University Music Programs | The Canadian Encyclopedia


University Music Programs

Universities. Most of Canada's universities provide academic and extracurricular programs in music and therefore have entries in EMC. There are entries as well for subjects and subject areas related to higher education in music. See listing below.

University Music Programs

Universities. Most of Canada's universities provide academic and extracurricular programs in music and therefore have entries in EMC. There are entries as well for subjects and subject areas related to higher education in music. See listing below.

It will be noted that most universities are non-denominational, though many of the older ones began under the wing of religious groups and some have continued thus. Education is a provincial rather than a federal jurisdiction in Canada, and most universities have been supported and controlled by their provincial governments. This explains in part the great variety and frequent duplication of teaching programs and degrees.

While some universities offered examinations in music in the 19th century (University of Trinity College, Toronto; Bishop's University, Lennoxville; University of Toronto), they rarely provided instruction, and the history of formally constituted teaching departments dates back only to 1918 when the University of Toronto created its Faculty of Music, followed in 1920 by that of McGill University and in 1922 by the École de musique at Laval University. It should be added that many universities have grown out of colleges (ie, undergraduate schools) which operated their own conservatories, eg, Acadia, Dalhousie, Mount Allison, and Regina.

The music-teaching divisions of universities usually have been called faculties, schools, or departments. In traditional parlance in Canada, a university faculty is a body which administers its own degree (for example, a faculty of music administers the degree B MUS), whereas a department is a faculty subdivision which offers a specialized program leading to the 'parent' faculty's degree (for example, a department of music, within a faculty of arts or of fine arts, offers an honours-music program leading to the degrees BA or BFA). The term 'school of music' typically applies to a music division found in a large state university in the USA; it has been adopted by a few Canadian institutions, and merely characterizes a diversified music division, whether offering a degree in music or not. The head of a faculty is called a dean; the head of a department is called a chairman or head; the head of a school may be called dean, head, or a similar name. In practice, however, the terms are not applied consistently. In 1990 faculties of music existed at McGill University, the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, and Wilfrid Laurier University. Schools of music existed at Acadia University, Brandon University, Laval University, Memorial U, Queen's University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, the University of Sherbrooke, the University of Victoria and the University of Windsor. Departments existed at nearly all the others. The Faculty of Wilfrid Laurier University offers only a bachelor degree, and of the seven universities in 1989-90 that offered a D MUS or PH D in music, 4 had a faculty, 3 a school of music.

Until World War II the music curriculum at universities was built around the core subjects of harmony and counterpoint, with orchestration, form, and history usually regarded as supplementary studies. With the influx into universities of war veteran students and into Canada of European emigrés, and with the example of recent US developments to consider, music in Canada's universities began a spectacular expansion and transformation after 1945. In the 1940s the demand for school music teachers led to the introduction of music education courses (Toronto 1946); in the 1950s musicology made its entrance (Toronto 1954), and the 1960s witnessed the growth of electronic music studios (Toronto 1959, McGill 1964, British Columbia 1965, Laval 1969). In that same decade, following the US pattern, performance skills became degree subjects (Toronto 1965), and interdisciplinary studies became an emphasis at new universities (Simon Fraser 1965, York 1968). Ethnomusicology, cultivated at Laval's Archives de folklore from 1944, became established (British Columbia 1964, Toronto 1966) and by 1972 was cultivated at four other universities. Canadian studies came into flowering in the 1970s, and such specializations as music criticism (McMaster 1981) and music therapy (UQAM 1985, Wilfrid Laurier 1986, and Windsor 1990) unfolded. The same period saw the blossoming of popular culture (Trent, Carleton) and jazz studies (Calgary, Concordia, McGill, St Francis Xavier, York), the sociology of music (Carleton 1984) and the psychology of music. The traditional subjects of music theory and history themselves have also travelled on the way of expansion and modernization, from being mere practical tools for the musician to becoming subjects of scholarly analysis.

While some universities include music education pedagogy in their music departments, in others, the departments of education include music courses (Brock, Lakehead, McGill, Memorial, Mount Allison, Mount St Vincent, Nipissing University College, Queen's, Laurentian, Alberta, British Columbia, Lethbridge, New Brunswick, Western Ontario, Victoria and York in the 1989-90 CUMS Directory).

The statistics alone are impressive. In 1945 10 universities offered music courses with a combined regular staff of perhaps 25. In 1990 the number of institutions with music programs had quadrupled, employing some 600 regular staff members, ie, those with academic rank, and over 1000 auxiliary (mostly part-time) teachers. Of the auxiliary staff, at least 90 per cent were teaching instrumental and vocal skills; many of them were orchestral or chamber music players. Over 150 academics might be described as musicologists (ethnomusicologists, theorists, research scholars, etc). Student enrolment in 1991 might be estimated at over 6000.

The following universities have entries in EMC:

Acadia University

Bishop's University

Brandon University

Brock University

Carleton University

Concordia University

Dalhousie University

Lakehead University

Laurentian University

Laval University

McGill University

McMaster University

Memorial University

Mount Allison University

Mount St Vincent University

Queen's University

St Francis Xavier University

Simon Fraser University

Trent University

University of Alberta

University of British Columbia

University of Calgary

University of Guelph

University of Lethbridge

University of Manitoba

University of Moncton

University of Montreal

University of New Brunswick

University of Ottawa

University of Prince Edward Island

University of Quebec

University of Regina

University of Saskatchewan

University of Toronto

University of Trinity College

University of Victoria

University of Waterloo

University of Western Ontario

University of Windsor

Wilfrid Laurier University

York University

See also the following entries:


Canadian Mennonite Bible College

Canadian University Music Society


Classical colleges and seminaries in Quebec

College songs

Community colleges



Education, professional

Electroacoustic music


Hart House

Instrument collections


Ladies' colleges and convent schools


Mennonite Brethren Bible College and College of Arts

Music as a social phenomenon

Music education research


Rapport de la Commission royale d'enquête sur l'enseignement des arts dans la province de Québec

The Royal Conservatory of Music

Séminaire de Québec

Theory and analysis


Smith, Leo. 'Music in our universities,' Canadian Forum, vol 5, Aug 1925

MacMillan, Ernest. 'The place of music in a university curriculum,' Proceedings of the National Conference of Canadian Universities (1927)

Collingwood, Arthur. 'Music in education,' Queen's Q, vol 44, Winter 1937

Walter, Arnold. 'Music in Canadian higher education,' The Humanities in Canada, eds W. Kirkconnell and A.S.P. Woodhouse (Ottawa 1947)

Adaskin, Harry. 'Music and the university,' paper given at the 1955 National Conference of Canadian Universities; report Royal Architectural Institute of Canada J, Sep 1955 and CMJ, vol 1, Autumn 1956

MacMillan, Sir Ernest. 'Music in Canadian universities,' CMJ, vol 2, Spring 1958

'Music education,' University of British Columbia J of Education, special issue devoted to music education, Apr 1968

Bédard, Yves. Oeuvres commentées à l'usage des professeurs d'éducation musicale (Montreal 1968)

Series of articles on university music departments in MSc, 251 (Jan-Feb 1970) - 272 (Jul-Aug 1973)

Patterson, Lawrence W.A. 'Undergraduate programs for music teacher preparation in Canadian colleges and universities,' D ED thesis, U of Illinois 1972

Roman, Zoltan. 'Higher music education in Canada,' New Patterns of Musical Behaviour (Vienna 1972)

Green, J. Paul. 'A proposed doctoral program for Canadian universities with specific recommendations for specialization in music education,' PH D thesis, U of Rochester 1974

Blume, Helmut. A National Music School for Canada (Ottawa 1978)

Davey, Earl. 'The development of music programmes in English-language universities in central and eastern Canada, 1960-1969,' PH D thesis, University of Toronto 1983

Diamond Cavanagh, Beverly. 'Canadian music studies in university curricula,' ACS Newsletter, vol 12, Fall 1990

Green, J. Paul and Vogan, Nancy. Music Education in Canada: A Historical Account (Toronto 1991)

Walter, Arnold. 'The growth of music education,' Aspects of Music in Canada

'Education in music,' Music in Canada


CAUSM Journal 1971-9

CUMR 1980-

Canadian Music Research Council. Music Research News Newsletter1976-83