Music at McMaster University

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont. Founded in 1887 as the result of the union of Toronto Baptist College and Woodstock College (a Baptist preparatory school), and named after Senator William McMaster. The first degrees were awarded in 1894.

Music at McMaster University

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont. Founded in 1887 as the result of the union of Toronto Baptist College and Woodstock College (a Baptist preparatory school), and named after Senator William McMaster. The first degrees were awarded in 1894. Originally situated in Toronto (in the building which in 1991 still housed the RCMT), the university was relocated in Hamilton in 1930 and became a private non-denominational institution in 1957. McMaster's growth has been characterized by expanding programs in arts, science, engineering, and health sciences, leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees in many fields, and also by major research in nuclear science.

George Proctor, who served 1954-7 as McMaster's first director of music, organized courses and extracurricular activities. Frank Thorolfson, appointed in 1959, pioneered music history courses on TV in the early 1960s and introduced a B MUS program within the Faculty of Humanities. When the Music Dept was founded in 1965, Thorolfson served as its first chairman. He was succeeded in 1971 by Alan Walker, followed by Frederick A. Hall in 1980, and Hugh Hartwell in 1986. In 1989 Walker again became chairman.

In 1991 two undergraduate degrees were offered in music - a B MUS (a four-year honours course) and a BA (a three-year pass course), both established in 1966. In 1981 the department introduced an MA in music criticism, the first of its kind in Canada. Harold Schonberg, former chief music critic for the New York Times, lectured in this program in 1985 as critic-in-residence. A conference on 'New Dimensions in Music Criticism' was held in November 1991. In 1990 there were 100 students and 42 teachers (12 full-time, 30 part-time) including Hall, Hartwell, Paul Rapoport, and professor emeritus William Wallace. In 1986 Valerie Tryon was appointed pianist-in-residence. The department has been strengthened by its close association with the chamber groups and individual players of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. For example, Marta Hidy, formerly concertmaster and assistant conductor of the orchestra, joined the department in 1965 as teacher of violin and chamber music; and the Czech Quartet occupied chairs in the orchestra and was quartet-in-residence at the university 1969-74. The Czech Quartet premiered works by Lorne Betts, Brian Cherney and Wallace; its members were Stephen Czapary (Milan Vítek after 1972) and Rudolf Kalup violins, Jaroslav Karlovsky viola, and Zdenek Koniček cello. Kalup and Koniček went on to form the McMaster String Quartet with Mark Childs, viola, and Hidy as leader; the group was active 1975-89. In 1990 all but Childs were McMaster University instrumental staff.

The Music Library, a separate unit within Mills Memorial Library, contains a notable collection of contemporary scores and recordings; there are electronic music facilities, and the department presents a Celebrity Series and a Noon Concert Series. Performing groups within the university have included the McMaster University Choir, Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Madrigal Singers. McMaster has conferred honorary doctorates upon Healey Willan (D LITT 1962), Oscar Peterson (LLD 1981), Jon Vickers (D LITT 1985), Teresa Stratas (LLD 1986), and Boris Brott (LLD 1988).

See also Archives; Centre for Human Performance; College songs.


Further Reading

  • Hepner, Lee. 'Music at McMaster University,' Recorder, vol 7, May-Jun 1965

    Wallace, William. 'Hamilton, McMaster music department complement each other,' MSc, 263, Jan-Feb 1972

    McMaster University. President's Report, 1953-73

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