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The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music's home in the 1880s at Eighth and Vine Streets in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music's home in the 1880s at Eighth and Vine Streets in Cincinnati.

CCM Sesquicentennial: Inspiring the Stars of Tomorrow since 1867

During 2017-18, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) will commemorate the 150th anniversary of its founding. CCM will mark this major milestone with a series of special events and performances designed to celebrate a tradition of innovation and excellence dating back to 1867.

The story of CCM’s success involves three institutions separate in their origins but united by a common cause: the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the College of Music of Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati. Sometimes partners and sometimes rivals, these three institutions would eventually join forces to establish one of the world’s premier schools for the performing and media arts. At the very beginning, though, there was just a 31-year-old music teacher offering classes in a one-room studio.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: THE CINCINNATI CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC (1867)
A piano studio at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

CCM traces its origins back to a young piano and voice teacher by the name of Clara Baur. Born in Germany, Baur came to the United States in 1849 at the age of 13. She traveled back to Europe in 1867 to study piano and voice methods in her homeland, as well as Austria, France and Italy. When she returned to Cincinnati later that year, Baur established the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music by renting a room in Miss Nourse’s School for Young Ladies.

Founded the same year as the Boston Conservatory, the New England Conservatory and the Chicago Academy of Music (which would become the Chicago Musical College), the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music was one of the first music conservatories in the United States (and possibly the first residential conservatory of music in the country), and it quickly established itself as one of the finest conservatories in the world.

The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music was born of Baur’s personal love and devotion to the arts, and was intended to bring to Cincinnati a European-styled conservatory that would help establish the “Queen City of the West” as a cultural center for music and the performing arts. Tireless from the start, Baur would also establish a summer music school and a placement bureau to help graduates find employment.

An ad for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, which ran in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's first program booklet.

An ad for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, which ran in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's first program booklet.

Because of Baur’s early and strict insistence on excellence, the school quickly gained an international reputation that attracted artists from around the world. Baur also established strong support for the school within the community with open public performances at the Conservatory. By 1883, Baur opened a branch at 139 West Eigth Street and initiated some of the country's first community engagement programs, which included classes in music appreciation for children and continuing education classes for adults.

By 1885, the faculty had grown to 23 and by the late 1880s another move to a larger location was required. Miss Baur also established a relationship with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra by guaranteeing a teaching post to the concertmaster of the CSO as well as posts for many symphony musicians.

In 1902, the Conservatory moved to the former Shillito Mansion in Mount Auburn. Enrollment neared 1,000 students, and the faculty included some of the best-known artists of the time. In 1910, a Jacobean-style building was added to the south wing of the Conservatory that contained more studio, office and dormitory space. In the years to come, the Conservatory expanded across Highland Avenue.

Clara Baur passed away in 1912 at the age of 77, at which point her niece Bertha Baur assumed leadership of the Conservatory. The Conservatory that Bertha Baur inherited was solvent and thriving. There was a faculty of 50, many of them concert artists with international reputations. There was an expanded campus with a new concert hall, dormitory and even more plans for expansion.

As time passed, though, the Conservatory surpassed the limits of a private, unendowed school. Bertha Baur turned the Conservatory over to the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts in 1930, making it a non-profit organization. Retiring that same year, Bertha Baur continued to served as president emerita until her death in 1940.

DISTINGUISHED COMPETITION: THE COLLEGE OF MUSIC OF CINCINNATI (1878)
The College of Music of Cincinnati's administration building on Central Parkway.

The College of Music of Cincinnati's administration building on Central Parkway.

The success of the Conservatory led to the development of another such institution in 1878. The College of Music of Cincinnati was established by Reuben R. Springer and George Ward Nichols together with a group of cultural leaders who had previously founded the May Festival. Theodore Thomas, who eventually became the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was named the school’s first director. Initially located in Dexter Hall, which was connected to Cincinnati’s just opened Music Hall, the College of Music became one of the first American schools of music to have its own concert hall when it relocated to the Odeon Building in 1884.

Over the next decade, the College of Music continued to expand, buying more real estate for its ever-growing needs. Its reputation as a serious academic institution also grew. The College's faculty was a phenomenal draw. Albino Gorno, accompanist to the famed Adelina Patti, stayed on for 60 years, as did cellist Lino Mattioli and organist Lillian Arkell Rixford.

When the College opened, it granted certificates after five terms (one year) of study, diplomas after two years of study and post-graduate diplomas for another two years of study. Adolph Hahn, who was a founder of Cincinnati’s Matinee Musicale, played in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and would become director of the College, earned the College's first post-graduate diploma.

In the 1900s, the College weathered economic hardships by establishing relationships with prominent musical groups such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and continued to increase enrollment numbers. The College also expanded its curriculum, adding a preparatory department, a complete course of study of church music and a partnership with the University of Cincinnati's College of Education. The College affiliated with UC to award bachelor's and master's of education degrees in public school music.

During the 1920s, the College of Music burgeoned. More and more buildings were added to its Over-the-Rhine compound until it was physically joined to Music Hall. Enrollment continued to rise and the final building was added to the College's complex in 1927: the administration building on Central Parkway.

A MOMENTOUS MERGER: THE COLLEGE-CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC (1955)
The Shillito Mansion, home to Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.

The Shillito Mansion, home to Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.

Both the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the College of Music of Cincinnati continued to innovate in arts education through the early decades of the 20th century. In 1924, the Conservatory was one of the founding members of the profession’s accrediting body, the National Association of Schools of Music. Then in 1927, the Conservatory became the first major music school in the United States to offer a formal training in dance, with an emphasis on classical ballet. In 1936, the College of Music established the first collegiate department in radio instruction, offering courses in radio with WLW staff musician Uberto Templeton Neely as the program’s director.

The post-war boom in college enrollment began to wane after 1948, though, and both the Conservatory and College felt the pinch. The schools remained rivals in education and training throughout this time, but it became clear by the early 1950s that bringing these two powerful institutions together would benefit all parties involved. 

Two of the most prominent music schools in the country brought stellar reputations, faculty and facilities together to form one of the premier music colleges in the country in 1955, when the two merged to become the College-Conservatory of Music. The new school was first headquartered in the Conservatory buildings.

THE SOUND OF SYNERGY: THE UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI COLLEGE-CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC (1962)
The Clara Baur Memorial Fountain at the entrance to CCM's Mary Emery Hall, 1967.

The Clara Baur Memorial Fountain at the entrance to CCM's Mary Emery Hall, 1967.

On August 1, 1962, the College-Conservatory of Music became the 14th college at the University of Cincinnati. The school was originally headed by Dean Jack Watson, an alumnus of the Conservatory who took a "hands-on" approach to virtually every aspect of CCM's beginnings at UC.

A ticket for CCM's 1967 production of 'Prince Igor.'

Shortly after this merger, construction began on a $5 million CCM complex on UC's campus; the state-of-the-art facility opened in 1967 in a series of events that began with a performance of Prince Igor in the new Corbett Auditorium. That same year, pioneering American composer John Cage was named composer-in-residence at CCM.

In 1968, CCM became the first official school for the Cincinnati Ballet Company. The school made history again in 1969 when it granted the country’s first BFA degree in musical theatre. CCM’s musical theatre program became a veritable overnight success story that same year when its very first graduate, Pamela Myers, was cast as Marta in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. That role netted Myers a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and helped solidify the reputation of CCM’s groundbreaking musical theatre program. Shortly thereafter, CCM became the model for the National Association of Schools of Music and the National Association of Schools of Theatre in creating their guidelines for the accreditation of musical theatre programs nationwide.

The College-Conservatory of Music on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, circa 1967.

The College-Conservatory of Music on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, circa 1967.

CCM’s facilities expanded again when Patricia Corbett Pavilion opened in 1972 with productions of the opera Callisto and the ballet The Beloved in the new Patricia Corbett Theater. The curriculum continued to expand and CCM began offering a major in jazz and studio music in 1976 under the direction of Cincinnati jazzman Frank Brown.

CCM continued to grow and flourish as part of UC. In 1984, UC’s dramatic performance program moved from McMicken College to join the other theatre arts at CCM. In 1990, CCM’s arts administration program began offering an innovative joint MA/MBA program with UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business. With the ever increasing enrollment and demand for appropriate space, CCM grew once more in 1999 with a $93 million renovation and creation of the state-of-the-art CCM Village. CCM received a National Honor Award for Outstanding Architecture by the American Institute of Architects in 2000. CCM was one of only 14 recipients from among 421 submissions that year.

A model for the proposed 'CCM Village' renovations in the mid-1990s.

A model for the proposed 'CCM Village' renovations in the mid-1990s.

In 2009 CCM received the designation of “All-Steinway School,” a distinction shared by the top conservatories in the world. CCM also became one of the largest repositories of Steinway pianos outside of the company’s Long Island-based factory, a move that attracted national media attention and in-depth profiles of the school on NPR’s All Things Considered and CBS Sunday Morning.

In March of 2011, CCM was named an Ohio Center of Excellence in Music and Theatre Arts by the Ohio Board of Regents, a designation reserved for distinctive, nationally recognized academic programs that serve as platforms for world-class academia and help draw new talent and investment to the state of Ohio.

In April of 2017, work began on an additional $15 million worth of improvements to the college’s performance spaces. These renovations will advance the experience for students as they continue to work and learn in CCM spaces, launching the college into a new era as a leading training center for the performing and media arts.

THE SESQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION (2017-18)
CCM Sesquicentennial endorsement mark.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, CCM will present a series of special events and public performances designed to celebrate a tradition of innovation and excellence 150 years in the making. Initial highlights include

  • Aug. 25, 2017: CCM opens its new school year and performance season with a 150th Birthday Party and Welcome Picnic for students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends.
  • Jan. 19, 2018: CCM presents an unparalleled, school-wide showcase of artistic talent and culinary delights during the Moveable Feast Gala Benefit Event, celebrating 150 years of CCM’s “stars of tomorrow.” Enjoy bite-sized performances from current and former CCM students and faculty members while enjoying by-the-bite cuisine courtesy of Jeff Thomas Catering.
  • Feb. 18. 2018: Love is in the air at this Valentine’s Day-Themed Concert, which celebrates 150 years of CCM and UC love stories with performances by students, faculty members and more. If you met your significant other on campus, then we hope you will join us for this special event.
  • April 21, 2018: 150 years in the making, CCM presents a Showcase of Alumni Talent performing alongside our stars-of-tomorrow.

CCM will announce its full schedule of major events for 2017-18 this summer. Stay tuned to The Village News for additional details!

UCIngot

Key Dates in Cincinnati's Cultural History

The University of Cincinnati
1819 - University of Cincinnati
A sketch of the College of Music of Cincinnati.
1878 - College of Music of Cincinnati
A sketch of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
1867 - Cincinnati Conservatory of Music
The Cincinnati Art Museum.
1881 - Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati's Music Hall, home of the May Festival.
1873 - The May Festival
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performing at the Emery Theatre in Cincinnati, Ohio. Date not verified, but must be between 1912 and 1936. Photographer unknown. Source Ohio Valley American Theatre Organ Society http://homepage.mac.com/klugpro/ohiovalleyatos/emery1977.html.
1895 - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Learn more about the University of Cincinnati's upcoming Bicentennial by visiting uc.edu/bicentennial.

UCIngot

More Notations and Ovations