A Brief History of Music at the University of Ottawa

A Brief History of Music at the University of Ottawa

Beethoven Choral Fantasy 1983

Music has a long and distinguished history at the University of Ottawa. Joseph-Henri Tabaret introduced a program of musical study already in 1878, thirty years after the founding of the University, which complemented the activities of various groups active on campus, including the Orpheus Glee Club (founded in 1858) and a wind orchestra (founded in 1865), later known as the Société Sainte-Cécile/Cecilian Society.

Following World War I, musical education at the University was centered at the School of Sacred Music founded by Father Conrad Latour in 1931 and which focused on the teaching of Gregorian chant. This School, renamed in 1950 the School of Music and Diction, was later integrated into the Faculty of Arts as two separate entities: a Department of Sacred Music and a Department of Diction.

With the changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council, the importance of Gregorian chant for the purpose of Catholic worship declined, leaving the School of Music without a defining pedagogical mission. As a result, the University Senate studied the recommendations set down in a report by Louis Applebaum that advocated in favour of the creation of a professional orchestra and music school in the national capital.

This report would lead to the establishment in 1969 of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Department of Music of the Faculty of Arts and initiate important professional and artistic collaborations between these two institutions that continue to the present day. Indeed, many of the Department's performance professors were, and still are, members of the NAC orchestra.

The School has been located in a number of different buildings over the past 50 years, initially at 180 Nicolas St., and between 1974 and 1988 at 1 Stewart St. In 1988 its current location at 610 Cumberland was inaugurated and this corresponded with the establishment of Masters degrees in musicology, theory, and chamber music performance.

Since the opening of the new building, the School's programs and student body have expanded considerably. The establishment of the Piano Pedagogy Lab, student training initiatives in collaboration with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, and the creation of a graduate diploma in performance are just some of the many highlights in recent years.


Fun Facts

From 1969 to 2019, relive the key moments of the School of Music.

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