Music Degrees

Degrees. Academic titles conferred upon individuals by universities and colleges to recognize the successful completion of particular programs of study set by those institutions, or (as honorary degrees) to recognize outstanding achievement in the arts, sciences, or humanities.

Music Degrees

Degrees. Academic titles conferred upon individuals by universities and colleges to recognize the successful completion of particular programs of study set by those institutions, or (as honorary degrees) to recognize outstanding achievement in the arts, sciences, or humanities.

The first B MUS degree granted in Canada (and said to be the first, earned or honorary, granted in North America) was awarded in 1846 by King's College (Toronto) to J.P. Clarke for his eight-part anthem 'Arise, O Lord God, Forget Not the Poor'. In 1856 Clarke may have received as well, from the University of Toronto, the first D MUS granted in Canada, but the records cast some doubt on his actually having received it. George Strathy was the recipient of the second B MUS (1853) and of a D MUS (1858), both from the University of Trinity College (Toronto). Until 1879 Oxford University, Cambridge U, and Dublin U awarded almost all music degrees in the English-speaking countries, although US universities granted a few after 1850.

In 1883 the University of Trinity College devised a syllabus and set up annual examinations towards the B MUS degree, and in 1885 that college appointed a registrar in England in order that examinations might be held simultaneously in England and Canada. It is known that 193 candidates in both countries applied for Trinity music degrees between 1886 and 1891 and that 89 bachelor and doctorate degrees were awarded. In 1891, after a series of complaints by British musicians, this practice of granting degrees to English candidates 'in absentia' was discontinued. Examiners were also appointed by Bishop's University, Dalhousie University, McGill University, and the University of Toronto and altogether some 75 degrees had been earned by Canadians before World War I. Candidates were prepared and instructed at conservatories. When the first teaching faculties of music were established (Toronto 1918, McGill 1920, Laval 1922) many who had been examiners began to provide lectures and classes, but attendance was rarely compulsory.

The francophone universities of Quebec functioned on a system of affiliated classical colleges, seminaries, and schools operated by various religious communities and organized on a modified Jesuit pattern. Degrees granted by the University of Montreal (Faculty of Music established in 1950 although the first B MUS had been granted in 1921, the first D MUS in 1931) included the B MUS in performance (three-year program), which led to an M MUS in performance after one additional year of study. (In the 1950s this M MUS in performance led to a Diplôme d'artiste, which became Diplôme de concertiste in the 1960s.) Students wishing to continue their studies in historical or theoretical subjects would enter the Licence (L MUS) program requiring two years of study after the B MUS. At Laval University, the B MUS and L MUS were granted. In the 1970s both universities changed their L MUS programs to an M MUS to bring them more closely into line with North-American practice.

It is interesting to note that until the mid-20th century earned doctorates from English-language universities always were given for 'exercises' in composition - usually symphonies or choral-orchestral works - but this rule did not apply in French-language universities, where doctorates were granted mostly, if not exclusively, for written historical or theoretical theses. Examples were Robert Talbot's theoretical work on intervals of the fifth (D MUS Laval 1933), Sister Marie-Stéphane's study on music education (D MUS Montreal 1936), Leslie Bell's text on vocal sight-reading for adolescents (D MUS Montreal 1946), and G. Roy Fenwick's survey of school music in Ontario (D MUS Montreal 1950). Before the major reform of education in Quebec in the 1960s, the general academic background required for a B MUS was, as elsewhere in Canada, the successful completion of grades at the secondary level (high-school matriculation). In 1967, however, Quebec became the only province in which the university-bound student must have studied at a Cegep and obtained his or her DEC (Diplôme d'études collégiales).

Until the 1940s the programs offered in English-speaking universities were facsimiles of those offered in Great Britain and were intended primarily for composers. The possibility of earning a B MUS in performance, in history and literature (musicology), or in music education was virtually non-existent. After 1940 the overwhelming tendency in English Canada was to model university music programs on those in the USA, distinguishable from their British counterparts by compulsory attendance and a broader array of fields of concentration. The first Canadian degree course to follow the US model was instituted at the University of Toronto in 1946 and led to a B MUS in School Music. In 1949 19 individuals graduated from the course. The first Master of Music to be awarded in Canada was John Fenwick's, in composition, from the University of Toronto in 1956.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s music degree programs expanded rapidly. By 1966, 17 Canadian universities were offering undergraduate music degrees, and of these 7 had introduced graduate programs.

In 1990, 28 Canadian universities were offering music programs leading to baccalaureate degrees: Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Music (BM, B MUS, MUS BAC), Bachelor of Music Education (B MUS ED), and Bachelor of Musical Arts (BMA). Requirements for these degrees have varied, but usually from three to five (most often four) years of residence have been stipulated: roughly two-thirds of the courses have been in music (including performance); and concentrations have been possible in performance, theory and/or composition, and music history and literature (or musicology). In some instances no concentration has been specified (or possible), and the degree has been awarded with 'general mention'.

In addition, in 1990 more than 30 universities were offering programs of study leading to other baccalaureates (BA, B ED, etc) in which music might be stressed to a variable extent but subjects other than music predominated. The BA (Honours: Music) usually has represented an undergraduate program in which music courses predominate, but historical and theoretical subjects, rather than performance, are emphasised. In 1990, of the 27 universities which have offered programs leading to the B MUS or its equivalent, 17 (Alberta, Brandon, British Columbia, Calgary, Carleton, Laval, McGill, McMaster, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatchewan, Sherbrooke, Toronto, Victoria, Western Ontario, and York) also have offered master's programs with music the primary field of study: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Education (M ED), Master of Music (MM, M MUS), and Master of Musical Arts (MMA). Eight (Alberta, British Columbia, Laval, McGill, Montreal, Toronto, Victoria, and Western Ontario) also have offered one or several doctorate programs: Doctor of Education (D ED), Doctor of Music (D MUS, MUS DOC), Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), Doctor of Philosophy (PH D). The requirements for these degrees are so diverse that the only possible significant generalization is that a master's or doctor's degree may be earned in Canada in any of the major branches of music. In 1950 John Reymes King received the first Canadian PH D in music from the University of Toronto.

As is the custom in other countries (though perhaps most frequently in Canada and the USA), honorary doctorates (eg, MUS DOC, LL D, D LITT) have been awarded in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of music. Well over 100 such doctorates have been awarded, including those to George Strathy (see above) and St George Crozier (from Victoria U, Cobourg, Ont, in 1872). Recipients have included musicians who have made great local contributions, such as Amy Ferguson (honorary D MUS, Notre Dame, Nelson, BC, 1970); nationally known figures such as Murray Adaskin, Applebaum, Archer, John Beckwith, Jean Carignan, Champagne, Helen Creighton, Jean Dansereau, Franz-Paul Decker, S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté, Maureen Forrester, Glenn Gould, Elmer Iseler, Raoul Jobin, Helmut Kallmann, Hugh Le Caine, Gilles Lefebvre, Gordon Lightfoot, MacMillan, Lois Marshall, Anne Murray, Naylor, R.-O. Pelletier, Wilfrid Pelletier, Oscar Peterson, Léopold Simoneau, Somers, Vézina, Vigneault, Vogt, Weinzweig, Kenneth Winters and Willan; and to distinguished foreigners, including Sir Thomas Beecham, E. Power Biggs, Maud Karpeles, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and Yehudi Menuhin. Several Canadians have received degrees from outside the country. For instance, the Lambeth degree D MUS (Cantuar) has been conferred upon C.A.E. Harriss (1905), Percival Illsley (1912), Healey Willan (1956), Godfrey Hewitt (1973), and Hugh Bancroft (1977). Alexander Brott, Champagne, Duchow, Mazzoleni, Parlow, Papineau-Couture, and Wilfrid Pelletier are among those who have received honorary degrees from US universities.

See also Awards; Diplomas; Education, professional.


Further Reading

  • University of Trinity College, Faculty of Music, Memorials Presented to Lord Knutsford, H.M. Secretary of State for the Colonies with Appendices, etc. (London 1890)

    Joyce, F.W. The Life of the Rev. Sir F.A.C. Ouseley, Bart (London 1895)

    'British musical degrees in Canada: the truth at last,' SatN, 26 Nov 1898

    Reed, T.A., ed. A History of the University of Trinity College, Toronto (Toronto 1952)

    MacMillan, Sir Ernest. 'Music in Canadian universities,' CMJ, vol 2, Spring 1958

    University of Toronto, Music Alumni Assoc. Directory of Degree Graduates (Toronto 1964)

    Proctor, George A. 'The bachelor of music degree in Canada and the United States,' CME, vol 7, Jan-Feb 1966

    Brown, A. Malcolm. A Study of Music Curriculum in Degree and Diploma Programs Offered at Canadian Institutions of Higher Learning, 1968-1969 (Calgary 1969)

    Ellard, Brian J., ed. Directory of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Music, annual (1974- )

    - Inventory of Undergraduate Programs, CAUSM conference report (1976)

    Walter, Arnold. 'Music education,' Aspects of Music in Canada

    Beckwith, John. 'Music education,' Encyclopedia Canadiana, vol 7

    Walter, Arnold. 'Education in music,' Music in Canada