Harvey Olnick

Harvey (Joel) Olnick. Musicologist, teacher, b New York 18 Dec 1917, d Toronto 30 Oct 2003; B SC (City, New York) 1940, MA (Columbia) 1948. He began to study piano at The Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School) at six.

Olnick, Harvey

Harvey (Joel) Olnick. Musicologist, teacher, b New York 18 Dec 1917, d Toronto 30 Oct 2003; B SC (City, New York) 1940, MA (Columbia) 1948. He began to study piano at The Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School) at six. While studying mathematics and physics at the City University of New York he attended seminars and lectures given by eminent German émigré and US musicologists. He did wartime service in the US Air Force. After graduate studies in musicology with Paul Henry Lang and Erich Hertzmann at Columbia University, Olnick taught for a year at Vassar College and did research as a Fulbright Fellow in Italy for two years on the early baroque concerto. He was a director of the Marlboro Festival 1956-8 and a board member thereafter.

Teaching Career in Canada

Olnick taught 1954-83 at the University of Toronto (later being made professor emeritus) and was regarded as the founder of serious musicological teaching in Canada. He favoured the Socratic method; his students were forced to develop their learning skills under his sometimes stern guidance rather than passively absorb information from set lectures. He concentrated on teaching and raising the profile of music and musicology at the University of Toronto rather than on writing for scholarly journals, although for the Canadian Music Journal he wrote an article on Harry Somers (vol 3, Summer 1959) and numerous reviews. He exerted great influence at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music; it was largely through his efforts that its music library became the finest in Canada, and he also helped to organize its Electronic Music Studio and plan the Edward Johnson Building. His interests ranged from the medieval era to the present, but his areas of specialty were the Italian baroque and Beethoven. In 1981 he received the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations teaching award. His pupils included Eric Chafe, Warren Kirkendale, Rika Maniates, and Carl Morey. He contributed to EMC and the New Grove Dictionary.


Further Reading

  • Morey, Carl. 'Harvey Olnick,' University of Toronto Faculty of Music News, Spring/Summer 1983

    University of Toronto Archives. Oral history record B86-0074, interview with Valerie Schatzker (1986)

    Elliott, Robin. Obituary. Institute for Canadian Music Newsletter, Jan 2004