Royal Hamilton College of Music

Royal Hamilton College of Music 1965-80 (Hamilton Conservatory of Music 1897-1965). Founded in 1897 in Hamilton, Ont, by C.L.M. Harris, its director until 1907.

Royal Hamilton College of Music

Royal Hamilton College of Music 1965-80 (Hamilton Conservatory of Music 1897-1965). Founded in 1897 in Hamilton, Ont, by C.L.M. Harris, its director until 1907. Situated at first in the former home of Robert Steele, it was moved in 1899 to the Main and Charles streets building previously occupied by the Hamilton College of Music (founded by D.J. O'Brien in 1888 as the Hamilton Musical Institute, renamed in 1889, and open until 1898). The conservatory was moved again in 1904 to its subsequent location on James St South, where its facilities included a recital hall on the second floor, studios on the first, and a meeting room in the basement.

Under Harris' directorship the conservatory was incorporated in 1904 by the province of Ontario and became affiliated in 1906 with the University of Toronto. The syllabus was expanded to include art, physical culture, dance, musical kindergarten, and elocution, as well as lessons in piano, strings, winds, organ, and guitar. The conservatory offered three examination systems: its own and those of the University of Toronto and the University of Trinity College, Toronto. Because of its affiliation it was possible for its students to prepare for the University of Toronto B MUS degree and proceed directly to the final examination. Harris also formed the Orchestral Club (which continued until 1914), the Art Culture Club, and a choral group.

A triumvirate of staff members - J.E.P. Aldous (director 1889-1908 of the Hamilton School of Music), W.H. Hewlett, and Bruce Carey - were known as administrative officers and succeeded Harris, who had resigned in 1907. This administration presented internationally known artists in the recital hall and occasionally, after 1912, in the newly opened Royal Connaught Hotel. The University of Toronto proposed and carried out 'disaffiliation' in 1918, when the HCM set up a competing system of examinations.

In the same year Carey resigned, and Hewlett became the conservatory's first principal, remaining in the position until 1939. During his term of office branches were opened in the east end of Hamilton and in suburban Westdale. Subsequent principals were Cyril Hampshire 1939-44, Reginald Bedford 1944-8, Reginald Godden 1948-53, Lorne Betts 1953-9, the church organist Harold Jerome (a staff member, 1920-57, and a former pupil of Hewlett) 1959-67, Gladys Whitehead 1967-74, and Jonathan Watts 1974-80.

The conservatory awarded an associate diploma (AHCM) in piano, violin, voice, speech arts, and drama. When the conservatory received a royal charter 15 May 1965 and was renamed the Royal Hamilton College of Music, it began offering, in addition to the renamed associate's diploma (ARHCM), a licentiate diploma (LRHCM) and an honorary fellow's degree (FRHCM), the last-named awarded that year for the first time to Sir Ernest MacMillan, Charles Peaker, and Healey Willan. Other recipients have been Mario Bernardi, Charles Camilleri, Victor Feldbrill, G. Roy Fenwick, Nicholas Goldschmidt, Marta Hidy, Harold Jerome, Anton Kuerti, Phyllis Mailing, Bertha Carey Morrow, Frank Thorolfson, Lorne Watson, and Gladys Whitehead.

By 1978 the teaching staff of the RHCM had grown to 118, including Community Service teachers and 73 full-time staff giving private instruction. Students numbered between 2500 and 3000. Through the in-school instruction program given by the Community Service teachers, an additional 3800 students received specialized attention. Later inclusions in the main syllabus were courses in the Suzuki string method, jazz, theatre, and visual arts. Besides the main faculty on James St and five branches in the Hamilton area, the RHCM maintained several branches in the Windsor area and one each in Leamington and Oakville, Ont.

Few early records of the RHCM are extant. According to Jonathan Watts, the Board of Governors in 1960 authorized their destruction. Because of financial problems the college closed its doors in 1980.


Further Reading

  • Hamilton Conservatory of Music, a Brief History (1961)

    Gee, Ken. 'Deathrites of a school,' Mcan, 43, Summer 1980

    'Royal Hamilton College of Music,' Canadian String Teachers Association Notes, vol 4, Spring 1980

    Royal Hamilton College of Music (Hamilton Conservatory of Music). Annual Calendars