal men and women who have made the institution. Those members of the Board would almost die giving there wealth and life in this institution, and the time will come when we will see their pictures up here. God bless their memory, God bless President Tracy who saved this school, who brought it through a crisis that it has never seen before, and it isn't over yet. Faculty members, stand by him, and Citizens of Ogden, stand by him, and continue to give your support.

My happiest days of service were right here in this institution. I want you to know that every effort put forth was more than repaid by the love of the students and the realization that we are in God's work, and we are making character. Wherever we go today we find boys who are true. When this institution does not stand for Christ-like characters, we will know that the institution is dead. You going out into the world stand for it.

This is music week, and I promised to say one word about music. Like art music is the language of the soul. Isn't it sad to have boys and girls grow up and be deaf to music. It is a means of expression which we all love. It is a shame if boys and girls come to school hungry for an avenue of an expression of the soul and cannot get it.

God bless the movement that ushers in the great Better Art and Music Week. Fellow students, fellow teachers of the old Weber Academy, thank you for your loyalty; thank you for the love you have given to make this institution what it is.

You members of the faculty today, and President Tracy, who are struggling now, God bless you. You are being honored tonight. There is one to whom you have been kind enough to express appreciation, but let us all share it together. You young boys and girls, you are the men and women who make this institution.

God bless you, and may the love which is in our hearts for another keep us united to keep peace on earth, and be united in bringing his children back into his presence. I thank you with all my heart and pray God's blessings on this institution, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

(It was on this evening that the $1,000. Portrait of David O. McKay painted by Lee Green Richards was presented).

McKay, David O. AThe Place of Music and Art in Education, [3 May 1927]. Archives, Weber State University Library, Ogden, Utah.

[Devotional minutes, WA 38/2 (May 1911/Jan. 2, 1924-May 29, 1960)]