Vernon Griffiths (1894-1985): His life and philosophy of music education as demonstrated in his collected papers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
[Thomas] Vernon Griffiths (1894-1985) was one of five Englishmen appointed to influential positions in New Zealand music education during the 1920s. As Britons, Griffiths and his colleagues believed it to be appropriate to preach and practise the ideas and methods in which they themselves had been schooled, given that New Zealand was, until post-1945, firmly aligned to the “mother country”, Britain. Indeed, Britain was the prototype of the parental model in all aspects of life, including music education, as systems of thought and actual customs were transported to New Zealand and were reinforced within the Dominion. During his working life in New Zealand (1927-1961), Vernon Griffiths was appointed to positions of importance in New Zealand music education. What, then, were the actual ideas and beliefs that he expressed? How did they emerge in practical form? In what ways did he address the specific needs of the Dominion which he viewed as a culturally-developing country? Questions such as these lie behind this study of Vernon Griffiths' philosophies, using the materials preserved by Griffiths in his collected papers to determine the ideas and beliefs he held as essential in his personal philosophy during the thirty-five years of his career. Vernon Griffiths' own writings and appropriate materials from his papers are evaluated within three broad themes - music in life, music in education and music in New Zealand. To provide background and context, the opening chapters commence with a review of the literature pertaining to Griffiths, including assessments of his character, attitudes and contribution to music education, and brief descriptions of the journal Music in New Zealand, his book An experiment in school music-making, recorded sound archives and the primary source material - the Vernon Griffiths Papers. This is followed by a biographical account which furnishes details of his life, from his birth in England in 1894 and his arrival in the Dominion in February 1927, to his eventual retirement in 1961. The various sources of his "inspiration" are examined, and the educational contexts from which he emerged and into which he entered and to which he contributed are outlined in order to place him and his work as a music educator into context. While the focus of this study is an attempt to construct Vernon Griffiths' own philosophy based on his own writings and statements, the concluding chapter compares his philosophy to a model of the universals of music education and highlights the points of concurrence between the two systems. A postscript provides a summary of views of a sample of Vernon Griffiths' former students and practitioners as to his influence on their work in music and music education.