Western Ontario Conservatory of Music | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Western Ontario Conservatory of Music

Western Ontario Conservatory of Music (WOCM). Teaching and examining body operated under the auspices of the University of Western Ontario 1934-97.

Western Ontario Conservatory of Music

Western Ontario Conservatory of Music (WOCM). Teaching and examining body operated under the auspices of the University of Western Ontario 1934-97. The conservatory was preceded by two private music schools, the London Conservatory of Music (1892-1922) and the London Institute of Musical Art (1919-34). The former, founded and directed 1892-ca 1910 by William Caven Barron (1864-1936) and later directed by F. Linforth Willgoose, offered instruction in piano, organ, voice, orchestral and band instruments, theory, and the Fletcher Music Method, leading to three diplomas (associate, teacher's, and fellow's).

Branches of the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music were established in residential areas of London and in nearby Woodstock, St Mary's, and Stratford. In 1922 the London Conservatory was absorbed into the London Institute of Musical Art but continued as an examining board. The institute, which had been established by Albert David Jordan and was affiliated with the Toronto Conservatory of Music (TCM), continued until 1934. In 1930 it introduced a course in the Fletcher Music Method that drew teachers and advanced students from across Ontario. The newly founded Western Ontario Conservatory of Music absorbed the institute in 1934 and discontinued the affiliation with the TCM.

Frederick Newnham, the first director, was succeeded in 1938 by Harvey Robb. Examinations in piano, violin, and voice were offered first in 1939. The conservatory became affiliated with the university in 1942 and vacated its downtown premises for an on-campus location. Under Robb's direction the syllabus expanded to include a wide range of practical and theoretical courses and summer workshops in opera, piano pedagogy, and school music, but the conservatory was reduced to an examining body after the formation of the Music Teachers' College in 1945. Robb served 1950-7 as principal of both institutions and was succeeded on his death by Clifford Poole. Howard Munn became principal of the conservatory in 1960, the same year that a College of Music was established by the university.

Under the principalship 1970-4 of George Smale, the conservatory syllabus was revised and the institution's role as a teaching body was restored. Carl Duggan was principal in 1974-92; he was instrumental in the renewed expansion of the teaching role of the conservatory. In September 1982 the conservatory absorbed the 400 students and 10 teachers of St Joseph's School of Music in London. After Duggan's death in Feb 1992, Steven Fielder was briefly acting principal, followed by Dr. D.F. Cook, 1992-7.

The Western Ontario Conservatory has operated in co-operation with the University of Western Ontario but retained financial and administrative independence. In many cases the conservatory's examiners were members of the university faculty, and until 1988 the two institutions shared various buildings on campus. In 1988 the conservatory opened its own building, incorporating a library, a recital hall, and teaching studios. By the 1990s, the conservatory had an enrolment of over 26,000 students in its campus and examination programs. This included over 1100 students taking weekly music instruction at its conservatory building in London. In 1997 the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music merged with the Western Board of Music to create Conservatory Canada, which retained the WOCM buildings in London as its headquarters.

Philosophy and Program

The conservatory's goals were to provide professional music education for all ages and all levels of musicianship. The conservatory had its own graded examination system in all instruments, including voice, as well as theory and music history. The conservatory offered an associate diploma (Associate in Music, previously AWCM) and licentiate diploma (L MUS, previously LWCM) in voice, piano, organ, strings, guitar, winds, and theory. The last update of the examination system was in 1991 for piano and 1992 for voice.


The conservatory prepared its own examination materials, including graded instrumental repertoire books and theory books. Waterloo Music was the publisher of the conservatory's teaching materials. The last publications of the conservatory before its merger in 1997 included the 1991 piano syllabus and accompanying repertoire books, the 1992 vocal syllabus and accompanying repertoire books, and the 1992 update of the examination requirement repertoire, edited by James Murray Brown.

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