Canadian Music Council/Conseil canadien de la musique | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Canadian Music Council/Conseil canadien de la musique

Canadian Music Council/Conseil canadien de la musique. Umbrella organization established in 1944 as a 'music committee'. It adopted its name in 1945, received a federal charter in 1949, and set up a permanent secretariat in Ottawa in 1976.

Canadian Music Council/Conseil canadien de la musique

Canadian Music Council/Conseil canadien de la musique. Umbrella organization established in 1944 as a 'music committee'. It adopted its name in 1945, received a federal charter in 1949, and set up a permanent secretariat in Ottawa in 1976. It ceased operations in 1990, though it retained its charter. Its membership consisted of organizations and individuals. It aimed 1/to provide information about music in Canada, 2/to generate discussion of musical issues of general concern, 3/to represent the musical community to governments and international organizations, and 4/to assist the development, and concern itself with the protection, of music in Canada. It also was responsible for a number of special projects, including conferences, surveys, and reports.


A national music council is a response to the need to co-ordinate musical activities within a country and to provide liaison with other countries in a variety of subjects from financing to copyright, from publicity to scholarly projects. Among the oldest such councils are those of Germany (Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein 1861) and Britain (British Music Society 1918). In Canada there was no organization to speak on behalf of all musicians when in 1944 the House of Commons' Committee on Post-War Reconstruction was ready to listen to spokesmen from all walks of life. Urged by interested persons, Sir Ernest MacMillan hastily assembled a committee and presented a report (preserved in the MacMillan papers at the National Library of Canada) on the problems and hopes of the musical community, endeavouring henceforth to maintain contact with musicians concerned about the future. He asked Charles Peaker to take over the chairmanship of the committee, and Peaker invited John Cozens to help with the organizing. A few months later 20 persons gathered for a discussion in Toronto, and the name Canadian Music Council was adopted in 1946. The next year Peaker resigned, and MacMillan was elected chairman, a position he held (as chairman or president) for 20 years. Cozens served as voluntary secretary for 30 years.

The Early Years - Waiting For The Canada Council

As chartered in 1949, the CMCouncil had a board of 12 directors. In practice the number was smaller - the first directors included Jean-Marie Beaudet, William St Clair Low, and Arnold Walter. As work was voluntary and there were no funds for travel, the council was essentially a Toronto group despite a fair national representation on the membership list. Three to five membership meetings took place in Toronto each year; the first elsewhere was one in Montreal 7 Feb 1959. Membership was by invitation (upon approval by the preceding meeting) and included representatives of the main university music departments, distinguished individuals, and specialists in various fields. In 1953 there were 40 individual members and three organizations: CAPAC, CFMTA, and CCO (RCCO). The CBC at first was an observer but later was a member. The following organizations of national scope became members during the 1950s: the CLComp, BMI Canada (PRO Canada), the CMLA (replaced later by CAML), JMC, CMPA, CFMS, CBA, FCMF, Canadian Bureau for the Advancement of Music, and the Canadian Music Educators' Conference (soon changed to CMEA). Much of the time at council meetings was taken up with the exchange of news between these organizations.

Financial resources (donations from CAPAC and later also BMI Canada, and nominal membership fees) being limited, no projects of any size could be undertaken. Many of the council's meetings were spent in monotonous alternation of the questions 'How can we find money for what should be done?' and 'If we had money, what should we do with it?' The CMCouncil was waiting for the establishment by the Canadian government of the rumoured Canada Council, which might delegate the music group to implement its policy in the field of music.

When the Canada Council became a reality in 1957, however, it did not appoint the CMCouncil its music arm. It did appoint Sir Ernest to the Canada Council (he served 1957-63) and provide subsidies, increasing over the years, to many of the CMCouncil's (proposed) projects. Meanwhile, however, the council had completed many worthwhile projects without subsidies. For the 1948 Olympics it helped to collect scores by Canadian composers for submission to a music competition. (One of these, Weinzweig's Divertimento No. 1, was the winner in the chamber music class.) The council also assembled, largely upon donation by the publishers, a library of some 700 printed Canadian compositions; prepared a brief for the Royal Commission on Patents, Copyright, Trademarks and Industrial Design in 1954; selected five orchestral works and, with the help of the federal Dept of External Affairs, printed and distributed them in Canada and overseas in 1955. The same year, the council published Music in Canada, edited by MacMillan, with 18 chapters on specific aspects contributed by specialists. A year later the council launched the Canadian Music Journal (1956-62), the country's first high-quality music periodical of national scope. One of the early issues of the CMJ (Spring 1957) was devoted to 'Music and the Canada Council' and presented a summary of proposals that had been worked out by members who were specialists in various fields, together with an examination of the problems of patronage by Arnold Walter.


The establishment of the Canada Council in 1957 did not change the status of the CMCouncil as an 'unofficial' voice of Canadian musicians, but at least it enabled the organization to reimburse its members' travel expenses and to ask for funds for some major projects. The largest and most far-reaching was the Canadian Music Centre (1959) for the promotion of Canadian compositions. Until 1965 the centre remained under the direct control of the council, which received and passed on the Canada Council's annual grants.

The CMCouncil became the Canadian committee of the International Music Council in 1952 and of CIDEM (Inter-American Music Council) in 1959. In the next few years it welcomed several new organizations to its own ranks: CAMMAC, NYO, and CAUSM.


The mid-1960s brought change. The main burden of discussion and decision shifted from the frequent general meetings to single annual meetings with an emphasis on trends and themes, the meetings combined with conferences, a focal point for the exchange of ideas and the meeting of minds. Their topics and locations were

1965 The Pros and Cons of the Competitive Festival (Toronto)

1966 Music in Canada, Its Resources and Needs (Ottawa)

1967 Music and Media (Toronto)

1968 Music Education in Canada (Montreal)

1969 Contemporary Music and Audiences (Montreal)

1970 The Musician in 2001 (Ottawa)

1971 Music and Youth in Canada (Quebec City)

1972 The Development of a Music Policy for Canada (Banff, Alta)

1973 Music Criticism in Canada (Montreal)

1974 Folk Music in Canada (Halifax, NS)

1975 Music in Canada: Survey and Perspective (Ottawa); Music as a Dimension of Life (Ottawa and Montreal - in collaboration with the International Music Council, Paris, and the International Institute of Music, Dance and Theatre, Vienna)

1976 Music in a Restrained Economy: From Proliferation to Consolidation (Guelph, Ont)

1977 Music in the Community (Vancouver)

1978 Music and Television (London, Ont)

1979 For All Children, Their Daily Music (Quebec City)

1981 The Serious Music Recording Industry in Canada (Toronto)

1982 The Plight of the Canadian Performer (Montreal)

1984 World Music Days (with ISCM, Toronto and Montreal)

1984 Symposium on Contemporary Music Theatre (Toronto)

1989 Partners in Music: The Role of Conservatory Training in Canada (Toronto)

After Sir Ernest's retirement and his appointment as honorary president in 1966, the headquarters shifted frequently, and directors were elected from a larger geographical area. The incoming president 1966-7 was Arnold Walter, who had been vice-chairman for many years. During his presidency the CMCouncil played host to the CIDEM conference in Toronto in 1967. Subsequent presidents were Jean Papineau-Couture 1967-8, John P.L. Roberts 1968-71 and 1975-7, Françoys Bernier 1971-3, Ronald Napier 1973-5, Maryvonne Kendergi 1977-80, George Laverock 1980-2, Micheline Tessier 1982-3, Patricia Tompkins 1983-7, Alexander Tilley 1987-8, and Mireille Gagné 1988-90. Wilfrid Pelletier was appointed honorary president in 1969.

In 1970 performing groups (non-national organizations) began to be admitted as members, and 13 had been accepted by the end of that year. Membership in 1984 was 35 national and 45 regional organizations, 22 music schools and universities, and 250 individuals. In 1969 a category of honorary membership was established.

The special projects in these years included the publication of Aspects of Music in Canada (Toronto 1969), edited by Arnold Walter, with chapters by the editor and seven contributors, translated and brought up to date in a French edition, Aspects de la musique au Canada (Montreal 1970) under the supervision of Maryvonne Kendergi and Gilles Potvin. The latter was appointed editor of the council's new periodical, The Canada Music Book, in the same year. Also in 1970, the council saw to the formation of a Canadian committee to ensure Canadian participation in the selection of music for performance at the annual festivals of the ISCM. In 1971 the Canadian Music Council Medal was established, and in 1977 several other awards were created: artist of the year, composer of the year, ensemble of the year, a special award (see Awards 1/Honours bestowed), and a number of media awards for achievements in radio, TV, and recording. (The pop field is not included.) The main energy of the CMCouncil during the early 1970s, however, was brought to bear on the preparation of the 16th General Assembly of the International Music Council and its first World Music Week, 24 Sep-5 Oct 1975. This assembly surpassed in scope and attendance all previous such meetings in Canada.

Soon after this successful meeting the CMCouncil, with the help of the Canada Council, was able to realize one of its oldest dreams, a permanent secretariat, which opened in Ottawa in 1976 with Guy Huot as secretary-general and John Cozens as honorary secretary. (A secretariat opened in 1949 and run by Kenneth Ingram had been premature and was short-lived.) One of the first projects after the establishment of this office was the publication of Musicanada, a revival and adaptation of the CMCentre's discontinued magazine. When Huot was appointed executive secretary of the International Music Council in 1987, Myra Grimley Dahl took over his position.

In 42 years the CMCouncil went through changes of structure and role, growing from a Toronto-centred organization into a truly national one. It looked inwards to take stock of the weaknesses and strengths of music in Canada, and outwards to ensure Canadian recognition abroad. Activities ranged from lobbying to publicizing, from awarding to co-ordinating. Not all activities were effective, and not all potentials of a national umbrella organization were realized, but the accomplishments were impressive, and the dedication to a variety of worthy causes yielded historic results.

One of the council's last projects was to undertake a study of the conservatory situation in Canada, which resulted in the Trowsdale Report. However, less than a year after moving into new quarters at the Chalmers Cultural Centre in Ottawa, the council was faced with a deficit of $54,000 and the prospect of the withdrawal of the Canada Council's support, and so it decided in February 1990 to suspend operations and to close its offices. In some respects the council probably had outlived its usefulness, as specialized music organizations had established their own direct channels in dealing with governments and other power holders. However, the eclipse regrettably left the profession as a whole without a representative voice and without effective international liaison.

The organization's records were deposited at the NL of C.


Music in Canada, ed Sir Ernest MacMillan (Toronto 1955)

Canadian Music Journal (Sackville, NB and Toronto 1956-62)

Reports of CMCouncil Conferences: Music in Canada: Its Resources and Needs (1966), Music and Media (1967), Music Education and the Canadians of Tomorrow (1968), Contemporary Music and Audiences/ La Musique contemporaine et la publique (1969)

Aspects of Music in Canada, ed Arnold Walter (Toronto 1969)

Aspects de la musique au Canada, eds Maryvonne Kendergi and Gilles Potvin (Montreal 1970)

The Canada Music Book/ Les Cahiers canadiens de musique (1970-6)

Musicanada, quarterly (1976-89)

Independent and Affiliated Non-Profit Conservatory-Type Music Schools in Canada: A Speculative Survey (Ottawa 1988)

Further Reading