Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music

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Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music

The Royal Conservatory of Music, also known as The Royal Conservatory, is one of the largest and most respected music education institutions in the world. Providing the definitive standard in music education through its curriculum, assessment, performance, and teacher education, the programs of The Royal Conservatory have had a substantial impact on the lives of millions globally.

The Royal Conservatory has helped to train a number of great artists including Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, David Foster, Sarah McLachlan, Angela Hewitt, and Diana Krall. Motivated by its powerful mission to develop human potential through music and the arts, The Royal Conservatory has emerged over the last two decades as a leader in the development of arts-based programs that address a wide range of social issues.

The Conservatory was founded by Edward Fisher in 1886 as The Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1947, King George VI incorporated The Conservatory through royal charter. Michael Foulkes is the current Chair of the Board and Dr. Peter Simon is the President.

Headquartered in Toronto on Bloor Street West, the Conservatory building was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995 in recognition of the institution's significant influence on music education in Canada. In March 2011, Carnegie Hall and The Royal Conservatory announced their partnership to create the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program (The Achievement Program), a national system of music study and assessment for students and teachers.


The Conservatory was founded in 1886 as The Toronto Conservatory of Music and officially opened in September 1887, located on two floors above a music store at the corner of Dundas Street and Yonge Street. Its founder Edward Fisher was a young organist born in the United States. The Conservatory became the first institution of its kind in Canada: a school dedicated to the training of singers and musicians, and also to instilling a love of music in young children.

The Conservatory's initial intake was just over 100, and by its second quarter this number had grown to nearly 300 as its reputation quickly spread. In 1897, the organization purchased a new property at College Street and University Avenue to accommodate its rapid expansion. From its earliest days it was affiliated with the University of Toronto with the purpose of preparing students for degree examinations and shared its premises with the University's Faculty of Music from 1919.

In 1906, Frank Welsman -- who became the principal of The Conservatory -- founded and directed the Toronto Conservatory Orchestra, which became the Toronto Symphony Orchestra two years later.

Offering professional training, a national examination system, and a faculty of distinguished musicians, The Conservatory continued to grow. It became one of the dominant musical institutions in Canada where some of the country’s leading musicians trained. In 1924, the Canadian Academy of Music merged with The Conservatory. Glenn Gould -- arguably its most outstanding pupil -- studied theory, organ, and piano, graduating at the age of 12 in 1946 with an ARCT diploma of the highest honours.

In 1947, King George VI awarded The Conservatory its royal charter in recognition of its status as one of the Commonwealth's greatest music schools. The Toronto Conservatory of Music became The Royal Conservatory of Music.

During Ettore Mazzoleni's term as principal (1945–68), The Conservatory grew rapidly. Mazzoleni had been director of the Conservatory Orchestra since 1934. Two other prominent figures who contributed to the achievements of this period were chairman of the board Edward Johnson (who served from 1947–59) and Arnold Walter, who was appointed director of the new Senior School in 1946. The Senior School offered a two-year program with professional performance training combined with related courses in theory and history. The initial success of the project gave rise to a three-year program leading to an Artist Diploma, as well as The Conservatory's Opera School (begun in 1946), which provided training in all aspects of opera production. These developments led to the creation of the Royal Conservatory Opera Company, which went on to become the Canadian Opera Company in 1959.

With space now a major problem, the University of Toronto sold the College Street property to Ontario Hydro in 1962 and The Conservatory relocated to 273 Bloor Street West, the original site of McMaster University. The concert and recital halls of the College Street site were only partially replaced in the move, and the library, residence, and all three pipe organs were lost.

The Conservatory was governed by the University of Toronto from 1963 until 1991, at which time it became a wholly independent institution again, taking control of its building and diverse music programs. Dr. Peter Simon was appointed President of The Conservatory.

Also in 1991, The Conservatory developed a master plan to renovate its historic building and expand it with the construction of new facilities on the same site. The plan was carried out by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) in stages, initially with the 1997 renovation of Mazzoleni Concert Hall in the historic Ihnatowycz Hall. The new construction is named the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning and features academic and performance spaces; the acoustically sound, 1,135-seat Koerner concert venue; studios; classrooms; a new-media centre; a library; and a rehearsal hall. During the renovations, The Conservatory temporarily moved to the former location of the Toronto District School Board's Ursula Franklin Academy in the Dufferin and Bloor West area. In September 2008, The Conservatory returned to a newly renovated and expanded headquarters at 273 Bloor Street West near Avenue Road. Koerner Hall opened on September 25, 2009, beginning a new age of large-scale performances at The Royal Conservatory.

The Royal Conservatory’s original building, McMaster Hall, was renamed the historic Ihnatowycz Hall in 2005. This was a result of the contribution of alumni Ian Ihnatowycz and Dr. Marta Witer. The designation of this site as a heritage building required that the majority of the original materials and formal qualities be maintained, although building code oversaw some refurbishments. The original brickwork was maintained, and one can view the variety of materials in their original state. Decorative red brick, Medina sandstone, and polished granite signify the high Victorian style of this building and the sacred atmosphere of this space. The imposing manner of the building demonstrates the prestigious nature of the institution.


The Royal Conservatory building is called the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, located at 273 Bloor Street West. It is on the south side of Bloor Street, between the Royal Ontario Museum and Varsity Stadium. The building is situated one block southwest of Yorkville, half a block west of Avenue Road, and five blocks east of the Annex area. The nearest subway stations are St. George and Museum. In addition, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Gardiner Museum, the Yorkville shopping district, and the University of Toronto campus are all located in the vicinity.

The Work of The Royal Conservatory

The Royal Conservatory is a not-for-profit organization offering a wide range of music and arts programs and performances for people at all stages of their lives and learning. From its base in Toronto, the programs provide music and arts education to virtually every Canadian community, reaching more than 600,000 people in the past year as it maintains its mandate of developing human potential through music and the arts. The Conservatory's work is divided into distinct divisions.

Royal Conservatory Examinations

Based in Mississauga, Ontario, the largest division of The Royal Conservatory sets and supports standards in music examinations across Canada and internationally. The organization conducts 100,000 examinations annually in over 300 communities around the world. Achievement in Conservatory examinations is an important entrance requirement for college and university programs.

The Royal Conservatory curriculum is made available and accessible to students across North America through the Examinations Certificate Program. Examinations are conducted three times each year in more than 300 communities through a network of local centres. Each centre has a local examination centre representative whose role is to provide information, assist teachers and students, and ensure a successful examination experience. The Certificate Program encompasses all levels and spans 11 grades: from beginner to certification as an Associate of The Royal Conservatory of Music (ARCT), and in Piano Performance, to certification as a Licentiate of The Royal Conservatory of Music (LRCM).

Achievement in Royal Conservatory Examinations is recognized for credit toward secondary school graduation in many school systems in Canada. For most provinces in Canada, a Grade 6 Certificate counts as Grade 10 credit, a Grade 7 Certificate (with a Grade 1 theory certificate) counts as Grade 11 credit, and a Grade 8 Certificate (with Grade 2 theory) counts as Grade 12 credit. One's standing in the Certificate Program also plays an important role in entrance requirements for professional music programs at many universities and colleges.

Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program

Launched jointly by Carnegie Hall and The Royal Conservatory in March 2011, The Achievement Program is a national system of music study and assessment for students and teachers. The Achievement Program will create a nationally recognized standard of music achievement for people of all ages studying music independently in the United States, offering a sequential course of study from beginner through advanced levels. Modeled on The Conservatory's internationally renowned program and examination system, The Achievement Program will motivate students -- both children and adults -- to strive for excellence through participation in individual student assessments with professional adjudicators. As a result, students will be able to celebrate their accomplishments and track their progress.

Performing Arts

Through its Performing Arts division, The Royal Conservatory aims to showcase the work of its own students as well as top jazz, world, pop, and classical music acts from Canada and around the world in its own concert venues:

Named in honour of donors Michael and Sonja Koerner, Koerner Hall opened in September 2009 and houses 1,135 seats. It was designed by KPMB Architects, theatre consultant Anne Minors Performance Consultants, and lead acoustician Sound Space Design to achieve top-notch acoustics and performance facilities for classical, jazz, and world music and semistaged chamber opera. The design is a curvilinear reinterpretation of the classical European shoe-box format, taking the best acoustical aspects of that tradition and bringing the audience and performers into much closer contact and emotional impact. It features two balcony tiers above the main orchestra level as well as a third technical balcony. The space was carefully sculpted to provide optimal sightlines for everyone in the audience. Koerner Hall's signature element is an acoustically transparent veil of twisting oak strings that forms the backdrop for the chorus at the first balcony level, then hovers over the stage below the fixed acoustic canopy, extending into and over the hall at the technical balcony level. Completion of the project also includes three tiers of glass fronted lobbies overlooking Philosopher’s Walk, back-of-house areas for performers, a ground-floor café, and installation of a unique collection of antique musical instruments donated by the Koerner family and valued at $1 million. Each level is also equipped to host a variety of private functions.

At the heart of The Royal Conservatory is the extraordinary Ihnatowycz Hall, built in 1881, which encompasses a range of renewed and new areas for learning and performance activities, including Mazzoleni Concert Hall. From the historic Bloor Street entrance to the handsome grand staircase, arched doors, stained glass windows, and hardwood floors, Ihnatowycz Hall has been beautifully restored and is widely acclaimed as a heritage gem. In November 2005, Mr. Ian Ihnatowycz and his wife, Dr. Marta Witer -- both Royal Conservatory alumni -- donated $5 million toward the transformation of this magnificent historical wing, which was renamed Ihnatowycz Hall in recognition of their generosity.

Mazzoleni Concert Hall has 6,000 square feet (560 m2) and 237 seats. When it originally opened in 1901, it was known as Castle Memorial Hall. At that time it had a chapel with stained glass windows on the ground floor level and a library on the lower level. By the 1960s, the University of Toronto, which used the space as a lecture hall, had bricked up the windows and removed a rear balcony. In 1996, The Conservatory announced its plan to restore the venue to its original elegance. The renovations, which were carefully planned by KPMB Architects, included adding a raked floor, reopening the windows, restoring the wood, installing proper heating and air conditioning, building the acoustic panels, and enlarging the stage. Mazzoleni Concert Hall was named in honour of Ettore Mazzoleni, a former principal of The Conservatory.

"A granite cube which floats above Bloor Street," this multipurpose performance and event space is located on level 2 of the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. It has space for up to 150 seats and is designed to accommodate a range of functions, including special events, performance, rehearsals, and Learning Through the Arts™ activities. In scale and proportion, the Conservatory Theatre replicates the acoustic quality and stage size of Koerner Hall to prepare students for live performance.

The Glenn Gould School

A centre for professional training in classical music performance at the postsecondary and postbachelor levels, The Glenn Gould School was established in 1987. Originally called The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School, it was renamed in 1997 to honour Glenn Gould, the Toronto-born piano virtuoso and a former pupil. Enrollment is limited to 130, and The School is supported by funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the National Arts Contribution Program.

The faculty consists of internationally acclaimed performers, teachers, and scholars. More than 100 master classes are presented each year with the world's greatest artists, such as Leon Fleisher, Stewart Goodyear, Anton Kuerti, and James Ehnes.

Glenn Gould School alumni have established important careers as solo performers, orchestral musicians, chamber musicians, and recording artists. Alumni include the singers Isabel Bayrakdarian and Robert Gleadow, the pianists David Jalbert and Richard Raymond, the harpist Mariko Anraku, the violist Adam Romer, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The Glenn Gould School offers a four-year Performance Diploma in piano, voice, and all orchestral instruments, designed for high school graduates who wish to prepare for a career as a performer. An articulation agreement with Thompson Rivers University also gives students the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor of Music degree. The Artist Diploma is a two-year postbachelor program for piano, voice, orchestral instruments, performance, and pedagogy.

Established in 2002, the ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) is composed of senior faculty members of The Conservatory's Glenn Gould School in Toronto and led by artistic director Simon Wynberg. All are seasoned chamber musicians and veteran performers, either as soloists or as principals in major orchestras. They have dedicated themselves to the performance of both the traditional chamber music canon and the rediscovery of repertoire that, through political changes or shifts in musical fashion, have been ignored or marginalized. Their 2008 album Right Through The Bone, devoted to the music of German-Dutch composer Julius Röntgen, was nominated for two Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Chamber Music Performance and Producer of the Year, Classical (David Foster). They were previously nominated for a 2007 Grammy and Juno Award for their album On the Threshold of Hope. The ARC Ensemble's third release is entitled Two Roads to Exile (2010).

The Royal Conservatory School

The Royal Conservatory School, formerly called the Community School, is The Conservatory's oldest division. The Conservatory School offers group and individual instruction in classical, popular, folk, jazz, world music, and the arts to people of all ages, levels, abilities, and backgrounds. Its diverse set of courses cover training in virtually every instrument, from piano, trumpet, and violin, to fiddle, erhu, cavaquinho, and taiko drums. It is one of the largest and most extensive community-based music and arts schools in North America and has more than 6,000 students of all ages (from six months to 90 years old). The faculty include PhD graduates, examiners, musicians, and teacher trainers. Along with the standard examinations, the School offers the three-year Royal Diploma Program, a structured music education program for children ages 3–13, which incorporates the Suzuki method with The Conservatory's own expertise. In 1993, The Conservatory partnered with the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University to offer an advanced certificate in Early Childhood Music Education to certified school teachers, early childhood educators, and ARCT (Associate of The Royal Conservatory of Music) diplomates.

In 1983, the School opened its first satellite campus, located at the historic Adamson Estate in Mississauga, to serve the Mississauga and Etobicoke communities. A small selection of courses are offered each semester, each corresponding to a downtown course. The Adamson facility has its own site-specific faculty, though many are also members of the core downtown staff.

In the Lawrence Park area, the Smart Start™ series of courses are now offered at the Glenview Sr. Public School exclusively for children under five years old and their parents.

In January 2009, The Conservatory School launched its first school outside the Greater Toronto Area, at the TELUS Virtual Learning Centre in Calgary, Alberta.

Learning Through the Arts®

Learning Through the Arts® (LTTA) is an arts-driven education program providing public school teachers with creative tools to engage all students in math, science, language, arts, and social studies. LTTA offers a way forward for young people who have struggled to learn through traditional means such as books or lectures. The program reaches approximately 100,000 children each year and is used in 400 schools across Canada and in 12 additional countries. The Mentor Artist-Educator Certificate is administered through this program.

Young Artists Performance Academy

The Young Artists Performance Academy provides provides a nurturing environment for gifted classical musicians aged nine to 19. Working together with exceptional faculty and acclaimed guest artists, students of The Academy perfect their performance skills, musicality, and artistic excellence.

After a competitive audition and interview, accepted students are streamed into Junior, Intermediate, or Senior Academy programs. This comprehensive program develops performance skills, musicianship, and academic excellence. Most Academy activities take place on Friday evenings and Saturdays but students are expected to practice daily and work on regular assignments. Through the support of private individuals and foundations, financial assistance is available for all students. Alumni of the Academy who have launched successful careers include Peter Simon, Katie Stillman, Eugene Nakamura, Marcin Swoboda, Janice LaMarre, Marta and Irena Kretchkovsky, and Karen Ouzounian.

The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited

The oldest and largest print-music publisher in Canada, based in Mississauga, Ontario. Frederick Harris (1866–1945) devoted his life to music publishing. He began his career in England working for a large music publishing firm. In 1904, he set up his own business in London and in 1910, established a Canadian office in Toronto — marking the beginning of a long association with The Royal Conservatory that led to an increased emphasis on publications for teaching and learning. In 1944, the company was donated to The Conservatory with profits to be used for its own purposes.

Notable Alumni

Many who attended The Royal Conservatory's classes and lessons, or who took Royal Conservatory music examinations, have gone on to success inside and out of the music industry. Past students include:

Past and Present Teachers

Many talented performers, musicians, and pedagogues from around the world have taught and trained students at The Royal Conservatory since 1886. Some famous past and present teachers include:

Honorary Fellows of The Royal Conservatory

An Honorary Fellowship is the highest honour awarded by The Royal Conservatory. It is presented to outstanding Canadian and international artists and individuals who have made significant contributions to arts and culture in Canada and around the world.

See Also

  • List of Canadian organizations with royal patronage
  • List of oldest buildings and structures in Toronto
  • Music of Canada
  • Music of Ontario

Further Reading

  • Schabas, Ezra (2005), There's music in these walls: a history of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Dundurn Group, ISBN 1550025406, 

External Links

  • The Royal Conservatory's official website

Coordinates: 43°40′4.7″N 79°23′46.50″W / 43.667972°N 79.39625°W / 43.667972; -79.39625


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