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The Royal Conservatory of Music, branded as The Royal Conservatory, is a music education business and performance venue headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1886 by Edward Fisher as The Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1947, King George VI incorporated the organization through royal charter.

Its Toronto home was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, in recognition of the institution's significant influence on music education in Canada.

Tim Price is the current Chair of the Board and Peter Simon is the President.


Early History

The Conservatory was founded in 1886 as The Toronto Conservatory of Music and 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. In its first year, it hired Italian musician and composer Francesco D'Auria to teach at the conservatory.

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 of Toronto, 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.

Toronto College of Music and Canadian Academy of Music

The period between 1918 and 1924 witnessed a series of mergers among music conservatories in Toronto. The Toronto College of Music was founded in 1888 by conductor F.H. Torrington, and became the first music conservatory affiliated with the University of Toronto. After Torrington's death in 1917, the school merged with the Canadian Academy of Music in 1918. The Academy itself had been founded in 1911 by Albert Gooderham, who financed the school out of his own personal fortune and served as the school's only president during its 13-year-long history. The Academy, in turn, merged into the Toronto Conservatory of Music in 1924.

Post-war growth

Glenn Gould – arguably the Conservatory's 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 moved 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.

Independent institution

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. 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 25 September 2009, beginning a new age of large-scale performances at The Royal Conservatory.

The original building, McMaster Hall, was renamed Ihnatowycz Hall in 2005, in reference to the contribution of alumni Ian Ihnatowycz and Marta Witer. The designation of this site as a heritage building required that the majority of the original materials and formal qualities be maintained while complying with the building code. The original brickwork was maintained: decorative red brick, Medina sandstone, and polished granite. The imposing manner of the building demonstrates the prominent form of the building.