Professional Education | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Professional Education

Music education, professional. The musical training needed by a performer, composer, teacher or scholar if he or she is to function at a level of adequacy or excellence both artistically and economically.

Music Education, professional

Music education, professional. The musical training needed by a performer, composer, teacher or scholar if he or she is to function at a level of adequacy or excellence both artistically and economically. The demand for professional musicians normally precedes the availability of private and institutional study facilities, but the reverse may be true. Thus, when the University of Toronto began to produce Canada's first specialist high school music teachers and opera singers, about 1950, there was a wide market for the teachers but outlets for the singers' talents were few and an audience had to be built.

The conditions for the establishment of advanced music education include not only guarantees of living wages to master teachers but also rich opportunities for students of year-round concert and opera attendance, and well-stocked libraries. At long last, in the 1970s, such conditions obtained in the larger Canadian cities. They did not, of course, lessen the value, to the advanced student, of an experience of the teaching methods and musical climates of other countries.


Until late in the 19th century there was little that resembled professional training in Canada. The French missionaries in 17th-century Canada were little interested in providing musical instruction that did not have to do directly with such use as they could make of plainsong in carrying out their duties. Willy Amtmann notes that the École des arts et métiers, founded at St-Joachim (near Quebec City) in the late 17th century, helped to establish the tradition of skilled artisanship still flourishing in Quebec, but adds that 'in the brilliant mosaic of clerical initiative and cultural attainment the development of musical art alone remains a somewhat colourless, sadly neglected and insignificant segment' (Music in Canada 1600-1800, p 60-1). In other words, nearly everything was taught, from theology and mathematics to weaving and shoemaking, except music! Research by Erich Schwandt and Elisabeth Gallat-Morin has revealed evidence of trained musicians in New France by the early 18th century. The former has noted the efforts of Mother Marie-Andrée Duplessis de Ste-Hélène in compiling Canada's first music theory manual in 1718; the latter has located the manuscript book of French music, the Livre d'orgue de Montréal, brought by Jean Girard in 1724. While we have no knowledge about any of their pupils, we may assume that they did have a beneficial influence on musical practice.

Probably the first of the many native Canadians to obtain musical training in Europe (along with a general education) was Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) who for a time, at the Quebec City church organ, plied the keyboard skills he had learned abroad 1667-8, though he attained fame only as the discoverer of the source of the Mississippi. Jolliet never intended to become a professional musician, unlike J.C. Brauneis II and Tom Haliburton (see Prodigies) who studied abroad 1830-3 and ca 1840-5, respectively, probably in Germany, leading the way for a stream of Canadians bound for study in Paris, Leipzig, or elsewhere in Europe. By and large, the need for professional musicians in Canada was supplied by European immigrants but only a few of these (such as Antoine Dessane, Jules Hone, Paul Letondal, and Frantz Jehin-Prume) were competent to raise their Canadian pupils to the level of professional musicians.

A generation later, Canadians who had some training abroad (Calixa Lavallée, Guillaume Couture, W.O. Forsyth, Philéas Roy, Waugh Lauder, and others) were able to impart training to advanced pupils. Indeed, some 19th-century Canadians were trained almost entirely at home (Contant, Amédée Tremblay, and Joseph Vézina), but the same educational opportunities would have permitted few of these bandmasters, church musicians, and piano teachers to reach the top level of the profession in the 20th century.

Music schools offering lessons and examinations in a variety of subjects were seen by Dessane, Lavallée, and others as an answer to the need for training professionals, but it was only with the increase of urban population and wealth that conservatories could be established in the late 1880s. Most of their students, of course, were beginners and amateurs. The curricula of the TCM, the Toronto College of Music, and similar institutions are impressive; an associate candidate in piano was expected to perform 10 pieces from a list which included some Bach, the Beethoven sonatas (Opus 53 and later), the Chopin sonatas, and solo pieces and concertos by Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, and Grieg. Among the early graduates of Canadian conservatories were J.D.A. Tripp, Lena Hayes Smith, and William Robinson. Yet the limitations of even the best 19th-century Canadian training are obvious from the account of Louise McDowell, one of the early piano graduates of the TCM, who had mastered concertos by Chopin and Mendelssohn but until some years later had never heard a symphony orchestra! (Past and Present, Kirkland Lake, Ont, 1957, p 31).

About the same time, the University of Trinity College, Toronto, and later the University of Bishop's College (see Bishop's University), Lennoxville, Que, and the University of Toronto established music syllabi and degree examinations without, however, providing full-fledged instruction. The subjects of these examinations - harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, analysis, fugue, and history - reflected a thoroughly British outlook and for about 60 years formed the backbone of academic music instruction. The standards were high enough; but, while offering essential skills and mental discipline, the system did little to equip a musician for a professional career - except in a perpetuation of the same academism. The harmony and counterpoint had little to do with contemporary composition, skills in orchestration were useless when orchestras were scarce and in any case gave little exposure to Canadian music, and music history was considered a subject for polite conversation rather than scholarship. Thus the universities contributed little towards fostering those branches of the profession that require advanced training; composition, scholarship, virtuoso performance, school and private teaching, conducting, and opera.

Far-seeing persons strove to improve the situation. When Ernest Lavigne imported Belgians to play in an orchestra in Montreal in 1895, he hoped they would teach young Canadians to become orchestral players. When Col A.E. Gooderham founded the Canadian Academy of Music in Toronto in 1911, his purpose was to save Canadian students expensive trips overseas by bringing to Canada teachers of international rank such as von Kunits and Otto Morando. It is true that a few famous teachers resided in Canada in the early 20th century, but all only for brief periods (eg, Arthur Friedheim, Henri Czaplinski, Walter Kirschbaum, and Claude Biggs).

In any case, after taking bachelor degrees or associate diplomas in Canada, most serious students aspired to further studies abroad. By the second quarter of the century, in addition to the traditional study centres of Europe, the many excellent and modern music schools of the USA were an enticement. The Juilliard School attracted Paule-Aimée Bailly, Alexander Brott, Marcelle Martin, Phil Nimmons, Barbara Pentland, and William Keith Rogers; the ESM (Rochester), Weinzweig; the New England Cons, Papineau-Couture and Blackburn; the Curtis Institute, Marvin Duchow, Pierrette Alarie, Clermont Pépin; the Peabody Institute, Colin McPhee. Most French-Canadians continued to go to Paris (J.-M. Beaudet, Champagne, Auguste Descarries, Raoul Jobin, R. Mathieu, Léo-Pol Morin, and Wilfrid Pelletier). Perhaps it was the very existence of these opportunities that retarded development of professional training at home. It was only during World War II, when it was difficult or impossible to study abroad, that the problem was faced squarely.

In response to strong proposals by Champagne and others, the Quebec government established its Conservatoire de musique et d'art dramatique in Montreal (1942) and Quebec City (1944), under the direction of Wilfrid Pelletier, to provide free instruction for talented students (see Cons de musique du Quebec).

The University of Toronto and the board of the TCM commissioned Ernest Hutcheson, the president of the Juilliard School in New York, to prepare a report on the expansion of music education in Canada. 'Report: On a Short Survey of the Toronto Conservatory of Music' (1937) recommended that a strong 'graduating and professional' department, leading to active professional occupation or to advanced university courses, be established; that advanced students take courses, with major and secondary subjects plus theory, rather than lessons in one subject; that teachers be assigned to pupils; that teachers be salaried rather than paid lesson fees; that a summer school be established for continuing education or refresher courses; and that training be geared to occupational needs (eg, musicians to teach in schools or work in broadcast studios). Hutcheson's recommendations were adopted, with some changes, in 1946 when Arnold Walter was asked to set up a school music course, a senior school, and an opera school at the University of Toronto, under the direction of Sir Ernest MacMillan and the TCM's board of directors.


Ca 1950 an unprecedented increase in breadth and seriousness marked professional education programs. The number of Canadian university degree programs in music increased from 12 in 1955 to 17 in 1966; the CAUSM Directory for 1978-9 listed 31. According to the CUMS Directory for 1989-90, in that academic year the organization represented 33 full-member institutions while 6 institutions had associate-member status (most programs are described individually under their separate institutional names).

In the 1950s and 1960s the following were adopted enthusiastically in English-speaking Canada as founding premises: school music programs require specialists, equipped to organize courses centred on instrumental ensemble performance (the band, the orchestra); professional performers should acquire degrees and should mix advanced practical studies with those in liberal arts subjects; and music is an appropriate area for graduate studies.

These premises were all based on US patterns. At the outset a notable, and also quite new, dependence on US models was seen in Canadian professional education. In music, no less than in other disciplines, the 'Americanization' of university programs came to be felt, and expressed, by the mid-1960s, a trend attributable both to the adoption of such patterns and to the importation of expert personnel. The universities of Toronto, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, for example, appointed prominent US scholars to direct new professional programs in music. New departments followed a similar line in their appointments, for example those at the University of Calgary and York University. Among Canadians appointed in the same period a majority had acquired graduate degrees in US schools. (Columbia, Yale, Rochester, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, Stanford, and Berkeley all attracted Canadian graduate students in the 1950s and 1960s.)

As departments proliferated and grew in size, their curricula became both more varied and more specialized. Whereas previously music had existed as either a liberal arts option or a 'general' professional concentration exclusive of performance, in the late 1940s instrumental school music became suddenly the program of highest enrollment, whether offered by music faculties (Toronto) or by music specialists appointed to education faculties (British Columbia, Alberta). In the 1950s musicology was introduced as a specialized discipline (Toronto, Laval, Montreal); and, as corollaries, a sudden huge expansion in music library resources was seen, and master's and doctor's programs were introduced. (Sir Ernest MacMillan had remarked in an essay at the start of the decade that there was no adequate research library in the country and that serious graduate programs would not be viable until there was at least one.)

Although cautious in adopting the US pattern of degrees in musical performance, the Canadian university departments had fostered advanced studies in this area, sometimes offering full-time professional diploma programs (Mount Allison, Toronto, McGill, Western Ontario), but stopping short of degree status. When, in the early 1960s, degree programs in performance were inaugurated, it was principally in answer to demand: the most talented Canadian students seeking professional performing careers wanted the advantages of university degrees and were going in increasing numbers to the US universities for them; the departments felt obliged to stem the 'talent drain,' and they succeeded.

The success may have been, however, partly at the expense of the independent conservatories which, because of their lack of state subsidy and their non-degree-granting character, felt a declines in their professional role. A co-operating link with a university degree program was an effective compromise in some instances, notably that between the Victoria Cons and the University of Victoria's Music Department.

In the late 1960s and 1970s there were further diversification and specialization in the adoption of ethnomusicology as an undergraduate and graduate subject by several university departments (especially Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, British Columbia, and York; Laval with its Archives de folklore had pioneered in this field). Research in Canadian music began to be fostered, a leader in the area being the Faculty of Music at the University of Montreal. During the 1970s some departments added undergraduate courses in the history of music in Canada or analysis and appreciation of Canadian composers' music.

Although conference panels continued to deplore the fact that dissertation topics in the area of musical Canadiana were undertaken more often abroad than within Canada (see Musicology: 2/Canada as a subject for musicological study), a well-attended gathering of teachers, scholars, and researchers was held in Toronto in 1970 in connection with the annual meeting of the American Musicological and College Music Societies; and in 1974, again in Toronto, CAUSM made 'Canadian Music' the central theme of its annual meeting - two examples of widespread attention paid to this specialty.

Although the influence of US patterns was pronounced, this was counterbalanced to some extent in the 1950s and 1960s by other factors. US-born and -educated musicians held prominent positions, but significant numbers of mature professionals arrived from other parts of the world as well. Often these were composers, concert performers, or orchestral musicians who contributed a direct acquaintance with trends and standards from, for example, post-war England, Germany, or the USSR. At the same time also, in one important specialization - teacher-training for the elementary levels - the predominant patterns in fact were non-US ones. The Orff, Suzuki, and Kodály approaches all had, in Canada, strong advocates who swiftly acquired first-hand knowledge of these methods. The English translation of Orff's Schulwerk was done by Canadians, and direct experience of Kodály's work was developed in the 1960s by extended visits of a number of Canadian music educators to Hungary and by Kodály's own 1964 and 1966 visits to Canada.

In the period 1970-90, a series of issues came increasingly under discussion in informal professional circles, as well as in convention papers and journal articles, representing a questioning of the premises so heartily accepted in the immediate post-war years. In a declining job market for teachers, the pre-eminence of instrumental-music programs was questioned, and alternatives such as choral music or the aesthetic (non-performance) approach attracted champions. The liberal-arts context of performance study was likewise re-examined, and the alternative of intensive European-style vocational training for aspiring orchestral instrumentalists drew advocates. The institutions exercised their abilities to discuss and adjust, while weathering a 1980s dip in enrolment and welcoming a renewed increase by the early 1990s - without, however, any corresponding increase in funding support. The period which saw new buildings open at Brandon University (1984), Memorial U (1985), and the University of Ottawa (1988) was marked by proliferation of new specialties, sub-disciplines, and approaches, as well as strengthening of existing ones: examples of the former are the emphasis on semiology at the University of Montreal, on music in popular culture at Carleton University, on research in music education at the University of Toronto, on jazz studies at Concordia, St. Francis Xavier, and York, and on computer applications and other new technologies at almost every school; and of the latter, the reorganization of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Music (CAUSM) as the Canadian University Music Society (CUMS), the biennial conferences of theorists inaugurated at McGill University in 1986 (see Theory and analysis), and the first national conference of ethnomusicologists organized jointly by Toronto and York in 1988. By 1990, 16 Canadian universities were offering graduate-degree programs in music.

The University of Alberta, Carleton University with its Canadian-studies master's program, and the University of Toronto with its Institute for Canadian Music exemplified renewed stress on graduate courses and research programs in Canadian music, and there was a dramatic increase in doctoral theses in the area; at the same time almost every undergraduate program in the country added at least one Canadian-music course to its offerings.

A significant resurgence of interest in conservatory programs is demonstrated in the formation of the Association of Colleges and Conservatories of Music (ACCM) in 1980. Its meetings in Toronto, 1980; Banff, 1981; Montreal, 1982; Calgary, 1987; and Toronto again, 1988, culminated in the issuance by the Canadian Music Council of the Trowsdale Report, presenting data and arguing for increased public support. While out of 69 schools listed by Trowsdale only a few were engaged in educating musicians for the profession, proponents viewed their grassroots one-on-one teaching in the fundamentals of musical literacy as basic to virtually all professional-level study. That one large institution of senior status, the RCMT, managed in 1991 to sever its long affiliation with the University of Toronto, symbolized marked changes in this sector.

Further Reading