Days Gone By - stories from the past

Singing Schools were very popular in Alabama – this is how they were organized


(Transcribed and unedited story from a WPA

(Works Projects Administration) author from Pike County, Alabama)

Written by Lois Lynn


Singing schools are still held in some remote sections of Pike and Coffee Counties. These schools are usually held by one singing teacher in community churches.

Singing during recreation evening at a community school, under direction of WPA (Work Projects Administration) recreation supervisor. Coffee County, Alabama Apr. 1939 by Marion Post Wolcott (Library of Congress)

Held five days a week

The teacher solicits pupils, and when 10 or more are secured, comprised of both adults and children, the school opens. They are held 5 days a week over a period of from four to six weeks. These schools are usually conducted without an instrument. The pupils are divided into classes, soprano, tenor, (1st & 2nd), alto and bass, (1st & 2nd). The notes are thoroughly taught by sight, then by tune. When each pupil has familiarized himself with the notes, they are then coached in singing, each class holding to their respective parts. Harmonizing is a popular addition to the recent singing schools.

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  1. Paulette Williams

    I attended a music school at Bethany Baptist Church in Chilton County in the early 1960s.

  2. Thanks, so much, for the stories about Sacred Harp music. I used to attend the singings when I was a child and to this day this music is still spiritual to me and fills me with great joy.

    I’ve heard they still have singing school. Would you happen to know of any in our state?

    Thanks again for this article and the sample music!


    1. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Regina Dewberry Stringer

    I attended singing school as a child in the Boaz (Sand Mountain) area in the 60s.

  4. Timothy Hussey

    Jenifer Sellers Saylors, Mother’s diary is full of singing school notations from the early 1950’s in both Pike and Coffee Counties. She would go far and near to be at a singing school taught by Mallory Chandler whose wife was some of our distant kin. Winnie Merle Helton, one of Mother’s friends from childhood, tagged right along.

  5. Winnie Merle Helton

    Guilty!! It was fun back then. But what else did we have to do?

  6. Bobby Lynn Guice Wheeler

    My Grandfather, Frank Machen, taught singing schools in Dekalb and surrounding counties in Alabama in the 1960’s. Such fond memories.

  7. Blake Harmon

    Old Napolean school house in the 60s

  8. Mary Lee

    My dad taught singing schools in Walker County for several years when my brothers and I were growing up. He had a natural gift as did his siblings, so we all learned to sing and read music in church and singing schools. He also taught the sacred harp style.

  9. Joyce Mcclendon

    Went to several at White Oak Church many years ago. Couldn’t sing then, can’t sing now,

  10. Brad Smith

    I remember my grandmother and others talking about a lady teaching the singing school, her last name was LeFevre, or some derivation of that name. John Pritchett, do you remember anything about the singing school?

  11. Peavy Trotter

    We had them at Shady Grove Methodist Church.

  12. John Pritchett

    The only one I remember was Lawrence Howard and Hubbard Jones teaching one when I was a teenager. I heard of the others.

  13. Joel Gilbert

    1956 — First Free Will Baptist Church – Bridge Ave, Northport, AL. And, yep, taught by a 5th grade elementary school teacher– Mrs. Collins!!

  14. Joel Gilbert

    1956 — First Free Will Baptist Church – Bridge Ave, Northport, AL. And, yep, taught by a 5th grade elementary school teacher– Mrs. Collins!!…

  15. Mr. Stamps taught a singing school in the summer at Buhl School with his daughter, Greta playing the piano. We learned to sing by shape notes, do, fa, so, la, te, do. Wonderful time and memories.

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