Music at Ladies' Colleges and Convent Schools

Ladies' colleges and convent schools. Until the late 19th century in Canada, music training was considered more suitable for young women than for young men.

Ladies' colleges and convent schools. Until the late 19th century in Canada, music training was considered more suitable for young women than for young men. At first, even to women, it was available only privately and on a limited basis, but early in the century it was offered in a few ladies' and girls' schools. A prospectus of the Young Ladies' Academy of the Ursuline Convent in Quebec City offered lessons in accordion, guitar, harp, organ, and piano, and the girls at the boarding school of Quebec City's Hôpital général de Québec were taught by organists from the Quebec Basilica. Later (1857-68), music instruction was provided by the nuns of the Hôpital général.

Ladies' Colleges
By the 1840s the Canadian middle classes had begun to view music as a proper and necessary part of education for young women. As a result, an increasing number of ladies' colleges added it to their curricula. At Cobourg, Ont, Upper Canada Academy (later Victoria U), incorporated by the Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada in 1836, had a separate ladies' department, which offered music lessons as early as 1839. A few years later the appendix to William S. Darling's Sketches of Canadian Life (London 1849) included advertisements for Toronto boarding schools, such as Mrs Scobie's, where students might study 'Music, French and Drawing, on the most moderate terms,' and for a young ladies' French and English school (run by M and Mme Deslandes) which provided music instruction for boarders and 'German, Italian, Singing and Dancing on the Usual Terms' for day students. Such lessons appear to have been optional and available only for an additional fee.

Other Ontario schools and colleges with music teachers on staff during the 19th century were the Adelaide Ladies' Academy and Miss MacNally's, both in Toronto, the Burlington Academy in Hamilton, the Misses Dunn School for Ladies in Cobourg, the Oakville Ladies' Academy (Oakville), St Mary's Academy in Windsor (where Salomon Mazurette was music director 1875-6), the Ottawa Ladies' College (Edward Fisher, music director ca 1875), and Hellmuth College in London. The last-named of these was founded by the Church of England in 1869 and offered courses in choral singing, voice, harmony, history, organ, piano, theory, and violin. Music directors at Hellmuth included W. Waugh Lauder, who held the position 1883-5; among those who taught there ca 1884-94 were William Caven Barron (piano and organ), Thomas Martin (piano), Roselle Pococke (violin), and Nelda von Seyfried (voice). Another noteworthy school was the Wesleyan Ladies College, Hamilton, incorporated by the Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada in 1861. Teachers in the music department (initiated in 1870) included Robert Steele Ambrose (instrumental and vocal music), C.L.M. Harris and Clarence Lucas (harmony), Emma Kellogg (voice), and L.H. Parker (organ). The Ontario Ladies' College at Whitby and Alma College at St Thomas both have made significant contributions. Among those who taught at the Whitby college are G.D. Atkinson, Edward Fisher, Stanley Osborne, and F.H. Torrington. Teachers at Alma College, whose music department was established by St John Hyttenrauch, have included Frank Welsman (also music director 1928-31), Gertrude Huntly Green (music director during the 1930s), and Doreen Hall.

In western Canada, a Mrs Mills and her daughters oversaw a girls' school established at the Red River Colony (Winnipeg) ca 1851; music instruction, including piano lessons, was available to its students. In New Westminster, BC, St Ann's Academy (founded in 1865) offered thorough training in piano. St Hilda's College for Girls (established in Calgary during the late 1880s) was another western school which provided music lessons. Among those who taught there were Ada Dowling Costigan, who brought the first baby grand piano to Calgary, and Annie Glen Broder.

On the east coast, an important teaching centre was established in Sackville, NB. By the 1890s Mount Allison Ladies' College was one of the largest such schools in Canada, with one of the largest music teaching facilities as well.

In Montreal, two girls' schools established with financial assistance from Lord Strathcona offered music instruction. The first of these, founded as the Trafalgar Institute (Trafalgar School for Girls after 1887, and affiliated with McGill University in 1911), included music appreciation and class singing in its regular curriculum. Among its teaching staff were Frantz Jehin-Prume and Victor Brault. The Royal Victoria College for Women, founded in 1896, had a music department established by Clara Lichtenstein when the school opened in 1899. The department amalgamated in 1904 with the McGill Conservatorium.

Convent Schools

Particularly in the province of Quebec, music education has been largely the preserve of the Roman Catholic female religious orders, which have established schools and academies where children (in later years boys as well as girls) can be enrolled for a general education and, in some instances, specifically for music training. While most such schools are in Quebec, the major orders have established similar ones in all the other provinces of Canada. Only a selection of these can be described here.

During the 1870s Lady Dufferin, the wife of the governor general, visited several Quebec convent schools, including that of Jésus Marie at Sillery, where she viewed a hall with '12 glass boxes, each containing a piano so that the pupils can practise simultaneously; whilst in another glass house sits the mistress, overlooking, but happily for her, not overhearing' (My Canadian Journal 1872-78, Toronto 1969, p 24). Lady Dufferin also toured the Sacred Heart ConventSacré-Coeur Convent in Montreal, at whose school in February 1878 she heard students perform 'an original operetta' (ibid, p 285).

The religious order the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame (founded in Montreal in 1658 by Marguerite Bourgeoys) began to offer piano lessons at its boarding school in 1834. Teachers included Eugénie Kilchen de la Peronnière, W.H. Warren, and J.-C. Brauneis II. In 1845 the school was presented with a harp by the governor of Lower Canada; Henry Berlyn gave lessons on it. Among the school's directors of music during the 19th century were Henriette Dufresne (Sister St-Michel) 1845-?, and Sister Ste-Berthe 1895-1910. In 1908 the congregation established in Montreal an École d'enseignement supérieur (a teacher training school) affiliated with Laval University. Romain-Octave Pelletier was among the first to teach there. In 1926 Sister Ste-Anne-Marie founded the Institut pédagogique (renamed Marguerite-Bourgeoys College in 1976) and the École normale de musique, both also in Montreal.

In order to maintain uniformity in the music programs offered at all of its houses, the Congregation of Notre Dame created the position of director general for music studies in 1936. In 1943 a 10-year course of study, open to all regular students, was initiated. In 1958 137 of the order's houses in Canada and the USA and three of its missions in Japan offered music instruction. Among many others who have taught for the order over the years are J.-Arthur Bernier, Charlotte Cadoret, Albert Chamberland, Guillaume Couture, J.-B. Dubois, Henri Gagnon, Arthur Laurendeau, Omer Létourneau, and Berthe Roy.

Founded in Montreal in 1844 by Sister Marie-Rose, the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary began to offer piano lessons in 1845. These were given at first by William Benzinger and 1872-80 by a Mme Petipas, who was engaged to teach singing and piano. In 1920 Sister Marie-Stéphane was named the order's director of music studies. During her tenure a nine-year program of music studies was established for regular students, and a system by which senior sisters visited the order's schools in Quebec and Ontario was implemented to assist teachers and to examine students. A certificate was offered for the first six years of tuition successfully completed and a diploma for the last three. In 1932 Sister Marie-Stéphane founded the École supérieure de musique d'Outremont (renamed École Vincent-d'Indy in 1951). By 1991 about tenor of the order's schools continued to offer music instruction. Those who have taught music for the order include Lazare-Arsène Barbarin, Louis Bouhier, Jean-Noël Charbonneau, Alexis Contant, Guillaume Couture, Alfred De Sève, Arsène Dubuc, Jules Hone, Alfred Lamoureux, Émery Lavigne, ArthurLetondal, and Romain-Octave Pelletier.

The Sisters of the Holy Cross arrived in Canada in 1847 and began to teach piano at their boarding school at St-Laurent, Montreal, in 1848. Their graduates' diplomas were awarded at first by the Dominion College of Music and later by the Conservatoire du Québec. In the 20th century both a school and a college (the École and the Collège de musique Ste-Croix) were established under Sister Marie de Ste-Jeanne-du-Rosaire, who was appointed the order's music director in 1936. The school provided instruction for youngsters, while the college catered to advanced students, awarding certificates and degrees in performance and teaching. The college was affiliated with the University of Montreal 1957-67. In 1968 both the school and the college were absorbed by the St-Laurent Cegep. In the province of Quebec, approximately 24 Sisters of the Holy Cross institutions have offered music instruction. In addition, courses in music have been given at the order's Musica School founded in 1962 in Cornwall, Ont, at 11 of its convents in Alberta, and at a number of its convent schools in the USA. Among those who have taught for the order are Françoise Aubut, Yvonne Hubert, Czeslaw Kaczynski, Yvette Lamontagne, Michel Longtin, Armas Maiste, Maurice Onderet, Michel Perrault, Calvin Sieb, Georges-Émile Tanguay, and Jean-Eudes Vaillancourt.

Music lessons offered by the Sisters of Ste-Anne were given at first only by secular instructors. Some of the first students at the order's Lachine (Montreal) boarding school received instruction from J.-B. Labelle, and after 1869 the program of studies initiated there served as a model for the order's other schools. In 1876 an examining board was established at Lachine for the purpose of awarding certificates; after 1899 many diplomas were issued by the AMQ. For some years, beginning in 1871, Paul Letondal oversaw the music studies programs. The order's music school in Montreal was affiliated in 1937 with the University of Montreal as the École supérieure de musique; in 1965 it was renamed the École de musique Wilfrid-Pelletier. Principals of the school have included Louisa Paquin, Diane Villeneuve (Sister Marie-Héloïse), and Rosa Lavallée (Sister Marie du Sénacle), succeeded in 1961 by Geneviève Gauthier (Sister Marie-Thérèse-Eugénie).

There have been approximately 60 Sisters of Ste Anne houses offering music instruction in Quebec. The order also has schools in British Columbia; music training was begun in New Westminster in 1865. In 1900 music programs were initiated at the schools in Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria. Among those who have taught for the Sisters of Ste Anne are Lydia Boucher, Claude Champagne, Camille Couture, Gabriel Cusson, Bernard Diamant, Pauline Donalda, Salvator Issaurel, Charles-Marie Panneton, Raoul Paquet, and Antoinette Wilscam. Among noted musicians who have studied at Sisters of Ste Anne schools are Fernande Chiocchio, Marie Daveluy, Marguerite Lavergne, and Louis Lortie. The order has published the Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens (Lachine 1922) and the Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens canadiens (Lachine 1935), as well as several books on theory and solfège.


Further Reading

  • Rhéaume, Claire. 'La création musicale chez les religieuses de trois communautés montréalaises,' MA thesis, University of Montreal 1987

    - 'La création musicale chez les religieuses enseignantes de Montréal,' Cahiers de l'ARMuQ, 10, Jun 1988

    Lefebvre, Marie-Thérèse. La Création musicale des femmes au Québec (Montréal 1991)

    Green, J. Paul, and Vogan, Nancy. Music Education in Canada (Toronto 1991)