Music Study – American Convervatories

Never having had occasion to visit the United States, it is impossible for me to express a personal opinion of the numerous schools of music that are found in every large city, or as to their absolute or relative value. I have to rely upon what has been told me by my friends who live in America, and by French artists who have frequented those establishments and communicated their impressions to me.

From this sum of information, confirmed by an attentive reading of the rules or programmes of study that I have been able to procure, I think I may conclude that there would be no interest in establishing a parallel between the Conservatories or other large schools of music in America and the Conserva-tories on the Old Continent ; and this for the very simple reason that they are essentially different, and do not spring from the same ideas.

In Europe, the Conservatories have kept from their origin a certain philanthropical character, and their aim, even when they demand a modest pecuniary equivalent, is principally that of spreading artistic instruction as much as possible among the masses, which is very justly considered a moral and intellectual benefit, and a high element of civilization. Moreover, the philosophers of every age have thought this. If sometimes, which is exceptional, the dues rise to a somewhat exaggerated figure, we immediately see the appearance, as a corrective, of a new rule that offers gratuity to those who have absolute need of it. Also, almost everywhere, we see the Government patronizing these establishments, supporting and aiding them with funds, believing that from them will be turned out musicians who will make the artistic glory of their country; which, moreover, often happens.

In America, at least according to my information, which comes from different sources, from correspondents too intelligent for me to be greatly in error, we must regard them rather as private enterprises having a commercial character, not destitute of artistic aims, that goes without saying, but more especially preoccupied by augmenting their receipts than by elevating the level of national art. It is true that this conception allows the professors an infinitely larger remuneration than our European schools, but this is a secondary result.

One thing is certain, and that is that although the taste for music is as pronounced among the Americans as in any other nation in the world, which they show by their very just appreciation of talent of every kind, yet there does not exist, properly speaking, an American School. It is only in an exceptional case that we can cite a Composer, a Singer, or an Instrumentalist of great worth who has been musically educated exclusively in his own country ; and we cannot take these rare and honourable exceptions as a basis. On the other hand, if a young and gifted artist comes to Europe to study and spend several years under good guidance, we see him return home equipped with all the elements of success : examples are not lacking. This certainly proves that aptitude is not wanting, for study can not create but only develop it. Hence I think I may conclude that those vast and immense musical institutions of the New World, that have thousands of pupils, and try above all else to please and tempt them, in order to attract many more, should be considered especially as schools for amateurs, young men and women of society who want to amuse themselves with music, rather than as schools productive of true artists.

One thing that confirms me in this conviction is the brevity of the studies which is almost the universal rule; they want to get on too fast, much too fast, and they seem to be ignorant that a number of years is required to form a musician of real value. Scarcely has a pupil passed through a course of two or three years, when they think of bringing him before the public. This may have certain advantages sometimes, but it must necessarily be prejudicial to the continuity of serious studies, as they are understood with us.

If anyone is really anxious to discover some re-semblance between these institutions and the European establishments, it is in England that this comparison must be sought. There also, the pupils are admitted by an examination for simple classification and are never refused on account of lack of aptitude, nor because they are too young or too old. Whenever it pleases them to pay the established tariff for their lessons, they are always acceptable and accepted. It is for them to determine whether they are capable or not of profiting by the instruction that is offered to them, and not enrolling themselves if it is likely to be a useless expense. Nothing is obligatory, and they are refused nothing that they demand. They are admitted at their own risk and peril.

As we see, this is an entirely different conception. I do not criticize either of them here ; I simply state the fact, as I would also state, if I were in a geography class, that Europe and America are not situated on the same side of the Atlantic Ocean ; and I simply conclude that just because of a similitude in the name we must not imagine that what is called ” Conservatory ” in the United States and England is identical with what we understand on our Old Continent. This is very important, although, it may be, really, only a simple question of words. But, for a clear understanding, it is again necessary for us to discuss meanings.

What is called ” Conservatory ” in America is known to us as an ” Ecole libre,” a school composed of a body of professors, each acting on his own ac-count and associated with the aim of attracting a clientèle, and constituting an important and numerous organization, as well as forming brilliant pupils.

The most flourishing establishment for musical instruction in the United States seems to me to be the Musical College of Chicago (1867). Pupils can enter it at any age and at any time of year, but they are not admitted for less than a term, which means ten weeks; the charge for a term varies from $20 to $300, according to the nature of the studies. However, semi-gratuitous and even gratuitous pupils, who have to be recommended by some responsible person, are received. The number of these is determined at the beginning of each year ; from these, naturally enough, proofs of ability are required.

The prodigious number of pupils, about 3,000, is unsurpassed throughout the whole world except by the ” Guildhall School ” in London, yet I see only 61 professors, which seems somewhat out of proportion.

At the end of the examinations and competitions, they distribute certificates for teaching (diploma of graduation) ; bachelor of music (diploma of artist) ; and master of music with a decoration (! ). I do not believe that this exists anywhere else.

Composition, form, counterpoint, fugue, canon, harmony, theory, solfeggio ; singing, chorus ; diction, opera, dramatic art ; deportment, dancing and choregraphy, pantomime, fencing ; piano, organ, violin, violoncello, flute, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, ensemble ; history of music, analysis of pieces ; French, German, Spanish, Italian.

There is also in Chicago the American Conserva-tory (1886), which accepts all pupils, even beginners, who pay from $5 to $80 for a term of six weeks, that is to say from $20 to $320 for a year of four terms, according to the classes and the grades.

There are 68 professors and about 1,200 pupils.

A certificate of study costs $5 ; a teacher’s certificate, $10; a diploma, $15.

Composition, counterpoint, harmony, orchestration, solfeggio ; singing ; diction, declamation, deportment, pantomime, fencing, the art of costume ; piano, organ, harp, violin, violoncello, flute, clarinet, cornet, trombone, mandolin, guitar, banjo, ensemble ; church music, oratorio ; normal class ; literature ; French, German, Italian.

After the Musical College of Chicago, I believe we must place the Conservatory of Music in Boston (1867), where 86 professors instruct 1,960 pupils, who are received at any time of the year and at every degree of advancement, and have to pay from $5 to $300 for a term of ten weeks, according to the classes. There are frequent examinations, twice a term; a certificate only costs a dollar; a diploma, $5.

Here also we find, at a price of from $4.50 to $9, rooms and board for young girls, who for meals, renting of pianos, academic supplies, etc., have a special tariff.

The programme is formidable, and not only em-braces music, but extends to the arts of design.

Composition and analysis, conducting, orchestration, instrumentation, harmony, solfeggio, theory ; voice, singing, -chorus ; lyric declamation, dramatic art, opera, diction, psychology of the voice, hygiene of the voice and the ear, phonetics, anatomy ; physical exercise ; piano, organ, harp, all the instruments of the classic orchestra ; cor-anglais, tenor-horn, alto-horn, euphonium, baryton and trombone tuba, saxophone, drum, kettledrums, string quartet, ensemble, orchestra, military music, church music (oratorios and choruses) ; tuning, acoustics, rhetoric, mathematics, reading (obligatory, an hour a day), literature ; school of professors ; French, Latin, Italian, German ; stenography, Fine-Arts, drawing, painting, portraits, wood-carving, art-embroidery.

Very considerable also is the Conservatory of Philadelphia, accommodating 2,500 pupils, with dormitories and a boarding-school for young girls, for which a body of 55 professors suffices.

All kinds of pupils are admitted, even those who know nothing; the academic year is divided into four terms of ten weeks, for each of which it is necessary to pay from $5 to $10. Those who have terminated their studies satisfactorily pay $15 for a diploma; certificates at the end of the year are $5; those pupils who have not remained so long receive a simple voucher, which seems to be gratis.

Composition, harmony and theory, conducting of orchestra, analysis, forms, interpretation and orchestration, solfeggio, dictation ; singing, vocal ensemble ; oratorio, opera, dramatic art, declamation, diction ; piano, organ, harp, all the instruments of the classic orchestra, trombone, tuba, cornet, alto-horn, cor-anglais, saxophone, kettle-drums, drum, xylophone, bells, mandolin, guitar, lute, banjo (sic), ensemble instrumental, orchestra and military orchestra, symphonies (eight hands) ; history of music ; literature ; living languages ; piano tuning.

The National Conservatory of Music in America in New York (about 1885), although dependent upon a private enterprise, comes nearer to the European establishments, by the spirit of its rules ; pupils are received there without distinction of age or nationality, but on the condition that they give proof of a certain degree of aptitude ; and certain free places are reserved for pupils who have promising talent. The others have to pay from $15 to $250 for an academic year of eight months.

During the summer (May to August) classes are held for the benefit of the students in schools situated outside the city, seminaries, etc.

Composition, counterpoint, harmony, accompaniment, theory, solfeggio ; singing, chorus opera, oratorio, diction, scenic art, fencing ; piano, organ, harp, all the instruments of the classic orchestra, trombone, cornet, coranglais, chamber-music, orchestra ; history of music ; Italian.

In Baltimore, the Peabody Conservatory (1868), which bears the name of its founder, comprises two schools, one of which is preparatory and absolutely elementary and employs 37 professors. The pupils number approximately 700, who pay, according to the classes they attend and the number of lessons, from $15 to $105, and after examination receive certificates of study, diplomas and honourable mention.

Composition, harmony, solfeggio; singing, chorus; piano, reading at sight on the piano, organ, harp, violin, violon-cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, cornet, ensemble music, orchestra ; acoustics, history of music ; French, Italian, German.

Outside of the United States, in Mexico, the National Conservatory of Mexico, seems to be of some importance, since it employs 62 professors. In its programme, we find the names of classes the utility of which I do not see very clearly :

Harmony and composition, solfeggio, theory, graphic music; singing, choral singing ; piano, harp, orchestral instruments, psaltery, chamber-music, acoustics and phonography ; French, Italian.

I know of but two schools of music in SOUTH AMERICA e i: the Conservatory of Bogota (New Granada), with 28 professors, which is a large number for 86 pupils, and a somewhat petty programme :

Counterpoint and fugue, harmony, solfeggio and theory; vocalization and singing ; piano, organ, all the instruments of the classic orchestra, trombone, orchestra ; Italian.

Meaner still, and also incomplete, seems to be that of the Conservatory in Buenos Ayres (Argentine Republic), which does not include more than 12 professors and 6 assistants. They give prizes, however, consisting of medals and little sums of money, even diplomas of teaching.

Harmony and composition, solfeggio ; singing ; piano, harmonium, violin, viola, violoncello, flute history and æsthetics of music.

Finally, we must point out the existence in Australia of the little Conservatory of Sydney (1894), founded by a committee of patronage, where I find several names of artist friends, of great excellence. Here the entrance fee varies from 6 shillings to 1 pound 1 shilling, and they do not hesitate to offer to the pupils a Grand Diploma of Merit,— . . probably relative enough.

Orchestration, counterpoint, fugue, harmony, theory, solfeggio ; singing, piano, violin, violoncello, reading both instrumental and vocal.

Doubtless there exist, in South America and even in Australia, establishments that are of more importance and organized with more advanced ideas; but we must limit ourselves ; and, moreover, it is not likely that their knowledge would bring to our study any new elements. We can then stop here, without scruple, considering the end pursued. I regret, how-ever, very greatly, that I have no information regarding Canada.

In looking over them superficially, it is natural that these various programmes should appear very much alike, offering very slight differences; we must regret, however, those in which we see figuring be-side serious studies those of the Banjo, the Drum, the Xylophone, the Bells, and the Cithara,—instruments which, although occasionally utilized by composers for picturesque reasons, as are also the Castanets and the Crotales, in pieces of a descriptive nature, and consequently exceptional pieces, are nothing more than simple toys, which any pupil can learn to handle alone while amusing himself during the months of vacation. These are not like the Guitar and Cembalo, for example, national instruments of Spain and Hungary, which give us pleasure to see holding an honourable place in the programmes of study in. Barcelona and Budapest, where their absence would make a regrettable gap.

The real interest, as we have already said, regarding European schools, is in studying the regulations of each one, in penetrating into the spirit without attaching too much importance to the letter and thereby gathering its value and tendencies, in order to become capable of judging what degree of confidence these (or others) are worthy to inspire.

It is thus that everybody with the help of the considerations of every kind that are set forth in this last chapter, the numerous documents accumulated here, and the special advice on every case contained in the preceding chapters, will be able to discern with freedom and certainty what opportunity there is for him in whatever place and under whatever circumstances he may find himself, and to choose between the different methods of Individual Instruction, Instruction in Classes, or Instruction by the Conserva-tories, and also how to obtain the most certain, best and the most artistic results according to the end desired, which is the sole object of this book.

I believe (and I hope I am not mistaken) that I have neglected nothing that is of interest to those who have to consider Musical Education seriously, that is to say teachers and parents, as well as what may be useful to the pupils themselves outside of direct teaching, with the exception of one last point which seems to me to possess much more interest than anyone dreams of : it is that of the Vacation, the employment or non-employment of the vacation.

Few persons, in reality, apart from those who make teaching the object of their permanent care and sustained observation, can realize exactly how much a pupil can manage to forget during three months of complete mental inactivity and a total separation from the habitual subject of his daily occupations.

Now, in all schools, Lycées, Colleges and other institutions for general instruction, as well as those that look, like the Conservatories, towards a special goal, there are annual vacations, which last about three months. Moreover, in the course of the academic year, there are holidays of several days, at Easter, the New Year, etc.

It will be readily believed that I, the sworn enemy of overwork, am not hostile to holidays and to the general stoppage; on the contrary, I regard them as being the best opportunity and the most propitious moment for travelling, that is to say, for self-instruction by distraction. I consider them useful and indispensable. It is for this reason that I should strongly disapprove of a pupil who, having worked nearly normally and as he should have done during the academic year, should propose, through excessive ardour, not to take advantage of the rest and should wish to pursue his work as usual. This would be absolutely senseless. Particularly in the case of a child or a youth, the mind should not be kept perpetually on the same ideas ; and these seasons of rest constitute wise measures.

But all exaggeration is faulty, and no watchful teacher has failed to observe, particularly in all that concerns art-studies, that on returning after the va-cation the pupils have lost something of their acquired skill, and that several weeks of work are necessary before they get back to the point they had reached before the interruption. This is to be noticed not only in the study of singing, or of an instrument, matters which always partake somewhat of the quality of gymnastics, but quite as much in the purely intellectual and mental studies of harmony, counter-point and everything that touches composition. The mind has lost something of its suppleness, and a certain period of training is necessary, just like the mechanical side, to recover in their plenitude those faculties that were developed in the study before. Here then is another rock upon which people must frequently strike.

Both of these can be easily avoided by inducing oneself, without allowing it to harm the needed rest, to consecrate one hour a day, not more, to keeping in good condition. This is always feasible, with a little good-will, even while travelling, and still better if sojourning in the country. An instrumentalist can employ this hour simply in playing scales and exercises ; a harmonist or a fuguist, in reading treatises or solving a few short problems on paper; as for the singer, half an hour of vocalization will suffice to keep his voice from getting rusty. There should not be a total interruption ; it is a great mistake to imagine that, in severing ourselves entirely from mu-sic for two or three months, we can return to it after-wards with still more ardour and profit. This is false reasoning, which can be held by those only who do not possess a love for the art, but make music as they would make boots. As for the others, those who have the souls of artists, it will be a genuine satisfaction to realize that, while not trying to make any progress, since this is a period of rest, they are not losing ground, that they are sleeping on the field they have won, and that when the time comes, they will take up the march forward at the point where it was interrupted. This is the truly intelligent way of regarding vacations, and this does not prevent them in the least from producing the effect of relaxation and recreation that we have the right to expect from them.

And now, let us briefly recapitulate:

All that belongs to music considered as a Language is best learned by frequenting the society of those who know how to speak it, and by rubbing against others who study it ; it cannot be learned too young.

All that belongs to music considered as an Art is best learned by contemplation and by all that can elevate the mind, by literary studies, travel and con-tact with great artists; virtuosity, whether vocal or instrumental, demands quiet but prolonged toil.

All that belongs to music considered as a Science is best learned by observation and reflection, by the analytical and deep study of the musical civilizations of the past; one is fitted for this at any age.

Teaching in classes seems to be the best for all the elementary and infantile studies, and then for everything connected with theory, even the highest.

Individual Teaching is preferable for the student of Singing and Instruments.

Teaching in the large Conservatories has the ad vantages of both.

With regard to the normal duration of the studies, it is as variable as aptitude and temperament, but the studies must be long if we want them to be good. This Art being infinite, it is the same as with every other form of artistic study, and the excellent Schumann, whom I quote here for the last time with regret, expresses a high philosophical truth when he says: ” One never stops learning.”