June 1918: The Faculty of Music holds its first meeting at the end of World War I

Before 1918, the University of Toronto awarded degrees in music to external candidates who completed a set of exams. The first was given out in 1846, and 72 degrees had been awarded by 1918. Candidates prepared for these exams by studying questions from earlier exam papers, which were made available in published form. As early as 1904, these published music exam papers bore the designation “University of Toronto Faculty of Music”. So what happened in 1918 that was in any way different from what had gone on beforehand?

The short answer is that on 7 March 1918 the Senate of the University passed a motion to establish a Faculty of Music “which would inaugurate teaching of a university grade and be responsible for the conduct of all examinations in music”. Instead of just setting and grading exams, the University of Toronto would now be in the business of actually teaching music. The inaugural meeting of the Faculty of Music duly took place on 25 June 1918, which marks the beginning of administrative operations for this new academic unit in the university. The minutes of that first meeting have been preserved in the University Archives, and begin as follows:

Scan of original Faculty Council meeting minutes, 25 June 1918.

Faculty of Music. The first meeting of the Faculty of Music of the university was held in the Croft Chapter House, June 25th, 1918 at 11 am. Present: Sir Robert Falconer, President; Dean Vogt; Mr. Fricker; Dr. Ham; Mr. Mouré; Mr. Willan.

Falconer, who served from 1907 to 1932 as the fourth president of the university, had been knighted in 1917 for his services on behalf of wartime recruitment. His name is preserved in Falconer Hall, the Faculty of Law building which sits in front of the Faculty of Music’s Edward Johnson Building. He was a strong proponent for the role of the arts in university education, and his role in the founding of the Faculty of Music reflects that stance.

Dean Augustus Vogt

Dean Augustus Vogt

Dean Vogt (Augustus Stephen Vogt, 1861-1926; pictured here), despite his German heritage and advanced musical training at the Leipzig Conservatory, was Canadian-born, which was fortunate, as the university forced out all of its German-born faculty members during the First World War. A noted organist and choir director (he founded the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in 1894), in 1913 he had been appointed as the principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and in 1918 he added on his duties as the first Dean of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, serving in both capacities until his death in 1926. The others present at that first meeting in 1918 – Herbert Fricker, Albert Ham, Ferdinand Mouré and Healey Willan – were English-born organist-composers. To upgrade their credentials, three of them were given honorary doctorates by the university, Willan in 1920, Mouré in 1922, and Fricker in 1923 (Ham and Vogt already had doctoral degrees).

Public lectures on music were given for the first time by University of Toronto music professors early in 1919; they were held in University College, Room 37, on Mondays and Fridays at 4:30 pm. A total of 18 lectures in all were given that first year. The lectures covered topics in music theory and music history – the information one needed to master in order to pass the university’s music exams. The education on offer was conservative, but it was not entirely old fashioned: a music history exam of 1919 included a question about Debussy, who had died the year before, and a question from the 1925 second year music history exam was “Name some of the leading American composers and their works.”

Elsewhere in June 1918…

Portrait of Sir Ernest MacMillan by Kenneth Forbes.

When the Faculty of Music was founded, Ernest MacMillan, who in 1926 would succeed Vogt as the second Dean of the Faculty, was in a prison camp in Germany. He attended the Bayreuth Festival in the summer of 1914, and was still in Germany when war was declared. He was rounded up as an enemy alien, and spent the entire war in Ruhleben, a civilian detention camp in a converted racetrack on the outskirts of Berlin. Fortunately the camp had a vigorous musical life. MacMillan participated actively in the varied musical events there, and was even able to complete an Oxford D.Mus. degree in absentia by writing his thesis composition, England: An Ode, during his abundant spare time. He received word of his success from Oxford on 13 June 1918, just twelve days before the first meeting of the Faculty of Music. He is pictured here in his Oxford doctoral robes in a portrait by Kenneth Forbes, which hangs outside MacMillan Theatre in the Edward Johnson Building.

Written by:
Professor Robin Elliott
Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music
Director, Institute for Music in Canada