W. Otto Miessner

MENC President 1923-1924


Born 1880, Huntingburg, Indiana




Diploma, Cincinnati School of Music, 1900

Studied voice with Alexander Heinemann in Berlin, 1910




Chairman,, University of Kansas, department of music, 1936- 1945

Director, Methodist Church, Boonville

Music teacher, Boonville public schools

MSNC editor for Silver, Burdett Progressive Music Series.  First published in 1914. 

Conductor, Coal Miner’s Band, Boonville

Music teacher, Connersville 1904-1909

Music teacher, Oak Park, Illinois,1910

Teacher, Milwaukee state Teachers College, 1914-1922

Teacher, Chicago Musical college summer sessions, 1911-1924


Significant Publications:


Parker, Horatio, Osbourne McConathy, Edward B. Birge, and W. Otto Meissner, eds.

The Progressive Music Series. New York: Silver Burdett Company, 1914-1927

Compositions: The New England Symphony, Ben Hur

Literary works: Chopin the Composer, Wagner the Composer, Musical Instruments

Miessner, W. Otto, A guide to Symphonic Music, 1936

Miessner, W. Otto, The Melody Way class piano course

Miessner, W. Otto, Young America Sings, records, filmstrips and teacher’s guides

Miessner, W. Otto, The All-American Song Book, Robbins Music Corporation, 1942

Miessner, W. Otto, The melody Way to Play Violin


Professional Accomplishments:


Member of the Educational Council established in 1918.

Organized one of the earliest high school bands in America , 1907 Connersville HS

Superintendent, Western division, 1921

Class piano courses reported in 66% of 557 cities that had reported class piano using Miessner’s class method Melody Way













Miessner was born only seventeen miles from Lincoln’s birth place.  He lived in a musical environment during his childhood.  He played the violin and began giving lessons at a young age.       He worked as a photographer, a piano seller, and then took a loan from his father to go to school for music in Cincinnati. He was a member of the Educational Council established in 1918.  He taught public school music in Boonville and Connersville and Oak Park, Illinois.  While teaching music he continued to compose and write.  In 1914, he left the Oak Park schools in order to accept a full-time position at Milwaukee State Teachers College.  In 1921 he succeeded Edward Birge as superintendent of the Western Division.  The council served as a “bran trust” to respond to requests for information on music education.  It gave the organization a means of establishing direction and priorities beyond the interests of the president. He believed that sight singing should be taught in third grade. He maintained that the most important purpose of the public schools was to make the child an intelligent, useful,a and moral citizen. Miessner devoted his life to the conviction that all children, the gifted and the ungifted, deserve a chance to learn at least the basic rudiments off music and to have its beauty touch their lives.  His pianos were sold to supply schools with a practical piano.  He took an active roll in the development of the piano class movement during the 1920’s and 30’s.  As a result he made a significant contribution toward fulfilling the motto “Music for Every Child.”




Personal Biography:




“Every child should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument-including the piano, because it is a good foundation, indeed, the best, for learning to play any instrument”

Miller, Samuel Dixon, “W. Otto Miessner and his contributions to music in American schools.” Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan. (1962): 166






Sources Used:


Birge, Edward B. History of Public School Music in the United States, new and expanded

ed. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1966.


Keene, James A. A History of Music Education in the United States. Hanover, NH:

University Press of New England, 1982.


Mark, Michael L., and Charles L. Gary. A History of American Music Education, 2nd

ed. Reston, VA: MENC-The National Association for Music Education, 1999.


Miller, Samuel Dixon, “W. Otto Miessner and his contributions to music in American schools.” Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1962.





For more information, consult the following source:


Arneson, Jon. The Music Educators Journal Cumulative Index 1914-1987. Stevens Point,

WI: Index House, 1987.


Journal of Proceedings/Yearbooks, Music Supervisors’ National Conference, 1910-1940


Papers and Proceedings, Music Teachers National Association, 1908-1940.


School Music Monthly, 1907-1932. Arneson, Jon. The Music Educators Journal Cumulative Index 1914-1987. Stevens Point,WI: Index House, 1987.


Submitted by Rob Hunter, November 2002