Western Board of Music | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Western Board of Music

Western Board of Music (WBM). Examining body operated 1936-97 by music educators in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Western Board of Music

Western Board of Music (WBM). Examining body operated 1936-97 by music educators in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Dissatisfied with the multiplicity of examining bodies in the west and with the lack of uniform examination content and standards, and concerned about the amount of money sent to eastern Canada and England in the form of examination fees, six representatives (one from each of the three prairie universities and the provincial departments of education) met 13 Apr 1934 in Regina. Arthur Collingwood of the University of Saskatchewan was the only professional musician among them. Among the results of that meeting were the approval of 'the principle of setting up a uniform standard of music options and music tests for the three prairie universities,' the establishment of a joint board to administer the plan, and the appointment of a syllabus committee.

At a second meeting on, 28 Apr 1936 in Saskatoon it was agreed that 'in addition to a common syllabus, standards of attainment, and fees, there would be prepared, by an inter-provincial committee, common theory papers.' The name 'Western Board of Music' was adopted, and two diplomas, Associate of Music (performance or teaching) and Licentiate of Music (performance) were introduced, the initials AM and LM to be followed by the initial of the province (eg, for Manitoba AMM, LMM; for Saskatchewan Associate in Music, LMS). These were granted by each province's university, though they remained independent of the university's own degree program. Musicians on the WBM in 1936 were Eva Clare (University of Manitoba), Collingwood (University of Saskatchewan), and Gladys Egbert (University of Alberta).

The Western Board of Music merged with the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music in 1997 to form Conservatory Canada, with its headquarters in London, Ontario.

Program and Operations 1940s-1990s

The Western Board of Music's goal was to provide a uniform system of teaching and examining musical instruction of all instruments, as well as voice, theory and history. During the 1940s the common syllabus and sets of theory papers were introduced, music option examinations were accepted for high-school credit by the three provinces, and common books of graded piano pieces were published. In 1954 the WBM was strengthened by representation from the three provinces' registered music teachers' associations. By the 1990s the WBM syllabus had been revised eight times and expanded beyond its original coverage (piano, violin, voice, theory, and sightreading) to include lower strings and most woodwind and brass instruments. Operations were centralized at the University of Alberta in 1973, the position of executive director was established in 1974, and all of the prairie universities (seven by this time: Alberta, Brandon, Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, Regina, and Saskatchewan) and the three registered music teachers' associations gained representation on the board.


The WBM has published the three-volume Explorations (Leeds 1969, co-edited by Dorothy Bee and Gordon Wallis) and the two-volume Horizons (Waterloo 1973, co-edited by Richard Johnston, Edward Lincoln, and Gerhard Wuensch) and revised, under the editorship of Bee, its eight graded books of piano music (Waterloo 1976). The last syllabus and repertoire publication before its 1997 merger was issued in 1983.

Further Reading