The following is a Woman of Courage profile written and produced by the St. Lawrence County, NY Branch of the American Association of University Women.
The story of the Crane School of Music is the story of the vision and commitment of two women: Julia Crane who founded the school in Potsdam, NY in 1886, and Helen M. Hosmer who served as the school's administrator for 36 years.
Helen Hosmer was born on July 12, 1898 in Yonkers, New York, the daughter of John S. Hosmer and Susan Charlotte Couzens. She moved to Potsdam in 1906 where she attended public school. Even as a young girl she showed great musical ability. By the time she was in fifth grade she was acting as an accompanist for a model teacher at the Crane School and later as an accompanist for performers who appeared at the Potsdam Opera House. In 1919 she graduated from the Potsdam Normal School as both a teacher and as a music supervisor. Her first assignment was in Winsted, Connecticut as the Supervisor of Music.
Helen returned to Potsdam in 1922 as an instructor at the Crane Department of Music after attending the Cornell University summer session of music. She was one of a group which traveled with Julia Crane to Cleveland, Ohio for the 1923 Music Supervisors National Conference. By this point Miss Crane was suffering poor health and had taken a leave from the school for travel and rest. Marie Schuette, a former student and instructor at the Crane School, was appointed as Head of the Normal School's music department and as Principal of the Crane Normal Institute after Julia Crane's death on June 11, 1923. Helen Hosmer continued on the staff of the school.
During the summer of 1925 Helen took the first of her 13 trips to Europe, attending the summer session of the American Conservatory at Fountainebleu, France. During the next academic year she earned her baccalaureate degree at the Teacher's College of Columbia University.
Helen served as the director of the Phoenix Club, a woman's choral group at Crane, from 1926-38. The Phoenix Club performed for the Lake Placid Club Education Foundation in October, 1925. The purpose of this concert was to demonstrate choral singing in the North Country. The Lake Placid Club's foundation worked to convince North Country schools principals to schedule music instruction once a week for 10 weeks and to provide student teachers for music to the schools.
Helen Hosmer took over the top administrative position at Crane during the 1929-30 year when Marie Schuette was on sabbatical. Following her year in California, Miss Schuette left administration to return to teaching at Crane and Helen was appointed Director, a position she held from 1930 to 1966.
Helen returned to Columbia in 1932 to finish her master's degree and to organize the music department of New College, an experimental program developed by Columbia University. Her experience with New College led her to plan an experimental study tour to Europe with Crane students in 1936. A group of 18 college students spent one semester in Germany, France and the British Isles on a music study tour. The was the first time a Normal School in the United States had offered a semester abroad in Europe. She also led two month study trips to Europe during the summers of 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1959.
By 1940 the Crane School was offering a 4-year baccalaureate program in music and an off-campus student teaching program was put in place. Crane Students were placed in Northern New York schools to teach under the supervision of Crane staff.
In addition to her work at the college, Helen was active in music societies. She served as president of the Eastern Division of Music Educators National Conference for 1945-47 and a member of the National Executive Committee of MENC from 1946-49. She also served on many other regional and national music society boards during her years at Crane.
As the Crane School continued to grow, there was a need to expand and upgrade the facilities of the school. Helen was granted a leave of absence in 1952 to study newly built music instruction facilities at colleges and universities around the country in preparation for a new music building at Potsdam. The new Crane Hall opened in September of 1956.
Helen undertook a five month tour around the world from August 1960 to January 1961 in conjunction with the U.S. State Department for the President's Intercultural Exchange Program. Following her retirement, she traveled several more times. She went to Yugoslavia in 1967, was in Africa twice in 1969 and 1972, and went to Morocco for Nadia Boulanger's 80th birthday celebration given by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Nadia Boulanger of France had spend several productive years at Crane working with Helen. [To learn more about the career of Nadia Boulanger, visit the Women of Achievement website.]
Helen Hosmer retired from Crane in August 1966 after serving as director for 36 years. Among her honors was an Honorary Doctor of Music awarded by St. Lawrence University in 1956 and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Clarkson University in 1976. Helen's greatest honor came from the school she had dedicated 44 years of professional service to. The new Crane complex on the Potsdam campus was opened in 1973 with the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall was named in her honor. She died on December 18, 1989.
Return to the Women of Courage page.
Return to the St. Lawrence County Branch homepage.