Royal Conservatory of Music | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Royal Conservatory of Music

The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto Conservatory of Music 1886-1947; Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto 1947-91).

The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto Conservatory of Music 1886-1947; Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto 1947-91). Incorporated in Toronto 20 Nov 1886 and opened in September the following year with an initial enrolment of more than 100 students (283 by the end of the first quarter) and a staff of some 50 teachers. Edward Fisher, who had been a leading figure in its organization, became the first music director, and Marion Ferguson registered the students. The conservatory quickly became the most prominent in Canada and one of the important music-training institutions of the British Empire, establishing its pre-eminence through professional training, a nationwide examining system, and a faculty that provided much of the leadership for the growth and development of music in Canada. Although in the 1960s and 1970s its programs had to accommodate major changes in the development of music in higher education, the conservatory has continued to play an important role in the musical life of Canada.

History of The Royal Conservatory of Music

Founding Years
In 1887 instruction was offered in practical and theoretical music as well as elocution, foreign languages, public school music, acoustics, piano tuning, and vocal anatomy and hygiene. Teachers were available for saxophone (1888) and for guitar and zither (1893). At this time Toronto's musical life enjoyed a vigorous rivalry among several music schools and the aspiring figures associated with them. The Toronto Conservatory of Music (TCM), as it was first named, was affiliated 1888-1904 with the University of Trinity College and with the University of Toronto in 1896 for the purpose of preparing candidates for university degree examinations. The conservatories provided the instruction and the universities conducted the examinations.

From its inception, the conservatory was a large-scale enterprise with its activities organized under two departments - the Academic, for young students and amateurs, and the Collegiate, which offered programs in professional training for performers and teachers. Examinations at the Junior, Intermediate, and Final levels led to the Associate diploma (ATCM). The Fellowship (FTCM, begun in 1890 and offered until 1914 when it was replaced by the Licentiate, LTCM; see also Diplomas) was awarded to students who completed two advanced courses of study. The exacting standards of advanced work at the conservatory were recognized by the University of Toronto; recipients of conservatory diplomas were exempted from the first and second year B MUS examinations. The first graduate in pianoforte was J.D.A. Tripp in 1889; in 1891 169 certificates were issued and 25 students received diplomas. The remarkable growth in these early years was associated with the appointment of many distinguished musicians to the teaching faculty. A three-manual organ was installed by Warren and Sons in 1889 in the nearby YMCA Association Hall used by the TCM, to the considerable benefit of the work of the organ teachers, A.S. Vogt and J.W.F. Harrison. J. Humfrey Anger, appointed in 1892, developed an outstanding theory program.

When the conservatory first opened, it occupied two upper floors over a music store at the corner of Yonge St and Wilton Ave (later Dundas Square), and it was able to increase the size of these premises in 1892. In 1897 a new building with more extensive facilities was erected at the south-west corner of College St and University Ave. This structure included a reception hall, offices, 25 classrooms, a lecture hall, and a concert hall in which the Warren organ was housed. In 1899, 25 studios were added, as well as a two-manual practice organ built by Edward Lye and Sons. To accommodate out-of-town students, two adjacent houses (to the south) were remodelled as a ladies' residence in 1902, and another house (to the west) provided 15 additional teaching studios. This expansion of physical facilities was required to cope with the tremendous growth in all departments under Edward Fisher's leadership, 1886-1913.

Shortly after moving to College St, the conservatory introduced the Fletcher Music Method for young children and operated a special Normal Session in the summer of 1898. The same year, the conservatory established local examination centres in several Ontario towns. The conservatory extended its teaching with the establishment in 1905 of the first branches in residential areas of Toronto; by 1915 there were eight of these. Bertha Drechsler Adamson formed the Conservatory String Quartet (1901-4) and later developed a string orchestra. In 1906 Frank Welsman founded and directed the Toronto Conservatory Orchestra which, two years later, became the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). Some of the graduates of this early period were Frank Blachford (violin 1897), Mona Bates (piano 1907), and Cora Ahrens (piano 1911).

In 1910 the board of directors reorganized the conservatory into a private trust to ensure that all profits would remain for artistic development. By 1912 there were 2,000 students registered and among the staff were accomplished musicians such as A.T. Cringan (school music), Albert Ham (singing and organ), Frank Blachford (violin), Edward Broome (organ), and Leo Smith (cello and theory). By the time of Edward Fisher's death (1913), the institution was exerting a significant influence on music education in Canada.

Partnership with the University of Toronto

Augustus Vogt, widely known as the conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, became principal of the conservatory in 1913. He worked closely with Sir Edmund Walker, president of the conservatory, in developing closer ties with the university in order to provide continuity and financial stability for the conservatory; at that time, Walker was chair of the university's board of governors. By an act of the Ontario Legislature (1919), the property and assets of the conservatory were vested in the university, and in 1921 the conservatory's operation came under the control of the university through a board of trustees, whose members were appointed annually by the university. The fusion of the two institutions had been reinforced further in 1918 by the appointment of Vogt as dean of the Faculty of Music which opened in 1919. This dual appointment, together with the physical presence of both institutions in the same building (until 1962) did much to cement the relationship.

In 1924 the conservatory purchased the Canadian Academy of Music, and the academy's president, Col Albert Gooderham, was appointed chair of the board of trustees of the conservatory. By the late 1920s the large number of conservatories in Toronto had dwindled to two - the other being the Hambourg Conservatory. These developments enabled Vogt to consolidate the position of the TCM; it had been the largest in the city probably from the beginning of the century and was soon virtually without a rival in Toronto. Vogt gave vigorous leadership to the institution in several ways. One of the most significant developments was the resident program in performance (1914-52) leading to the Licentiate diploma. During Vogt's term Healey Willan, who had succeeded Anger as head of the theory department, was appointed vice-principal (he served 1920-36), and in 1924 Luigi von Kunits became conductor of the Conservatory Orchestra. Vogt increased the number of local centres of examination, and near the end of his administration (1913-26) the number of students had grown to almost 7500 and the number of examination candidates exceeded 16,000.

Ernest MacMillan was named principal in 1926, and in the following year became dean of the Faculty of Music. The early years of his term were characterized by a diversity of artistic activities and developments. Efforts were made to improve the library. Courses in Dalcroze eurhythmics were introduced in 1927. MacMillan conducted the Conservatory Choir, which gave annual presentations of the St Matthew Passion and performed other large choral works, giving concerts in co-operation with the TSO. The Conservatory String Quartet (1929-46, re-established by Elie Spivak; its predecessor flourished 1901-4) created much interest in chamber music. In 1930 Donald Heins succeeded von Kunits as conductor of the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. An opera company was formed and staged several productions during its existence 1928-30 (see University of Toronto Opera Division).

A number of significant curriculum changes occurred in the 1930s, such as a major revision of the piano syllabus in 1934, improvements in sight-reading and ear tests, and more rigorous theory requirements for the Associate diploma. In 1935 the examination system based on grades I to X was introduced, and by an agreement with the Ontario Department of Education, credit could be claimed for conservatory grades in secondary schools and as entrance requirements for university admission. The conservatory's summer activities began in 1938, with courses in ear training and piano pedagogy by Charles Peaker, Alberto Guerrero, and Boris Berlin. The principal of the conservatory was automatically director of the summer school until 1950, when the position was made separate. Frederick Silvester was the first incumbent. Silvester's career - as registrar of examinations 1929-46 and registrar of the conservatory 1946-66 - was associated with many of these developments.

At the request of the university president and conservatory board, and with the support of the Carnegie Foundation of the USA, Ernest Hutcheson (then president of The Juilliard School) undertook a feasibility study concerning the expansion of music education in Canada. He found the conservatory to be less of a school than a clearing house for private teachers - the conservatory furnished studio facilities and administrative services for which the teachers returned a percentage of their fees. Hutcheson suggested that teachers who were not salaried would be interested primarily in maintaining gifted students for their own classes and would be concerned somewhat less with providing a well-rounded education in all aspects of music, including theoretical subjects. He therefore advocated a smaller faculty, to be hired on a salary basis, with a greater commitment to comprehensive programs for senior students of professional calibre. He recommended also a preparatory division and summer courses.

Although the Hutcheson Report (1937) was not implemented at the time (partly because of World War II), its recommendations led in 1946 to the establishment of a senior division within the conservatory. The Depression and the war also help explain a drop in registration. In the 1940-1 season there were 4654 students registered for tuition and 12,495 for examinations. In 1942 the burden of other duties prompted Sir Ernest MacMillan's resignation as principal. His successor, Norman Wilks, died in 1944 after a short term as principal, and Charles Peaker served as director until 1945.

The long association between the conservatory and the Frederick Harris Music Company dates back to the first publication of the conservatory's introductory piano books in 1916 and vocal studies in 1924. Other firms that published conservatory examination books were Anglo-Canadian, Heintzman, Nordheimer, Gordon V. Thompson, and Whaley Royce, but by 1944 Frederick Harris had become the conservatory's exclusive publisher. In that year Harris turned over his shares in the firm to the conservatory, stipulating that the profits be used for scholarships and bursaries and in effect vesting control of the company in the University of Toronto.

In recognition of the conservatory's wide influence, and with the consent of King George VI, its name was changed 1 Aug 1947 to Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto (RCMT), and the names of the diplomas were changed to conform. The ATCM became the ARCT (Associate, Royal Conservatory of Toronto) and the LTCM became the LRCT (Licentiate, Royal Conservatory of Toronto).

Postwar Expansion

During Ettore Mazzoleni's term as principal - 1945-68 - the school grew at an unprecedented rate, owing in part to the return of World War II veterans whose studies were supported by DVA allowances. Mazzoleni had been director of the Conservatory Orchestra since 1934. Two other prominent figures who contributed to the achievements of this period were Edward Johnson, who served 1947-59 as chair of the board, and Arnold Walter, who was appointed director of the new Senior School in 1946. The Senior School offered a two-year program with professional performance training combined with related courses in theory and history. The initial success of the project gave rise to other curriculum revisions including, in 1948, a three-year program leading to an Artist diploma. Walter also headed the conservatory's Opera School (begun in 1946), which provided training in all aspects of opera production. Nicholas Goldschmidt (music director), Felix Brentano and later Herman Geiger-Torel (stage director), and Jean Chalmers (women's opera and concert committee) assisted Walter in the exciting developments that led to the Opera Festival and the eventual formation of the Canadian Opera Company in 1959.

The artistic excellence achieved in these new ventures was accompanied by the sense of excitement brought by the war veterans and other students to the many challenging opportunities that arose after the difficult years of World War II. Some of the most gifted young Canadians converged on the RCMT and the University of Toronto in the late 1940s and early 1950s to take full advantage of the new programs. Among those who went on to develop distinguished musical careers were John Beckwith, Mario Bernardi, George Crum, Ray Dudley, Victor Feldbrill, Gisèle MacKenzie, Glenn Gould, Elizabeth Benson Guy, Betty-Jean Hagen, Gordon Kushner, Andrew MacMillan, Lois Marshall, James Milligan, Mary Morrison, Phil Nimmons, Clermont Pépin, Patricia Rideout, and Jon Vickers. Others such as Lorne Betts, Harry Freedman, Harry Somers, and Andrew Twa studied composition on an individual basis with John Weinzweig. Together with students enrolled in the new Faculty of Music degree program, performers and composers thrived in a climate of artistic accomplishment and optimistic enthusiasm for the future.

The activities of the Senior School were integrated (in an atmosphere of controversy and discord, during which MacMillan resigned as dean) in the overall reorganization of 1952. The university created two main operational divisions under the omnibus designation Royal Conservatory of Music: the School of Music with Mazzoleni as principal continued the traditional conservatory programs in preparatory teaching and examining, continued to offer the Associate diploma (ARCT), and retained responsibility for the Opera School; the Faculty of Music with Arnold Walter as director offered programs leading to degrees and to the Licentiate (taken over from the School of Music) and Artist diplomas of the University of Toronto; and Boyd Neel became chief administrative officer in 1953 when he was appointed dean of the Conservatory. In 1952 the Licentiate in its new setting became a teacher's diploma; the Artist diploma had superseded it as the credential of the advanced program in performance. In 1954 the original letters patent of the conservatory were revoked and all its assets were assigned to the University of Toronto.

The continued growth of both institutions in the 1950s created serious space problems, necessitating once again an expansion and improvement of physical facilities. The property at College St and University Ave was sold by the university to Ontario Hydro in 1962, and in 1963 the School of Music was moved to the old McMaster Building on Bloor St, whose renovated quarters included a 265-seat concert hall, a recital hall, three organs, and two small electronic music studios. In 1962 the Faculty of Music moved to the new Edward Johnson Building of the University of Toronto. In Mazzoleni's last term (summer 1962) an expanded special Orff course was introduced during the summer program. These were the first classes offered in the new Edward Johnson Building. The Artist diploma continued in coexistence with the Faculty's degree program in performance, introduced in 1965.

David Ouchterlony, supervisor of branches 1947-68, became principal of the School of Music in 1968, at a time when further administrative changes were about to take place. In 1969 responsibility for the Opera School was transferred to the university.

Change and Reformation: 1970s to Early 1990s

In 1970, with a reorganization of its music departments, the university restored to the School of Music the more historically accurate name "Royal Conservatory of Music" and the dean of the Faculty of Music became the chief executive of music with the right to wield authority over both the faculty and the conservatory. Although such an arrangement existed during John Beckwith's term as dean (1970-7), the conservatory functioned in fact as a separate unit along the same lines as those that had prevailed until 1952. Under Ouchterlony (1968-77) the conservatory was responsive to a growing interest in the study of music as a humanizing, avocational activity in contemporary life. Gordon Kushner served as acting principal in 1978, prior to the appointment of Ezra Schabas as principal later that year. During the latter's tenure, the Orchestral Training Program, sponsored on an annual basis by Employment and Immigration Canada, was established in 1979; the teaching staff, particularly for orchestral instruments, was enlarged significantly; and the program for musically gifted children was developed. Some of these initiatives exacerbated the continuing question of jurisdiction between the faculty and conservatory.

The existence of what had become an essentially community-based music school, with its long-standing national examination system, within the confines of a post-secondary institution with a Faculty of Music, inevitably created problems in both administrative and academic areas. With increasing frequency (1973, 1977, 1981), studies and reports made recommendations on the organization and operation of the school and the faculty and the areas of their responsibility. However, none dealt effectively with the realities of the situation. In January 1983 the university appointed another committee whose stated purpose was to develop a plan "for the integration of the two divisions through which the University offered music studies." When the committee tabled its report, 19 Jun 1984, it rejected this mandate and recommended that the RCMT become autonomous. Governing Council approved this in principle 18 Apr 1985; the university then appointed, April 1986, an advisory board to the conservatory to facilitate the necessary negotiations for separation. These were protracted. They continued until 8 Feb 1990 when Governing Council approved the final terms of separation, which included the transfer of assets such as the McMaster Building, the branch locations, and the Frederick Harris Music Co. The Royal Conservatory of Music Act (Bill Pr 70), passed by the Ontario legislature and establishing The Royal Conservatory of Music/Le conservatoire royal de musique as an independent entity, received Royal Assent the next day, 27 Jun 1991.

As recommended by the 1984 report and concurrent with the separation negotiations, the RCMT undertook an intensive examination of its programs and operations. For example, as a result of its plan for academic development, led by Robert Creech (vice-principal 1987-91), the RCMT added to its general studies, the professional studies program - four diploma programs for post-secondary students. The four-year Performance diploma, a Licentiate (LPRCM), and the two-year Artist diploma were initiated in 1987; the four-year Resident ARCT Honours, and the three-year Artist-Teacher Licentiate diploma in performance and pedagogy (LPPRCM) in 1988. By 1990 professional studies included two pre-college, part-time programs for gifted children.

The Royal Conservatory of Music Commission on the National Examination System, issued in 1991 by commissioners Norman Burgess, Warren Mould and Campbell Trowsdale, not only reviewed the RCMT's national system and made extensive recommendations for its improvement, but also provided a comparative survey of other examination systems in use throughout the world. John Kruspe prepared a review of the theory and history curriculum and teaching methods; Trowsdale examined the publications procedures and relationship with the Frederick Harris company.

Leadership of the RCMT during the 1980s was given by Schabas, who was succeeded in 1983 by Gustave Ciamaga, acting principal 1983-4; Robert Dodson, acting principal 1984-7, principal 1987-8; and Gordon Kushner, acting principal 1988-91.

Other events that occurred during these years deserve recognition. The conservatory's Faculty Association (formed in the mid-1970s) was certified as a collective bargaining unit, 26 Oct 1984. The RCMT celebrated its centennial season in a variety of ways including a special concert by the "Stars of the Conservatory" at Roy Thomson Hall, 10 Feb 1987, broadcast by the CBC on radio and TV; it received a special award from the Canadian Music Council recognizing its unique 100-year contribution; and it published, in 1988, the Centennial Celebration series of graded piano repertoire books (recorded that same year by RCMT teachers). In June 1989 it was host to the "Partners in Music" national conference on the role of conservatory training in Canada, presented by the Association of Colleges and Conservatories of Music. Also in 1989, the RCMT instituted the two-week residential Summer Performance Academy, at Appleby College, Oakville, Ont. By 1991, 130 performance students were enrolled in the four-week program directed by Angelo Calcafuoco. An agreement between the conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music in New York was signed 18 Apr 1991. The Royal/Manhattan exchange program included joint faculty appointments and allowed RCMT graduates access to degree programs.

Peter C. Simon (b Hungary 1949) became president of the conservatory 1 Sep 1991. By that time, the conservatory offered instruction in keyboard, voice, and orchestral and other instruments and a complete range of theoretical studies, speech arts, and drama, as well as conducting, early music studies, and children's and youth programs. In addition to the main Bloor St building, there were nine branches: six in metropolitan Toronto, and one each in Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville. The conservatory conducted graded examinations of 86,000 candidates in 228 centres throughout Canada and in 8 centres abroad, leading to grade certificates and Associate diplomas in performer, teacher, and composer categories. Among other continuing features of its operation were the summer school, special workshops, correspondence courses in theory, and instrumental and choral ensembles for every level of ability. The Wednesday Noon Hour Recital Series, the Thursday Twilight Concerts, and the evening and orchestral series of concerts became familiar recurring events in the musical life of Toronto, whether held at the conservatory or in such other locations as the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Canadian National Exhibition. The tradition of free student recitals is long established.

The Royal Conservatory of Music: Into the 21st Century

Under Simon, the conservatory significantly expanded its training programs. With a renewed mission statement "to develop human potential through the arts," The Royal Conservatory initiated such innovative outreach programs as Learning Through the Arts (LTTA) (begun in 1995), a classroom program that teaches core curriculum through songwriting, storytelling, dance, and photography. The program has been implemented by dozens of schools in Canada and abroad. In 1997 The Royal Conservatory's program for musically gifted children was established as the Young Artists Performance Academy, offering young students training in music, acting, improvisation, and movement.

The RCM's Professional School was rebranded as The Glenn Gould School in 1997. Designated as a national training institution by the government, the school grants both bachelor degrees and artist diplomas. The program offers performance opportunities with some of Toronto's most prominent arts organizations, such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company, and the CBC; as well as master classes with international performing artists. Distinguished graduates of The Glenn Gould School include soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, harpist Mariko Anraku, and pianist Li Wang. Continuing in the tradition of the RCM, the school offers free weekly recitals. The school is funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the National Arts Training Contribution Program and by the Ontario Arts Council. In 2002 the ARC (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) chamber ensemble was founded to showcase the faculty and graduates of The Glenn Gould School. Led by artistic director Simon Wynberg, the group champions musical works outside of the classical canon. Since signing a recording contract with SONY BMG Masterworks in 2006, the ensemble has been nominated for two Grammy awards (2006, 2007) and has toured internationally with its concert series Music in Exile.

The TELUS Centre for Performing and Learning

In 2008, The Royal Conservatory relocated to the specially built TELUS Centre for Performing and Learning. The centre lies adjacent to the RCM's historic Bloor St building and was the winner of the Governor General's Medal in Architecture in 2010. The centre boasts new academic, administrative and performance spaces, including 77 studios and 20 classrooms; Conservatory Hall, a multi-purpose performance and rehearsal hall; a music technology lab; and the Rupert Edwards Library. The centrepiece is Koerner Hall, a 1,135-seat concert venue. The hall was unveiled 25 Sep 2009 in a concert featuring pianist Anton Kuerti, members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the ARC ensemble. A commissioned work from R. Murray Schafer, Spirits of the House, was premiered in addition to a six-minute screening of the film Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould. The concert was the premiere event in a 10-day festival celebrating the hall's opening. Koerner Hall has gained a world-class reputation for its acoustics and has attracted such internationally renowned musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, Frederica von Stade, The Tallis Scholars, James Ehnes, Tafelmusik, Ravi Shankar, and Chick Corea.

The Royal Conservatory examinations continue to be available three times a year in testing centres across Canada. In 2003, expansion into the United States was increased with the addition of 40 new testing centres. On 25 Mar 2011, the RCM announced a partnership with Carnegie Hall that will increase RCM's presence in the US

Notable Faculty

Over the years the conservatory has had a faculty of teachers of whom many have achieved national recognition, and some international. Among them have been Boris Berlin, Hayunga Carman, Reginald Godden, Alberto Guerrero, Gordon Hallett, Marek Jablonski, May Kelly Kirby, Antonín Kubálek, Earle Moss, Ernest Seitz, and Pierre Souvairan (piano); Greta Kraus (harpsichord); Irene Jessner, Emmy Heim, Weldon Kilburn, George Lambert, Dorothy Allan Park, and Ernesto Vinci (voice); Géza de Kresz, Moshe Hammer, Eugene Kash, John Montague, Kathleen Parlow, and Elie Spivak (violin); Marcus Adeney and Leo Smith (cello); Frederick J. Horwood, Eric Rollinson, and Molly Sclater (theory); Samuel Dolin (who also established an electronic music studio in 1966), and John Weinzweig (composition); and Madeleine Boss Lasserre (eurhythmics). Warren Mould (registrar 1966-76) recorded eight graded albums of the conservatory's books of piano music in 1971 (RCP-GI to RCP-GVIII). Visiting instructors in the master classes for the professional studies program have included Lise Elson, Leon Fleisher, José Luis Garcia, and Jaime Laredo.

Awards and Honours

The conservatory began awarding honorary diplomas in 1982 when Louis Applebaum received an ARCT. Others so honoured have been Zara Nelsova (1986), Nicholas Goldschmidt (1987), and Adelmo Melecci (1988). Honorary Artist diplomas were presented to Leo Barkin and Peter C. Simon in 1989, and to Norman Burgess and John Kruspe in 1991. RCMT teachers Irene McLellan, Eugene Kash, and Gordon Kushner received the newly established Fellowship (FRCMT) in 1991. Other recipients have included Isabel Bayrakdarian (2004), Bramwell Tovey (2005), and Blue Rodeo (2007).


The Conservatory Bi-Monthly (Jan 1902-1912)

The Conservatory Monthly (1912-Oct 1913)

Toronto Conservatory of Music Alumni Gazette (1916-18)

The Conservatory Quarterly Review (1918-35)

The Toronto Conservatory of Music Bulletin (1935-47)

Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto Monthly Bulletin (1948-64)

The Bulletin (1964-74)

ConNotes (May 1980-Sep 1986)

The RCM Bulletin (Nov 1986-) issued as insert in Music (Nov-Dec 1987-May-Jun 1991)

RCM Newsletter 1988-90; retitled RCM Dialogue 1990-

Music in Our Lives: The Royal Conservatory of Music National Magazine (1996-)

Motif Quarterly (2003?-)

Further Reading

External Links