Peter William Dykema (25 November 1873 – 13 May 1951) was an important force in the growth of the National Association for Music Education (initially known as the Music Supervisors National Conference), Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, and the music education profession. Dykema was also active in the Music Teachers National Association and the National Education Association Department of Music Education. He also served as 1924-25 chairman of the Kiwanis International Committee on Music. Through these various avenues of involvement, in addition to his work as a composer, author, and educator, he was one of the leading music advocates of his day.


He earned a B. L Degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1895, with certification to teach French and German. He earned an M. L. Degree in English literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1896. He undertook vocal studies with Franz Arens in New York from 1903 to 1904. He studied music theory with Frank Shepard at the Institute of Musical Art, New York, from 1904 to 1905. He student music theory with Edgar Stillman Kelly in Berlin, Germany from 1911 to 1912. He also studied ear training and composition at Juilliard from 1912 to 1913.


Dykema served as an English and German teacher at Aurora (Illinois) High School from 1896 to 1898. He served as the Principal of P.S. 8 in Indianapolis, Indiana from 1898 t0 1901. He was in charge of music at the Ethical Culture School in New York from 1901 to 1913.

He was Professor of music at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1913 t0 1924. He took a leave of absence from 1918 to 1919 to serve as Supervisor of music for Commission on Training Camp Activities of the War Department. From 1916 to 1917, he served as national president of what is now the National Association for Music Education. In 1917, he was elected to honorary membership in the Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity at Boston's New England Conservatory. In 1919, he was elected to honorary membership in the Beta Chapter at Combs College of Music. In 1921, he was a member of the charter class of the Phi Chapter installed at the University of Wisconsin. The following year, in 1922, he was elected Supreme President of the Fraternity.

He served as professor and chair of the music education department, Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York from 1924 until his retirement in 1940.

He was Professor Emeritus from 1940 until his death in 1951. In 1946, he was guest conductor of the summer music camp at the University of the Pacific.


Dykema wrote several songs, some of which appear in Sinfonia Songs. He wrote a choral anthem, We Who Love Music, and two Christmas songs, which appeared in the Blue Book of the Twice 55 series. They are To Shorten Winter's Sadness and A Carol for Everyman.


Dykema was the ninth and youngest child of Cornelius and Henrietta Dykema, Dutch immigrants who met as teenagers and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan after their marriage (Underwood, p. K.1). Dykema married Jessie Dunning on December 24, 1903. They had five children: Karl Washburn Dykema, Roger Dunning Dykema, Alice Mary Barnes, Helen Cargan Denglier, Peter Scot Dykema. His daughter Helen authored the biographical work Music For All in 1994, and was interviewed by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity's T. Jervis Underwood for the fraternity's Centennial History.

The Music Educators Journal

After his 1913 speech at the national convention of what is now NAfME, Dykema quickly became an active member in the organization, and became an active member after his presidential term ended in 1917. He was perhaps best known for his position as the editor of the Conference journal, first called The Bulletin and renamed The Music Supervisors Journal in 1915. Dykema used the publication to keep members informed about the organization and the profession, writing frequent columns about such topics as community singing, musical tests, new movements in music education, and issues within the Conference.


Dykema organized choirs at all the schools where he worked, included arts in his classes, and promoted music education in his faculty positions at the university level. When he taught high school English, he included a unit on arts education, and he developed one of the first music appreciation courses in the country. During his tenure at Teachers College, Columbia University, he increased music education course requirements for the master's degree and helped develop the first doctoral program in the music education department.

Dykema promoted music making and music education wherever he went. He was known as an inspiring choir leader and untiring worker, continuing to travel, write and lecture about music after he retired from his position at Teachers College in 1940. Heavily influenced by a Dutch Calvinist background that included family and church singing, Dykema advocated community music, believing that towns and cities should insure that their populations have access to musical groups, performance halls, and competent directors. He thought it was important that adults should have opportunities to study instruments as beginners, and he urged teachers to foster such a love of music that students would continue playing and singing after compulsory lessons had ended.

In 1918, he chaired a joint committee of twelve (that included John Alden Carpenter, Frederick S. Converse, Wallace Goodrich, Hollis Dann, among others) that prepared the "service version" of the National Anthem. Later, as a member of the National Anthem Committee in 1942, he helped prepare The Code for the National Anthem of the United States of America (www.thenationalanthemproject.org/reprise.pdf).

From 1923 to 1939, he served as chair of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)'s national Committee on Community Music. The reports of the committee as documented in MTNA's Volume of Proceedings from each year during that period contain in depth information on Dykema's efforts in the area of music advocacy: the promotion of Christmas carolling, community sings, music in industry, etc. He also described a collaboration between Phi Mu Alpha and Sigma Alpha Iota at the University of Wisconsin to establish a high school organization called Omicron Phi (MTNA Volume of Proceedings, 1936, p. 356). During much of this period, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and MTNA held national conventions simultaneously.

He was a member of a Manhattan chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), now known as the Barbershop Harmony Society, along with fellow Sinfonians Sigmund Spaeth and Fiorello LaGuardia. Prescott Bush was also a member of the Manhattan chapter of SPEBSQUA (May 1946 Harmonizer).

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity

Considered one of the most influential leaders in the Fraternity's history, Dykema was elected as an honorary member of the Fraternity's Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory in Boston on or around January 8, 1917 while serving as president of what is now the Music Educators National Conference. Three years later, he was elected an honorary member of the Beta Chapter at the Combs College of Music in Philadelphia. He was a member of the class that chartered the Phi Chapter at the University of Wisconsin in 1921, and was elected as a national honorary member (Alpha Alpha Chapter) in 1932. Based on the records compiled by former supreme historian Thomas Larrimore, it appears that Dykema holds the record for the most multiple chapter memberships.

Following a period of internal difficulty following the active departure of Ossian E. Mills, Percy Jewett Burrell, and other early Fraternity leaders, the Fraternity experienced internal difficulty (made more significant by the challenges of World War I) during the five years leading up to Dykema's election in 1922. Upon his election, Dykema addressed the delegates at the Chicago convention, "I want to hear from each one of you. The first thing I want to know is, 'Why should this fraternity exist at all? Why shouldn't we abandon the whole idea?" (Underwood, p. K.2). Dykema's words challenged and stirred his listeners, and the Fraternity's second defining period commenced. The number of active chapters grew significantly under his watch as president, and during those years the Fraternity was introduced to major universities such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Illinois, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Arizona, and Columbia University.

Dykema made several contributions to the Fraternity. He served on a team that oversaw the develop of membership intake protocol in 1926 and 1938. He served as editor and compiler of the 1931 edition of Sinfonia Songs. In the 1920s, he established the province structure, appointing the inaugural class of province governors. He was instrumental in bringing multiple key leaders in music education and advocacy into the fraternity, including Paul J. Weaver, Edward Bailey Birge, and Clarence C. Birchard. He presided over the dedication of the memorial in honor of Ossian E. Mills in Putnam, Connecticut in 1928, in addition to presiding over the dedication of the Sinfonia Lodge at Interlocken.

As a faculty member at Teachers College of Columbia University, he maintained close involvement with the Beta Gamma Chapter, where he served on the faculty after leaving Wisconsin. Through his influence, many men associated with music education on the national level came into Fraternity membership.

He served as supreme president from 1922 to 1928, during which time the Fraternity essentially doubled its number of active chapters across the country. Dykema's ascendancy to the presidency came just five years after his first election to honorary membership in the Fraternity. After leaving office as supreme president, he served as Committeeman-at-Large from 1928 to 1934, and as Supreme Historian from 1934 to 1938. His total years of formal service to the national level was sixteen years. During the remaining thirteen years of his life, he continued to be actively involved with the Fraternity. In 1944, he helped coordinate a Fraternity reception in New York City in honor of the Republican presidential candidate, and fellow Michigan graduate and Fraternity member, Thomas E. Dewey.

He is credited with essentially saving the Fraternity from extinction through the administrative restructuring that took place under his leadership as president(which involved dividing the Fraternity into provinces and the appointment of province governors, one of the earliest of whom was Thomas E. Dewey. Through his involvement with the Music Teachers National Association and the National Association of Schools of Music, the Fraternity came into close collaboration with these organizations, which had a lasting influence on the Fraternity's focus on music advocacy for decades.

Dykema served as chair of the 1931 edition of Sinfonia Songs. Some of the popular songs of a "general nature" entered the songbook under his watch. Several of his songs are included in the current songbook published in 1998, as are several that had previously appeared in the Twice 55 Community Songs series edited by Dykema. Two of his sons were also Sinfonians: Karl Washburn Dykema (into the Delta Eta Chapter at Youngstown State University in 1959), and Roger Dunning Dykema (into the Beta Gamma Chapter at Columbia University in 1928). Along with William B. McBride, Dykema is one of only two men who served as national president of both the Fraternity and the NAfME.

The Fraternity commissioned an oil painting of Dykema. The painting is part of the Gottesman Libraries' collection at Columbia University. It was restored by Chelsea Restoration conservators during the summer of 2010.


Dykema died from a heart attack at his home in Hastings, New York on Sunday, May 13, 1951. His funeral was held in St. Paul's Chapel (Columbia University) on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. The eulogy, written by former Sinfonia national president Norval Church, was delivered by Columbia's chaplain, James A. Pike. Dykema's ashes were scattered at Lake Ompah, his favorite wilderness retreat, in Ontario, Canada.


He was initiated as a member of Phi Mu Alpha's Alpha Alpha National Honorary Chapter in 1932, wth the Beta Gamma Chapter conducting the ceremony. In 1986, he was recognized as a member of the National Association for Music Education's Music Educators Hall of Fame.


  • Birge, Edward Bailey. History of Public School Music In The United States.
  • Dengler, Helen Dykema (1994). Music For All. Boston: C. C. Birchard.
  • Griesman, Robert Julian (1953). Early Developments Leading to Peter Dykema's Contribution to American Music Education. University of Southern California thesis.
  • Eisenkramer, Henry Edward (1963). Peter William Dykema, his life and contribution to music education. Columbia University dissertation.
  • Mark, M.L and Gary, C.L. (1999). A History of American Music Education. Reston: National Association for Music Education.
  • Underwood, T. Jervis. (2000). Centennial History. Evansville, IN: Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.