Music from the Hilltop

Organs and Organists at Southern Methodist University

978-1-57441-910-8 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
352 pp. 40 b&w illus. Notes.
Pub Date: 10/24/2023


  • Cloth $45.00
In Music from the Hilltop, Benjamin A. Kolodziej studies three significant academic musical figures to weave a narrative that not only details the role musical studies played in the development of Southern Methodist University but also relates a history of church music and pipe organs in Dallas, Texas. Bertha Stevens Cassidy (1876–1959), the first organ professor and the only woman on the faculty of the new university, established herself as a leader and veritable dean of the church music community, managing a career of significant performances and teaching.
Her student and protégé, Dora Poteet Barclay (1903–1961), a Waco native, exhibited such musical potential that she was hired by SMU the day after her graduation. Taking over the organ program upon Cassidy’s retirement, Barclay broadened the pedagogical horizons for her students. The great French composer Marcel Dupré, with whom she briefly studied, extolled Barclay’s talents: “She is my best American student!” Many of her own students achieved great professional heights as performers and church musicians.
With the hiring of Robert Theodore Anderson (1934–2009), SMU solidified its reputation as a school able to provide excellence not only in performance training but also in scholarship. A Chicago native who studied in New York and in Germany, Anderson represented a new, modern outlook to teaching and performance. He was intellectually able to bridge the gap between the theologians of the Methodist seminary and the performers at the Meadows School of the Arts. Through his example and guidance, organists were taught to think critically, whether about music or any other subject, and to attain excellence in the craft of organ performance. During the 1980s Anderson consulted with the Dallas Symphony to prepare for the installation of an organ in the new Meyerson Symphony Center, an organ that would influence concert hall instruments in subsequent decades.
These three pedagogues played important roles in the development of the musical curriculum as well as the building of important organs on the SMU campus and around the city, each in their own ways nurturing the practice of sacred music in North Texas.

Published by University of North Texas Press