False Start: Rigdon McCoy McIntosh and the Failed Attempt to Bring Vocal Music to Vanderbilt University


  • Heather R. Nelson University of Kansas


In the aftermath of the Civil War, higher education in the South had been all but depleted. Vanderbilt University was inaugurated in 1875 to begin to fill the gap in education for Southern men. Rigdon McCoy McIntosh, a prolific hymn writer and publisher from Tennessee, was offered a position as a music instructor during the inaugural year. He was not given a salary from the university, but only offered the fees of the students who might enroll in his classes. He developed an extensive two-year curriculum listed in the Biblical Department of the catalog of 1875, yet McIntosh left after one year, and later taking employment at Emory University in Atlanta. After his departure, a string of music teachers came and went from Vanderbilt over the next ten years, after which time no formal instruction in music through the university was offered for decades. McIntosh offered Vanderbilt an opportunity to begin a music program in 1875, but circumstances including administrative decisions, living conditions, and personality clashes may have prevented the program from taking root.

Author Biography

Heather R. Nelson, University of Kansas

Heather Nelson began singing at a young age, and has developed a passion for vocal music. Her formal studies have included undergraduate work at Southwest Baptist University where she studied with Lynn Penticuff, a MMus in vocal performance from Truman State University where she studied with Jacqueline Collett, and a MMus in vocal pedagogy, studying with Rose Mary Owens. Of particular interest to Heather is vocal music of the late Renaissance and Baroque periods and modern art song, and she spends much of her time learning new music each year.