Edna Gockel Gussen

Classical Piano, Composer Music for AL State Song

Born: 1878 Covington, KY

Lived in Birmingham, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame



Edna Gockel Gussen (born 1878 in Covington, Kentucky; died 1937) followed her husband as owner and director of the Birmingham Conservatory of Music from 1920 to 1930, and is remembered for putting Julia Tutwiler's poem "Alabama (song)" to music, accepted as the Official State Song of Alabama in 1931.

Edna Gockel studied at the College of Music of Cincinnati, Ohio under Benjamin Guckenberger, and followed him to Birmingham as his teenaged assistant at the founding of the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. R. S. Munger encouraged the development of her musical talents by sponsoring her continued studies in Berlin under Xavier and Phillip Scharwenka over the next two years.

She married William Gussen, who purchased the Conservatory from Guckneberger, in 1903. She served as organist and choirmaster for both St Mary's-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church and Temple Emanu-El, and directed the Treble Clef Club choir.

Gussen won a statewide competition sponsored by the Alabama Federation of Music Clubs in 1917 to set Tutwiler's poem, written in the late 1860s, to music. The club lobbied for her winning composition to be adopted as the official state song, which was made official by a resolution in the Alabama House of Representatives on March 9, 1931.

Gussen took over the Birmingham Conservatory when William died in 1920, and led it for the next ten years, until faculty member Dorsey Whittington took over.


Musical Alabama Volume 2 (1936) Federated Music Clubs of Alabama. Tuscaloosa: Weatherford Printing Company

Source: http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Edna_Gockel_Gussen





The Alabama State Song


words by Julia S. Tutwiler and music by Edna Gockel-Gussen


Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee,

From thy Southern shore where groweth,

By the sea thine orange tree.

To thy Northern vale where floweth

Deep and blue thy Tennessee.

Alabama, Alabama

We will aye be true to thee!


Broad the Stream whose name thou bearest;

Grand thy Bigbee rolls along;

Fair thy Coosa-Tallapoosa

Bold thy Warrior, dark and strong.

Goodlier than the land that Moses

Climbed lone Nebo's Mount to see

Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee!


From thy praries broad and fertile,

Where thy snow-white cotton shines.

To the hills where coal and iron

Hide in thy exhaustless mines.

Strong-armed miners--sturdy farmers:

Loyal hearts what'er we be.

Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee!


From the quarries where the marble

White as that of Paros gleams

Waiting till thy sculptor's chisel,

Wake to like thy poet's dream;

For not only wealth of nature,

Wealth of mind hast thou to fee.

Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee!


Where the perfumed south-wind whispers,

Thy magnolia groves among,

Softer than a mother's kisses

Sweeter than a mother's song;

Where the golden jasmine trailing,

Woos the treasure-laden bee,

Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee!


Brave and pure thy men and women,

Better this than corn and wine,

Make us worthy, God in Heaven,

Of this goodly land of Thine;

Hearts as open as our doorways,

Liberal hands and spirits free,

Alabama, Alabama,

We will aye be true to thee!


Little, little, can I give thee,

Alabama, mother mine;

But that little--hand, brain, spirit,

All I have and am are thine.

Take, O take the gift and giver.

Take and serve thyself with me,

Alabama, Alabama,

I will aye be true to thee.

Educater Julia Strudwick Tutwiler (1841-1916) was a woman ahead of her time. She forced the University of Alabama to accept "female" students and later established the first technical school for women, now known as the University of Montevallo. She was a prison reformer, an author and a poet. Her poem, "Alabama," became the Official State Song in 1931.

"Alabama" was written in 1868 or 1869, during reconstruction and just after her return from Germany. She was very much concerned about the future of her state and recalled some of the exciting and inspiring patriotic songs she had heard in Germany. She thought the people of Alabama could use some inspiration after the War Between the States and set about writing her own "fatherland" song. She called it "Alabama" and gifted it to the state.

Tutwiler's "Alabama" was originally sung to the tune of an Austrian air. Then in Gadsden, in 1917, Edna Gockel-Gussen of Birmingham won the Alabama Federation of Music Club's competition for her composition setting Julia Tutwiler's poem to music.

Through the efforts of the Alabama Federation of Music Clubs, and a bill introduced by the Honorable Tyler Goodwyn, House Concurrent Resolution No. 74 was adopted on March 9, 1931 making Julia Tutwiler's poem and Edna Gockel-Gussen's music the state's Official State Song.


Source: Alabama Department of Archives & History,(http://www.archives.state.al.us/emblems/st_song.html), September 23, 2004

Source: The Alabama Legislature,(http://www.legislature.state.al.us/), September 23, 2004

Source: Alabama Women's Hall of Fame,(http://www.awhf.org/), September 23, 2004

Source: http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/song/al_song.htm


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