The University of Toronto's Institute for Canadian Music

by John Beckwith [reprinted from ACS Newsletter / Bulletin de l'AEC, vol. 12, no. 3 (Fall 1990): 20-21, with permission]

Photo of John Beckwith

John Beckwith, composer, administrator and author, was Director of the Institute for Canadian Music from 1985 to 1991

In the growth of Canadian Studies as a discipline, initial emphases have been geography,history, politics, economics, and, a later stage, arts and culture. In the growth of an arts-and-culture component, emphases have been literature, visual art, perhaps film - butonly to a limited extent so far, music. This at any rate is a widely held view among specialists in Canadian music. Acceleration of a focus on the country's present musical life and its musical history and musical repertoires (popular, traditional, and composed) has been a prime mandate of the Institute for Canadian Music which completed its sixth year of operation in mid-1990.

The Institute has been supported from its inception in 1984 by a generous annual grant from the family of Floyd S. Chalmers of Toronto, the retired publisher and noted arts patron. In the Fall of 1989 the University of Toronto was one of a dozen Canadian organizations benefitting from a large ($10 million) gift from Mr. Chalmers. Interest on its share ($1 million) will go towards future support of the Institute's projects and the Jean A. Chalmers Professorship in Canadian Music whose first holder (1984-90) has been the Institute's director, John Beckwith.

The Institute, consisting of a director and half-a-dozen research associates (staff and graduate students), has taken on a catalytic role in CanMus studies (a term Beckwith borrows from the familiar "CanLit"). Locally it has given support to existing Faculty of Music academic initiatives (course offerings, research projects, dissertations) at both undergraduate and graduate levels (in the past decade Toronto has a record of five Ph.D. dissertations on topics of musical Canadiana). It has regularly assisted special purchases of musical Canadiana (books, scores, recordings) to enrich the collection of the Faculty's music library - the largest in Canada.

Scholars - historians, composers, educators - from other centres in the U.S. and Canada have been invited by the Institute to give lectures and seminars, with the dual purpose of sharing their expertise with the Torontonians and taking away an increased awareness of current CanMus concerns. Such guests have included Denys Bouliane, Québec and Freiburg; Brian Cherney, McGill University; Richard Crawford, University of Michigan; H. Wiley Hitchcock, Institute for Studies in American Music, Brooklyn College; Doreen Klassen, Steinbach Bible College, Manitoba; Clermont Pépin, Montréal; Vivian Perlis, Yale University; Robert Stevenson, UCLA; Nicholas Temperley, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign; and Nancy Vogan, Mount Allison University.

To foster communications between scholars and other music professionals with like interests from various regions, the Institute has convened a series of conferences, sometimes on its own initiative and sometimes cooperatively with other organizations. The list to date is a varied one:

The Institue is an institutional member of the Sonneck Society for American Music, and in April 1990 in Toronto played host to that scholarly organization's annual conference, jointly with the annual meeting of ARMuQ (l'Association pour l'avancement de la recherche en musique du Québec). For the Sonneck Society this was its first meeting outside the United States; for ARMuQ, its first outside Québec.

Publication is a main vehicle of the Institute's effort. Proceedings of conferences and lecture series have been produced in either the CanMus Documents series (three volumes in print by the Summer of 1990, with three more in preparation and due before the end of the year) or the more informal Handbooks series (four in print, two in preparation). For copies and/or free catalogue write Institute for Canadian Music, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5.

The two series are designed not only to disseminate conference papers but also to make research results and bibliographic work available. For example, CanMus Documents 4 brings together three long essays on research topics by associates of the Institute - Rebecca Green on Canadian college singing and songbooks, Gaynor G. Jones on the early history of the Toronto (now Royal) Conservatory of Music, and Colin Eatock on the Toronto new-music organization Arraymusic. Analytical listings of Canadian college songs and teh Faculty library's Canadiana sheet-music holdings have been provided in print-out form to inquirers.

An Institute team has prepared a directory of Toronto's approximately 2,800 music alumni, due to appear soon in the Handbooks series. Though evidently a self-centred project, the directory attempts to cover from archival sources pre-Faculty years (Toronto's music degree is the longest-established in North America, dating from 1846), and an introductory essay by Ronald Chandler places it in a broad historical and educational context.

Beckwith, whose main field is composition, has retired from his Faculty position but is continuing to deal with Institute projects until his successor is named - which should be before the end of 1990.

Contact information:

Institute for Canadian Music | Faculty of Music | University of Toronto | Edward Johnson Building
80 Queen's Park | Toronto, ON M5S 2C5 | Canada | Tel. (416) 946 8622 | Fax (416) 946 3353
Email: | Web:

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