Early Education and Career
Miss Gladys V. Jameson was raised and graduated from high school in Montrose, Pennsylvania. She then attended Perkiomen Seminary in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated and later served as an accompanist and assistant music teacher. In 1913 she graduated from the Institute of Musical Art in New York City. From 1911-1916 she gave private piano lessons in order to make a living. In 1916, she became a part of the Berea Music Department faculty (CAT).
Work in Berea
Miss Jameson served as an accompanist, voice and piano instructor, and taught music appreciation. Dr. Rolf Hovey, another member of the Music Department declared, “She could take the wax of indifference out of the ears of a callous student and lead that student to an awakened excitement about music.” In addition to these responsibilities she instructed the College’s Girls’ Glee Club after its previous instructor, Miss Mitchell, left Berea in 1924.
Miss Jameson, being a talented pianist, was asked to perform as an accompanist on many different occasions. She often played Pomp and Circumstance in May as the Berea College seniors walked down the aisle in Phelps Stokes during their graduation ceremony. She also accompanied the Harmonia Society for several years. On October 9, 1945 the Harmonia Society presented her with a special gift to show their appreciation for her services.
In the 1930’s Miss Jameson combined efforts with Virgil Smith (member of the Foundation School Faculty) to write a ballad opera called Evenin’ Time. The story of Evenin’ Time was based on incidents that took place in real life within the Appalachian Mountains. This was performed for the first time on March 16, 1934 by the Foundation Junior High School students. In 1955, it was recast and restaged as a production by “Wilderness Road” for the Berea Centennial.
Her Work in Preserving Appalachian Music
Miss Jameson possessed a passion for discovering, sharing, and preserving old folk music from the Appalachian Mountains. She began to form an extensive collection of ballads and folk songs in 1916 when she first came to Berea. She gathered information from both Berea students and the people living in the surrounding country side (Berea Citizen).
One way in which Miss Jameson was able to easily learn and record new folk music from sources outside Berea was through the Opportunity Schools provided by the college. These extension schools were placed throughout the mountain communities. Miss Jameson taught in these schools in order to “give as many as possible the joy of singing and knowing each other through the deep understanding which music creates.”
Miss Jameson shares one particular meaningful experience that she has had in one extension Opportunity School in Knott County in which she went to the home of one of the members of the school to share some old hymns and songs. She recalled, “We sat before the fireplace exchanging tunes and finding variants of the songs we both knew and as my hostess sang, I tried to write down the fine old tunes she knew. But notes failed miserably in transcribing the swoops and swirls and quarter-steps and ancient minors, which make steps and ancient minors which make the singing of those old songs an art in itself, so I finally let the hope of noting them slip away, and I just sat listening by the fire […] Before I rose to go, she said, ‘I think music is the most beautifullest thing in the world – almost. We ought to sing every night before we sleep. We must not forget how. It is good for our souls.”
Miss Jameson retired from Berea in 1954, but even after her retirement she still remained involved in the Berea College campus community. A specific example of this was demonstrated when she helped rehearse for the Centennial oratorio “Children of God.” She eventually moved to Lakeland, Florida. At the age 84 she learned to play the cello in addition to her ability to play the violin and piano. She died on April 17, 1973 while on a cruise ship in the Caribbean accompanied by her niece, Miss Helen Crossen Caskey.
“Miss Gladys V. Jameson.” CAT. 1917
“Remembering Gladys V. Jameson.” The Berea Citizen. May 3, 1973.