Music has been a focus of extracurricular activity at the University of Manitoba. By the early 1930s the Glee Club was presenting a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta annually. Starting in 1940, the 80-player University SO, conducted successively by Ronald W. Gibson, Frank Thorolfson, and Filmer Hubble, performed Beethoven and Mozart symphonies and accompanied soloists (eg, Gordon Kushner in 1942 and 1945) at the Winnipeg Auditorium and the Walker Theatre. In the 1940s the university band, chamber music groups the Choral Society and the Glee Club flourished. Most of these groups broadcast over the western network of the CBC.
In 1934 the university joined the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta, and the departments of education of the three provinces, to form the WBM, whose purpose it was to devise and administer a diploma program, initiated in 1936. In the 1944-5 academic year the university's newly-created Dept of Music began providing arts and science students with elective courses in theory and history at the Broadway buildings.
The School of Music was established in 1964 and offered a 3-year B MUS (general) and a 4-year B MUS (honours). The first degrees were awarded in 1967. The 4-year B MUS program was introduced in 1974, and the B MUS/B ED program in 1984. The position of director of music antedated both the school and the department. Incumbents have been: Robert Fletcher (chairman, Advisory Board) 1936, Eva Clare 1937-49, Ronald W. Gibson 1949-63, Leonard Isaacs 1963-74, Carl F. Haenselman 1974-8, Paul W. Paterson 1978-83, and T. Herman Keahey 1983-9, succeeded by Richard W. Wedgewood in 1989.
The school's building was opened in 1965. Its facilities included the 240-seat Eva Clare Recital Hall, classrooms, teaching and practice studios, and a library. The Men's Music Club of Winnipeg donated a two-manual Casavant baroque organ and the school has acquired a Beckerath tracker practice organ. The school maintains a collection of replica and antique historical instruments, including a square piano (Adam Berger, London, 1784), a Dolmetsch clavichord and a Streicher grand chosen by Brahms for the original owner, who was a relative of the donor, Ferdinand Eckhardt. There is a well-equipped electronic studio.
In 1990 there were 120 students and 46 teachers (14 full-time and 32 part-time; many of the latter members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra). The school has an active concert series. It also sponsors an annual winter festival which features guest speakers, symposia, and recitals on a different topic each year. The Manitoba University Consort (1963-70) helped advance the cause of early music. Other performing groups have included the University of Manitoba SO, Concert Band and Stage Band, Collegium Musicum (Winnipeg), Percussion Ensemble, Prairie Consort of Recorders and the University Singers. The latter ensemble, organized in 1978 by its conductor, Henry Engbrecht, won the CBC Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs in 1990. It has made two recordings, been broadcast by the CBC, given workshops and concert tours in Ontario, Quebec, northern USA, Holland, Austria, and Germany (Stuttgart's Internationale Bach Akademie). It has made appearances with the Winnipeg SO, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
For the univeristy's centennial, John Greer (music gold medalist in 1976) wrote the U of M March, 1877-1977 for orchestra and chorus. The school administers the Richardson Foundation Scholarships and annually conducts the Lawrence Genser Peformance Scholarship auditions. The university has conferred honorary degrees on John Waterhouse (1965), Filmer Hubble (1967), Mstislav Rostropovich (1975), Bernard Naylor (1980), and Maureen Forrester (1988).
In 1983 director Keahey introduced the Division of Preparatory Studies. In 1990 1000 students were enrolled in Music for Children classes (taught at two locations in Winnipeg), a Suzuki program in strings and piano, or in one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons taught throughout the city in the private studios of authorized teachers. Theoretical and historical subjects are taught on campus, as well as special programs for gifted youth and special needs students. In 1990 the preparatory division was administered by Ann Lugsdin (co-ordinator), Joanne Martin (Suzuki), and Ruth Wiwchar (Music for Children).
Author Lorne Watson
University of Manitoba. Brown and Gold, year books (1940-50)
Friesen, Olga. 'The Leonard Isaacs and the University School of Music,' Sharps & Flats, vol 5, Feb 1965
'University of Manitoba Music Diploma Association,' ibid, vol 7, Oct 1966
Isaacs, Leonard. 'Music department plays community role,' MSc, 252, Mar-Apr 1970
Dobri, Silvio. 'A music school's changing profile,' Winnipeg Tribune, 18 Feb 1978
'The University Choir' and 'The University Singers,' Manitoba Choral Association, special issue, 1986
Links to Other Sites
University of Manitoba
The official website of the University of Manitoba.
University of Manitoba : Archives & Special Collections
The website for Archives & Special Collections at the University of Manitoba.
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