The Texas Association of Music Schools, Incorporated, was organized in November 1938, with twenty-five colleges represented. In 2015 its membership included 121 college and university departments and schools of music. Cofounders William E. Jones, the first president, served from 1938 to 1942, and Grady Harlan served as secretary from 1938 to 1948.
Both the Commission on Fine Arts appointed by the Texas Association of Colleges (established in Austin, 1937), and a Symposium on the College Music Curricula at the Texas Music Teachers Association convention (Waco, June 1938) revealed the need for improved standards in music education that led to the beginnings of the association. The first convention was held in December 1939 in San Antonio. The twenty-six institutions represented at this meeting are considered the charter members. Over a period of many years, E. William Doty, in his dual capacity as dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas and leader in both the Texas Association of Music Schools and the National Association of Schools of Music, persistently fought for the establishment of standards in music schools throughout the state.
From as early as 1898 the number of schools offering music instruction had rapidly increased. These schools searched for means to improve quality of instruction, to establish standards for course offerings, and to set criteria for weighting of credit. The problems they sought to solve included the lack of cooperative leadership and the inability of students to transfer credit between institutions, both obstacles to the establishment of academic standards for music in Texas higher education. The association has provided member schools a forum for discussion of major issues relating to music in higher education in Texas. It has enhanced research and development of music in higher education, encouraged music in general education, and fostered cooperation among institutions and public understanding of music education.
The association's early years were devoted to organizational policies. Its code of ethics, promulgated in 1938, has made a distinctive difference in music education in the state and in the country. In place of rivalry and competition, cooperative teamwork and fraternity prevail. In 1945 the association turned its efforts toward the music curricula and sought to establish minimum standards for courses, faculty, facilities, resources, and libraries. A culminating achievement of the Commission on Cooperation in Higher Education was the publication in 1982 of the Transfer Curriculum in Music for Texas Colleges and Universities. Upon publication and distribution on four continents of the bibliographic tool Books on Music: A Classified List by Michael Winesanker, the association gained worldwide recognition.
Any department or school of music in a Texas college or university holding membership in the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities or accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities may apply, be nominated by the Commission on Academic Standards, and be elected to membership at the annual meeting of the association. An executive director supervises the overall operations of the association. Three other directors are members of an executive board. One director of the association must represent a private institution, another a public college or university, and the third a two-year school. Don Morton served as executive director from 1948 to 1976. Christian Rosner served from 1976 to 1984, and Wesley Coffman served from 1991 to 2005. In 2015 James Lee was executive director.