Music at Western University | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Music at Western University

The Faculty of Music at Western University (known legally as the University of Western Ontario) offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Located in London, Ontario, it is one of the largest music schools in Canada. Music education at the university began in 1934 and evolved into an affiliated music school in 1942. The Faculty of Music was established in 1968 and was renamed the Don Wright Faculty of Music in 2002. In 2014, the faculty had more than 120 members (35 in Music Education, 63 in performance, and 32 in Research and Composition) and an enrolment of more than 600 students.


Western University was founded in 1878 as the Western University of London, a denominational school of the Church of England. The university was made non-denominational in 1908 and was renamed the University of Western Ontario in 1923. In 2012, it was rebranded Western University, a name that appears in all official communications and branded materials, although the legal name of the university, which appears on transcripts and diplomas, remains University of Western Ontario.

Music education in London began in the form of the London Conservatory of Music (1892–1922) and the London Institute of Musical Art (1919–34); the latter operated under the auspices of the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music). The University of Western Ontario began offering summer classes in music in 1934. Also that year, the newly founded Western Ontario Conservatory of Music incorporated the London Institute of Musical Art under the direction of Frederick Newnham, and discontinued the affiliation with the Toronto Conservatory.

Music at the university during this period consisted of the Sunday Nine O'Clock Concerts (founded in 1935), summer schools, occasional lectures on music appreciation and student performing ensembles such as the Orpheus Society Glee Club directed by Harvey Robb, a string orchestra under Zoë Addy-Watson and a band led by Don Wright.

Music at Western: Early Years (1942–60)

In 1942, the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music moved from downtown to the university campus as an affiliated school under the direction of Harvey Robb. The university offered music for the first time as a credited subject in 1943 after receiving a donation from the Wilhelmina Morris McIntosh estate. Twelve students were enrolled in music courses during the 1943–44 academic year.

In 1945, with financial assistance from the A.E. Silverwood Foundation, the university established the Music Teachers' College to provide a level of professional training. Max Pirani was principal from 1945 to 1947. As an affiliate of the university, the college offered a two-year diploma in music pedagogy designed primarily for private music teachers. After Ernest White's short term (1947–50), Harvey Robb was the college's principal from 1950 to 1957.

In 1956, the college was integrated within the university's Faculty of Arts and Science, and offered a BA with music options. Among the teaching staff at this time was Alfred Rosé, who originally came to the conservatory to direct summer opera workshops in 1946. Clifford Poole served from 1957 to 1959 as principal of both institutions, which were moved off campus to the A.E. Silverwood Building. School music courses in vocal and instrumental techniques were introduced by Earle Terry and Donald A. McKellar respectively.

College of Music (1961–68)

In 1960, Clifford von Kuster became principal of the college. The name was changed to the College of Music in 1961, when it also became part of the Faculty of Arts and Science. Major developments took place between 1960 and 1973 during von Kuster's term, and the college developed at an unprecedented rate.

In the 1960s, John McIntosh provided leadership in theory and applied music, and McKellar in music education and instrumental ensembles. School music courses were introduced in a new BA program in 1962; this program was phased out in 1964, at which time the B Mus was offered in several specialized fields: music history; theory and composition; applied music; and music education. Programs offering a master’s degree in music were initiated in 1968, the year in which the first B Mus degrees were awarded.

Faculty of Music (1968–Present)

The college became the Faculty of Music in 1968 with von Kuster as dean. The continuing increase in student enrolment required additional full-time faculty, expansion of library resources and construction of a new Faculty of Music Building, which was opened officially in 1972.

Hugh McLean was dean of the Faculty of Music from 1973 to 1980, followed by Jack Behrens (1980–86), Jeffrey L. Stokes (1986–2000), Robert Wood (2001–11), Betty Anne Younker (2011–21) and Michael Kim (2021–). Teaching staff over the years has included Ralph Aldrich, James Anagnoson, Damjana Bratuz, Gail Dixon, Mary-Lou Fallis, Arsenio Giron, Alan Heard, Wayne Jeffrey, Peter Paul Koprowski, Sandra Mangsen, Kevin McMillan, Gerald Neufeld, Alvin Reimer, Robert Riseling, Erik Schultz, Malcolm Tait, Gwen Thompson, Ronald Turini, Gerhard Wuensch and Paul Woodford.

In 2002, following a generous donation by alumnus, musician and philanthropist Don Wright, the faculty was renamed the Don Wright Faculty of Music. In 2014, the faculty had more than 120 faculty members (35 in Music Education, 63 in performance, and 32 in Research and Composition) and an enrolment of more than 600 students.

Music Degrees and Programs

Degrees have included a B Mus (music education, history, performance, theory and composition), honours BA (music) and BA (music administrative studies and popular music studies, begun in 2000). Graduate degrees have included an M Mus (composition, theory, music education, literature and performance), and an MA in musicology, theory, and popular music and culture (begun 2007).

A PhD in systematic musicology was initiated in 1987, the first being awarded to Lora L. Matthews in 1989. By 2011, the PhD was offered in musicology, theory, composition and education (philosophy and psychology). The faculty has also offered an artist diploma in performance, and beginning in 2000, a one-year certificate in piano technology.

Department of Music Education

Many undergraduate music students have specialized in music education, a program for which the university has earned an enviable reputation. J. Paul Green was chair of music education from 1969 to 1979, and during this period additional faculty appointments included Kenneth Bray, Robert Hughes, Deral Johnson, Ilona Bartalus and H.E. Fiske. Other chairs of music education have included Victoria Meredith and Paul Woodford.

In the 1970s, Kodály courses were introduced and the department developed a Suzuki instructional program in the greater London community. In 1970, "Symposium II – The Baroque" was organized as a special project for school teachers in cooperation with the Ontario Music Educators' Association. The music education department convened a series of research symposia between 1976 and 1981. It also hosted the 13th World Congress of the International Society for Music Education (12–20 August 1978), and the Music and Lifelong Learning symposium (7–8 May 2003).

Music instructors appointed to the university’s Faculty of Education (Althouse College of Education until 1974) included Dawson Woodburn, who also conducted choral ensembles at the Faculty of Music (1965–70), James White, Brian Strachan, Carol Beynon and Patrick Burroughs.

Department of Music Research and Composition

The Department of Music Research and Composition was formed in 2008 when the departments of music history and composition amalgamated.

Music History

Gordon Greene was chair of the music history department (1968–75), followed by Terence Bailey (1975–85). Other chairs have included Philip Downs, Richard Semmens, Robert Toft and Catherine Nolan. Bailey was the founding editor of the department's Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario (1976–), whose issues have included a four-part catalogue of the university's rare opera collection edited by Donald Neville (vol. 4, 1979; supplement vol. 12, 1987). Courses and research activities in Canadian music were expanded by George Proctor. Richard Semmens directed the Collegium Musicum activities during the 1980s.

The music history department has organized several symposia: "Crosscurrents and the Mainstream of Italian Serious Opera 1730–90" in 1982; "Canadian Music of the 1950s" in 1983; "Mozart: A Celebration" during the 1990–91 academic year; and the International Rachmaninoff Symposium and Festival in 2003. Research projects have included the Gregorian chant database, CANTUS (established in 1997); and the Handbook for Metastasio Research. The student journal of musicology, Nota Bene, was begun in 2008.

Theory and Composition

Since the mid-1970s, the Faculty of Music has placed a greater emphasis on composition. Jack Behrens, chair of the theory and composition department (1976–80), made a number of short-term composer-in-residence appointments, among them Larry Austin, Leon Kirchner and R. Murray Schafer. The theory and composition department began presenting New Music Colloquia in 1970, and hosted Music Theory Canada 1990, a three-day conference co-sponsored by Western, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. In 1995, the faculty upgraded its digital sound laboratory to accommodate studies in electroacoustic composition.

Department of Music Performance

Performance activities at the university increased in the 1970s as enrolment became more evenly distributed across all areas of specialization. Student opera productions have included Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief, John Beckwith's Night Blooming Cereus (1971), Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1972), and Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona (1975). Martin Chambers expanded the opera workshop. In 1978 he directed The Magic Flute; and in 1979, Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites and the premiere performance of A Masquerade of Dreams by Merwin Lewis.

The Opera Workshop (renamed UWOpera in 1996) was subsequently directed by Reid Spencer, Brian McIntosh and, beginning in 1996, Theodore Baerg. Under Baerg, productions included Puccini’s Suor Angelica (1997, 2007), Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (1998), Seymour Barab’s Little Red Riding Hood (2002), Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow (2006), Lieber and Stoller’s musical revue Smokey Joes Caf (2008), Edwin Penhorwood’s satire Too Many Sopranos (2009), Mozart's Don Giovanni (2010) and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (2011).

The growth of choral music under the direction of Deral Johnson included annual performances of large choral works and the premiere of R. Murray Schafer's Apocalypsis in 1980. Before the founding of the faculty, the most important performing ensemble was the university choir under Alfred Rosé. After 1968, however, the choir was superseded by the faculty's choral ensembles, particularly the Faculty of Music Singers (later the University of Western Ontario Singers; now the Western University Singers). Long recognized as one of Canada’s most accomplished university mixed choral ensembles, it was conducted by Deral Johnson (1969–89), and succeeded by Ken Fleet, Gerald Neufeld and Victoria Meredith (1998–). Under Meredith, the Western University Singers and Les Choristes won several CBC Radio choral competitions. Other choral ensembles have included the Chorale, the Thames Scholars and the St. Cecilia Singers.

The faculty has also developed a number of instrumental ensembles. The cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi was for some years an artist-in-residence and became a founding member of Quartet Canada, which was quartet-in-residence between 1977 and 1981. The Symphony Orchestra was first conducted by Donald McKellar, succeeded by Robert Skelton, by Clifford Evens in 1972, by Simon Streatfeildin 1977 and, in 1983, by Jerome Summers (who also developed the wind ensemble, 1974–83). Other conductors have included Herman Dilmore, Peter Odegard, James McKay and Geoffrey Moull. The symphonic band was directed intermittently by McKellar (1962–91), Martin Boundy, Scott Clark, Charles Dalkert, Paul Green, Henry Meredith, David McKinney, Jerome Summers and Gary McCumber. The stage band was led by Phil Nimmons beginning in 1979. The Faculty of Music has also offered chamber, jazz, wind and early music ensembles.

Performance programs open to the public have included the New Horizons Adult Band Program (established in 1999) and the three-week Canadian Operatic Arts Academy (begun in 2009).

Music Facilities, Resources and Instruments

Performance facilities in Talbot College and the adjoining Music Building include the 248-seat von Kuster Hall, Talbot Theatre (renamed Paul Davenport Theatre in 2009 following a $5-million renovation) and four organ studios (one of which has a three-manual Casavant tracker-action organ). Outside the faculty, but still within the university precincts, the 2,300-seat Alumni Hall and Althouse College auditorium have been used for concerts.

By 2011, the university’s music library had acquired more than 50,000 recordings, 65,000 scores and about 31,000 books. Special collections have included: the Opera Collection, rare manuscripts and printed editions of 17th- to 19th-century operas and libretti; the Metastasio Collection; the Thomas Baker Collection; the Cherubini Collection; and the Gustav Mahler/Alfred Rosé Collection of Mahler primary source material.

Instruments in the faculty's string bank were purchased with the assistance of a grant from the Richard and Jean Ivey Fund. Gordon D. Jefferybequeathed two Stradivari violins and one Guarneri in 1986. The instruments were sold in 1997 to create an endowment fund. The music history department maintains a collection of early instruments for its collegium musicum and there is an extensive digital sound laboratory.

Special Events

The faculty has brought many eminent scholars and musicians to London for lectures, workshops and symposia, including Pierre Boulez, Russell Braun, John Cage, Edward Cone, Allen Forte, Lukas Foss, Hans Keller, Paul Henry Lang, William Malm, Richard Miller, Stanley Sadie, Michael Schade, Nicolas Slonimsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nancy Telfer, Edith Wiens and Christian Wolff.

The university has continued to serve an important role in enriching London's cultural life through recitals, concert series and special events including large-scale works in which the faculty's choral ensembles have combined forces with Orchestra London Canada.

Honorary Degrees

The university has awarded honorary degrees to Edward Johnson (1929), Reginald Stewart (1949), George Szell (1967), Guy Lombardo (1971), Margaret Ferguson (1972), Paul Henry Lang (1972), Jon Vickers (1972), Maureen Forrester (1974), Alfred Rosé (1975, posthumously), Robert Rosevear (1979), Anna Russell (1983), Donald Wright (1986), Oscar Peterson (1999), Clifford von Kuster (2000), Louise Pitre (2006), Anton Kuerti (2007), Buffy Sainte-Marie (2009), Uri Mayer (2009) and Adrianne Pieczonka (2012).

Further Reading

External Links