In 1813 James McGill, a prominent Montreal citizen and merchant, bequeathed £10,000 and a 18.4-hectare plot of land to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning (established in 1801 to promote education in Lower Canada) to found a college or university. In 1821 George IV granted a charter establishing the University of McGill College, a non-denominational institution. A reorganization of the college was ratified by an 1852 charter, signed by Queen Victoria, and in 1885 the name was changed to McGill University. Courses began in 1829 in the Faculty of Medicine and in 1843 in the Faculty of Arts, the campus gradually expanding from its original location on the southeast side of Mount Royal. By 2010 McGill University comprised 11 faculties, a faculty of graduate and post-graduate studies and research, 10 schools, and more than 35 000 students.
Harriss was appointed director of the board of examinations as well as director of the conservatorium, which began classes 21 Sep 1904 in Workman House (a gift of Lord Strathcona). Lichtenstein was named vice-director, a position she held until 1929. At the official inauguration 14 Oct 1904, in the presence of the Governor-General, Lord Minto, a recital was given by two young artists, the pianist Ellen Ballon and the violinist Albert Chamberland. The first school session was attended by 462 students from Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and New York State, and 26 instructors were hired on an hourly basis. During these early years the teaching body included Frederick H. Blair, Albert Clerk-Jeannotte, Guillaume Couture, Alfred De Sève, Jean-Baptiste Dubois, J.-J. Goulet, Percival J. Illsley, Arthur Letondal, Romain-Octave Pelletier, and Horace Reyner, and instruction was offered in composition, theory, and performance. When Harriss resigned during the summer of 1907, he recommended reducing the number of instructors in favour of a chair in music, whose incumbent would enjoy the same status as other professors at the university. This request was granted by the university council, which, through a gift from Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffrey H. Burland, engaged as professor and director Harry Crane Perrin, the organist of Canterbury Cathedral. Lichtenstein filled the post 1907-8 on an interim basis and in 1908 Perrin began a career at McGill University that was to span 21 years. He formed McGill's first university symphonic ensemble and in 1909 set up McGill University's own system of music examinations in 56 centres spread across Canada. By dissociating itself from the AB of the RSM, the institution reinforced its autonomy and established the originality of its contribution in teaching and examinations.
A substantial endowment from Sir William MacDonald in 1917 permitted the establishment 26 Apr 1920 of a Faculty of Music. For the next 10 years Perrin combined the duties of director of the conservatorium and dean of the faculty. Premises, professors, and budget were shared.
Following Clarke's retirement in 1955, Marvin Duchow became acting dean. The conservatorium and the faculty were reorganized, and three departments were created within the faculty: theoretical music (chaired by Duchow), keyboard instruments and voice with Helmut Blume as chair, and instrumental music with Alexander Brott as chair. The conservatorium was divided into a senior department and a junior department, the courses of the former leading to diplomas and those of the latter confined to basic musical training. Duchow was confirmed as dean in 1957 and remained in the post until 1963 while continuing to direct the theoretical music department.
Under Helmut Blume (acting dean, 1963-4, dean 1964-76), the faculty of music and the conservatorium underwent considerable changes. In 1966 the McGill Preparatory School of Music replaced the McGill Conservatorium; the budget and teaching staff of the school initially were shared with the faculty, but the two institutions were separated in 1970. The faculty of music, having grown until it occupied all or part of half-a-dozen different buildings, finally received adequate and permanent premises, moving in 1971 into Royal Victoria College on Sherbrooke St West, which was renovated and renamed the Strathcona Music Building in 1972. Through a bequest from the Maurice Pollack Foundation in 1966 the ground floor cafeteria was renovated and the Assembly Hall on the floor above was converted into a modern 600-seat concert hall. Through careful planning excellent control of the acoustics was achieved. The stage could be reduced by using movable reflecting wall panels, and for opera performances or certain stage productions the orchestra pit could be concealed from view by extending the stage floor. The Pollack Concert Hall was inaugurated 10 Apr 1975 with a concert including works by Beethoven, Liebermann, Kelsey Jones (The Prophecy of Micah), and Bengt Hambraeus (Intrada). This concert was followed by the McGill Music Month, a festival of 32 events, in which former and present teachers and students participated. That year 75 teachers gave courses to 469 students.
The dean continued to be in charge of the faculty of music and the preparatory school until 1978, when the preparatory school became the McGill Conservatory of Music. Oleg Telizyn was the conservatory's first director, succeeded by Kenneth Woodman 1980-7, Peter Freeman 1987-91, Michael Isador 1991-4, Carl Urquhart 1994-2001, Peter Freeman 2001-2, Dean Jobin-Bevans 2002-5, and Clément Joubert (beginning ca 2005).
In the 1970s and 1980s, many of the music programs introduced at McGill University were realized through the efforts of Paul Pedersen, who was dean 1976-86. He also had the idea for McGill University Records, a series to which composers, soloists, and ensembles of the faculty have contributed. Dean Pedersen was succeeded by John Rea 1986-91, John Grew 1991-6, Richard Lawton 1996-2001, and Don McLean beginning in 2001.
In 2010, the academic staff of the music school was made up of 60 full-time and 90 part-time teachers, and there were approximately 875 students.
Music Degrees and Diplomas
The McGill Conservatorium introduced in 1904 the licentiate diploma (L MUS) for instrumentalists who had completed three years of study. The associate diploma after one year was also granted 1939-66. The Faculty of Music began awarding the concert diploma at the post-graduate level in 1966, and the Quebec Ministry of Education's Diplôme d'études collégiales (DEC) was awarded 1969-74. The B MUS degree, first offered in 1904, was subdivided into three options in 1956 (composition, performance, music education) and was enriched by the addition of the B MUS in theory (honours) and B MUS in history in 1966. A B MUS (honours) in performance (orchestra conducting) was offered between 1966 and 1976. MMA degrees were offered in composition in 1968, musicology in 1968, theory in 1970, and performance in 1975; in 1976-7 these became respectively the M MUS in composition, the MA in musicology, the MA in theory, and the M MUS in performance. A general B MUS and an MA in school music (later music education) were introduced in 1978. The first B MUS in jazz performance in Canada was offered at McGill in 1981. An M MUS in sound recording was introduced in 1979, which was directed by Wieslaw Woszczyk, and a modern recording studio opened in January 1980. The D MUS in composition, offered 1904-55, reappeared in 1974; Charles Henry Mills was the first to earn it, in 1911. PhD programs in musicology, theory, and music education were introduced in 1987.
Music degrees include the B MUS (performance, composition, theory, history, music education, and computer applications); the Licentiate in Music, an advanced three-year performance program; and the Artist Diploma, designed for performers with exceptional professional promise. Performance students may specialize in keyboard instruments, guitar, strings, harp, voice, woodwinds, brass, percussion, church music, early music, and jazz. At the graduate level, the MA is offered in education, technology, musicology and theory, while the M MUS is offered in composition, performance, and sound recording. The D MUS is offered in composition and performance studies, and the PhD is offered in music technology, sound recording, theory, musicology, and music education.
Various instrumental and vocal groups for students have flourished at McGill University, including the McGill Symphony Orchestra (see Youth Orchestras), the Sinfonietta, the Concert Choir, the Collegium Musicum, the University Chorus, the jazz bands, as well as various ensembles of early and contemporary music, jazz improvisation, brass, guitars, voices and woodwinds. The first McGill String Quartet was formed in 1904 and a second was set up circa 1930, but both had only a brief existence. Alexander Brott reorganized the quartet in 1939 and gave several series of concerts under various auspices before the McGill Chamber Society took over and served as sponsor until 1947. An independent body unaffiliated with the university, the society later sponsored the concerts of the McGill Chamber Orchestra, which Brott founded.
The McGill Opera Studio, founded by Luciano and Edith Della Pergola in 1956, was renamed Opera McGill in 1989 with Bernard Turgeon as director and Timothy Vernon as conductor. It has staged more than 40 different operas and numerous excerpts, ranging from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1956) to Weill's Street Scene (1991). Benjamin Butterfield, Gina Fiordaliso, Mariana Paunova, and Joan Patenaude-Yarnell are among its alumni.
The McGill Jazz Band, set up in 1967 by Gerald Danovitch, had to be divided into three groups to accommodate the numbers of interested pupils. Kelsey Jones wrote his Jazzum Opus Unum for it in 1977. The ensemble received the Down Beat Award in 1990.
The McGill Percussion Ensemble was founded by Pierre Béluse in 1969. The Mount Royal Brass Quintet 1977-80, quintet-in-residence from 1977-8, was composed of members of the teaching staff (James Thompson and Robert Gibson, trumpets; Nona Talamantes, french horn; Richard Lawton, trombone; and Ellis Wean, tuba). It gave its first concert at Pollack Hall in February 1977 and recorded Kelsey Jones's Passacaglia and Fugue (McGill University Records 77004).
The McGill University Contemporary Music Ensemble was founded in 1970 and has been directed by Richard Lawton, Eugene Plawutsky, Bruce Mather, and Denys Bouliane (beginning 1996). Under Bouliane, the ensemble gained widespread recognition, premiering more than 100 works and establishing McGill's new music festival, MusiMarch.
The main ensemble has been the McGill Symphony Orchestra (divided into junior and senior groups in 2009). The orchestra has performed at Carnegie Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, the National Arts Centre, and the Grand Théâtre in Quebec City. It has received a Juno award, and was acknowledged by the Grand Prix du Disque of Canada. The McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Wind Symphony exist alongside the McGill Symphony, and as a group, have formed the basis of the university's orchestral training program.
The Schulich Music Building
In 1995 the faculty approached the Quebec Ministry of Education for funding; the school was granted $1 million to commence preliminary drawings. Five years later, the proposed new building had still not been presented in the provincial government's budget. In 2001, following student protests and an ambitious letter-writing campaign, the provincial government pledged $17.7 million. Corporate and private funding for the music building amounted to $12 million. Construction began in 2003, and in 2005 the faculty of music received a $20-million donation from Seymour Schulich. The Schulich Music Building, designed by architects Menkès, Shooner, Dagenais, LeTourneux, and Saucier & Perrotte, opened 30 Sep 2005 at a cost of $70 million. Housed in the 10-floor building are the Wirth Opera Studio, the Music Multimedia Room (MMR), Tanna Schulich Hall (a small venue seating 187 people), the Marvin Duchow Library, the Gertrude Whitley Performance Library, and a student computer room.
The music library holds thousands of books, periodicals, musical scores, and microfilms. The large collection also includes LPs, CDs, videos and DVDs. The Performance Library, formerly in the basement of the Strathcona's east wing, is also housed in this area.
The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT), a cutting-edge facility for the study of musical cognition, combines the faculties of music, science, education, and medicine at McGill, l'Université de Montréal, and l'Université de Sherbrooke. The centre, founded in 2000, was established through a $6.5-million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI); this research grant was the largest ever awarded to a school of the humanities.
The music building also houses the scoring stage, an area used exclusively for recording. Designed by acousticians Artec Consultants, the soundproof stage can accommodate more than 300 people, and has attracted international leaders in recording and acoustical research.
The Strathcona Music Building has also remained in use. Pollack Hall, still the largest performance venue in the music school, seats 600 patrons. There is also a smaller hall (the Clara Lichtenstein Recital Hall), teaching studios, classrooms, and ensemble rehearsal spaces.
Conferences and Events
The McGill music faculty has hosted numerous conferences and events. To mark the centenary of Canada's confederation (1967), works by István Anhalt, Alexander Brott, Claude Champagne, Douglas Clarke, Kelsey Jones, and Robert Turner were presented at the Place des Arts in a special concert entitled "McGill and its Music." Other major events have included the international symposium "The Organ in Our Time," to mark the inauguration of the organ at Redpath Hall (1981); the Electronic Music Festival (1990), celebrating the 25th anniversary of the McGill Electronic Music Studio (EMS); the international conference on New Interfaces in Musical Expression (2004); and the Future of Music Policy Summit (2006).
Honorary Degrees, Alumni and Notable Faculty
Honorary degrees have been granted to such musical luminaries as Hugh Le Caine and Violet Archer, Oliver Jones, Ben Heppner, and Joni Mitchell. Distinguished alumni include Burt Bacharach, Benjamin Butterfield, Richard Eaton, Amanda Forsyth, Suzie LeBlanc, Michael McMahon, Wayne Riddell, Robert Silverman, Jacob Siskind, Daniel Taylor, and Alfred Whitehead.
The high quality of a McGill training has been maintained through the efforts of such teachers as István Anhalt, Theodore Baskin, Helmut Blume, Alexander Brott, Brian Cherney, Edward Culbreath, Mary Cyr, Gisela Depkat, Marvin Duchow, Kenneth Gilbert, John Grew, Matt Haimovitz, Bengt Hambraeus, Paul Helmer, Steven Huebner, Timothy Hutchins, Walter Joachim, Kelsey Jones, Lubka Kolessa, Stephen Kondaks, Alcides Lanza, Donald Mackey, Bruce Mather, Dorothy Morton, Joel Quarrington, John Rea, Charles Reiner, Jan Simons and Donald Steven.
Author Nadia Turbide, Chantal Gauthier, Annick Poussart, Richard Haskell
Montreal Music Year Book 1931 and 1932 (Montreal 1931, 1932)
Festival of the Conservatorium of Music, McGill University to mark its fiftieth year 1904-1954 (Montreal 1954)
McGill Music Month: April 10 to May 8, 1975 (Montreal 1975)
Kearns, Hilda. "McGill music program: Tot's toots spell success," Montreal Star, 3 Jun 1978
Frost, Stanley B. "A short account of the history of the faculty of music," paper presented to the James McGill Society (7 Dec 1978); partial report as "McGill's musical memories," McGill Reporter, 13 Dec 1978
Bailey, Bruce. "McGill gets into record business - if you qualify," Montreal Gazette, 6 Oct 1979
Jorgensen, E., ed. Proceedings of the McGill Symposium in School Music Administration and Supervision (Montreal 1980)
Grew, John. "Autour de l'orgue de la salle Redpath de l'Université McGill" (Interview with Bibiane Lapointe), Tic-Toc-Choc, vol 3, Oct 1981
Mackey, Donald, ed. L'Orgue à notre époque (Montreal 1981)
Chan, Wah Keung. "Capturing the sound of music," La Scena Musicale, 1 Oct 2001
Buium, Greg. "Jazz hothouse," McGill News, Spring 2003
Beaucage, Réjean. "Electroacoustic music," La Scena Musicale, 10 Oct 2003
Rajotte, Laurier. "McGill's new university building: A resounding success," La Scena Musicale, 18 Oct 2003
Leive, Cynthia. "New music library at McGill," CAML Review, Nov 2003
Leroux, Marielle. "McGill University celebrates 100 years of music," La Scena Musicale, 9 Sep 2004
Dubois, Danielle. "McGill: Balancing performance and research," La Scena Musicale, 2 Nov 2004
Kaptainis, Arthur. "In tune with the future: A new dynamic for the faculty of music," McGill News, Spring 2005
Khoueiry, Victor. "Faculty of music," Architecture Week, 16 Aug 2006
Perle, Elizabeth. "Music: Where's the Schulich at," McGill Tribune, 12 Sep 2006
Stubley, Eleanor, ed. Compositional Crossroads: Music, McGill, Montreal (Montreal 2008)
Archives, McGill University
Aspects of Music in Canada
Music McGill 1976-
Musical Red Book
La Vie musicale
Links to Other Sites
Recent news about McGill University programs, people and events.
McGill Conservatory of Music
News and information about courses, concerts and competitions at the McGill Conservatory of Music.
Saucier + Perrotte architectes
The website for Montréal-based Saucier + Perrotte architectes features a multimedia portfolio of their noteworthy cultural, academic, institutional, and residential projects.
Schulich School of Music
The website for the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
The website for the International Laboratory for BRAin, Music and Sound Research.
Opera McGill tunes up for Britten production
An article about Benjamin Britten’s "The Rape of Lucretia" staged by McGill's Schulich School of Music. From the McGill Reporter.
Sheet Music From Canada's Past: Colleges
Scroll down the page to view a selection of finely illustrated covers of sheet music published in Canada prior to 1921 (click on the images for larger views). Check the menu on the left for links to audio clips and additional information about Library and Archives Canada's collection of sheet music.