The Mount Royal University Conservatory was originally known as the Mount Royal College Conservatory of Music and Speech Arts until the early 1990s, and then named the Mount Royal College Conservatory until 2009 when Mount Royal College earned its status as a university institution. The music school of Mount Royal College (now located on its Lincoln Park campus in Calgary, Alberta), was established in Calgary in 1910 by the Methodist (later United) Church as a residential high school. In 1931 the college became affiliated with the University of Alberta and began offering two-year undergraduate courses leading to a diploma, a practice that continues in the 21st century. Graduates of the music performance program received a diploma and credits for two years at the University of Calgary (later expanded to include all Alberta universities). The Alberta Department of Education grants high school credits for the completion of certain examinations.
Though the conservatory's speech arts department was established only in 1945, the music department has been part of the college from the outset. It opened with a faculty of five under the direction of Wilfred V. Oaten and a student enrolment of less than 100. By 1990 there were approximately 100 teachers on campus and another 40 affiliated teachers working out of their homes (referred to as 'Branch Teachers'). By 2005, the conservatory had 240 teachers on campus and another 50 affiliated teachers teaching from their homes, reaching 5,000 Calgary area students.
The conservatory provides instruction and training in music (classical or jazz), speech arts and theatre arts. Instructional programs include Suzuki and KodÃ¡ly and an extensive range of music and drama courses in its summer camps and workshops. The conservatory offers both credit and non-credit programs. It also has an extensive visiting artist program and a successful professional training program.
The Academy of Music program for gifted students under the age of 18, started in 1980, is offered for all orchestral instruments and piano; in addition there are a two-year post-secondary performance program established in 1981 with classical and jazz streams, a choral program directed by David Ferguson, and general interest programs for the public. Graduates of the music performance program receive a diploma and credit for two years at any Alberta university. The conservatory began to sponsor the Summer Strings Academy in 1982. Until 1988 this was a joint project of Alberta Culture and the University of Calgary. Alberta Culture continues to provide scholarship funds. Starting in 1984 the Summer Suzuki Piano Institute has offered courses with an emphasis on teacher training.
Videoconferencing began in 2004, to enable Mount Royal College Conservatory instructors to teach students across the country. In 2005 the technology was upgraded to offer three-way videoconferencing, to allow music students in two different Canadian locations to connect with their instructor.
Paul Dornian became director in 1992. Other directors of the conservatory have been J.E. Hodgson, Frederic Rogers, P.L. Newcombe, Jascha Galperin (1940-1944), Cyril Mossop (1944-1951), Harold Ramsay (1951-1962), John Garden (1962-1963), Peter Hodgson (1963-1964), J.S. Peter Bach (1964-1974), Leona Flegal Paterson (1974-1977), and Norman Burgess (1978-1992). The teaching faculty has included, in addition to the directors, Gladys Egbert, Clayton Hare, Leonard Leacock (for whom the Leacock Music Theatre, opened on campus in 1972, was named), Mary Munn, Lise Elson, John Kadz, John Thompson, Nicholas Pulos, Joan Barrett, and Peter Turner.
The conservatory is especially known for its orchestras. The Mount Royal College Symphony Orchestra, organized in 1937 by Jascha Galperin, became the basis of the Calgary Symphony Orchestra under Clayton Hare in 1949. Frank Simpson, then music co-ordinator of the college's Community Services department, founded in 1968 the Calgary Youth Orchestra, under the auspices of the conservatory. The conservatory's ensembles have also included string orchestras, wind symphonies, a flute choir, the Calgary Fiddlers, the MRC Jazz Big Band, the Mount Royal Youth Choir, the Children's Choir, and the Junior Children's Choir. The Lyric Chamber Players and the Palenai Piano Duo also have been affiliated with the college. In 1995, the Mount Royal Kantorei Choir was formed. This is a mixed chorus of auditioned adult voices under the direction of David Ferguson. The choir released its first CD, Canadian Choral Gems, in 2001.
Some of the conservatory's prominent students include Yuri Hooker, principal cello, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; Tanya Kalmonovitch, violist; Rhian Kenny, flutist, Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra; Martha Baldwin, cellist, Cleveland Orchestra; Katherine Chi, pianist, winner of the 2000 Honens Competition; and Alan Van Sprang, TV/film actor