Jessie L. Smith Gaynor
Pioneer of Music Education in the Public Schools, Composer and Concert Performer —
JESSIE L. SMITH GAYNOR WAS BORN February 17, 1863, in St. Louis, Mo. She was a founder of music education in the Missouri public schools. She is one of America’s most outstanding composers of children’s music. Her best-known work is the children’s lullaby “The Slumber Boat”, written in collaboration with the children’s author, Alice C.D. Riley, who wrote the lyrics.
As a child, Mrs. Gaynor sang correctly before she could talk. Her musical instruction included not only vocal training but also piano, cornet, double bass and violin. She received a B.S. from Pritchett College in Missouri in 1881. Later she married Thomas Wellington Gaynor of St. Joseph, MO, owner of a silk factory, and had two daughters, Rose and Dorothy. They were both recipients of her musical and artistic gifts and performed vocal concerts with their mother in the early days. From 1893 to 1899 Mrs. Gaynor taught at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. She was inspired to begin her musical children’s compositions when her daughter, Rose, came home from elementary school singing an inappropriate saloon song. Jessie L. Gaynor then spent the rest of her life creating songs and educational teaching materials for the musical training of children. She stood alone for many years in first giving beginners musical ear-training, melody, rhythmic and harmonic dictation and theoretical knowledge of music.
A published volume that received most interest was the children’s operetta titled “The House That Jack Built”. Other volumes of children’s music include Songs of the Child World, volumes 1 and 2, for kindergarteners and primary grade students. Publications for piano include two books for beginners: “Miniature Melodies” and “First Pedal Studies”. Other successful operettas and cantatas written in collaboration with Alice C.D. Riley, are: The “Toy Shop”, “The First Lieutenant”, “Christmas Time”, and “Harvest Time”. Although she lived only 58 years, Jessie L. Gaynor published over 600 musical works as well as teaching manuals for music teachers and their students.
Jessie L. Gaynor passed away in Webster Groves, Mo on February 20, 1921.