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Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Conservatorium Road, Sydney, New South Wales (2011-03-09).jpg
The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, as viewed from the Royal Botanic Gardens
Established 1915 (1915)
Type Public university college
Parent institution University of Sydney
Academic affiliation
  • Conservatorium Open Academy
  • Conservatorium High School
Head of School and Dean Professor Anna Reid
Students 750
Location Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Website sydney.edu.au/music
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The Sydney Conservatorium of Music (formerly the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music or ‘The Con’) is one of the oldest and most prestigious music schools in Australia. Located adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens on the eastern fringe of the Sydney central business district, the Conservatorium is a faculty of the University of Sydney, and incorporates the community-based Conservatorium Open Academy and the Conservatorium High School. In addition to its secondary, undergraduate, post-graduate and community education teaching and learning functions, the Conservatorium also undertakes research in various fields of music.

The Greenway building

Originally commissioned in 1815 as the stables for the proposed Government House, the oldest Conservatorium building was designed by the convict architect, Francis Greenway. Listed on the State Heritage Register in the Gothic Picturesque architectural style with turrets, the building was described as a "palace for horses" and is a portrayal of the romantic vision of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and the British architectural trends of the time. It is the only example of a gothic building designed by Greenway still standing. The cost and apparent extravagance was one of the reasons Macquarie was recalled to Britain. The stables, located close to picturesque Sydney Harbour, reflect the building techniques and the range of materials and skills employed during the early settlement era.

Syd con music
Front western view
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Conservatorium of Music during Macquarie Night Lights from 23 November to 25 December 2006

Origins of the Conservatorium

In 1915 the NSW Government under William Holman allocated £22,000 to the redevelopment of the stables into a music school. The NSW State Conservatorium of Music opened on 6 March 1916 under the directorship of the Belgian conductor and violinist Henri Verbrugghen, who was the only salaried staff member.

Verbrugghen's impact was incisive but briefer than had been hoped. When he put a request to the NSW Government that he be paid separate salaries for his artistic work as conductor of the orchestra (by then the NSW State Orchestra) and educational work as Director of the Conservatorium, the Government withdrew its subsidies for both the orchestra and the string quartet that Verbrugghen had installed. He resigned in 1921 after taking the Conservatorium Orchestra to Melbourne and to New Zealand.

The Conservatorium was home to Australia's first full-time orchestra, composed of both professional musicians and Conservatorium students. The orchestra remained Sydney's main orchestra for much of the 1920s, accompanying many artists brought to Australia by producer J. C. Williamson, including the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz, who donated money to the Conservatorium library for orchestral parts. However, during the later part of the stewardship of Verbrugghen's successor, Dr W. Arundel Orchard (Director 1923–34), there were tensions with another emerging professional body, the "ABC Symphony Orchestra", later to become the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, driven by the young, ambitious and energetic Bernard Heinze, Director-General of Music for the Federal Government's new Australian Broadcasting Commission.

In 1935, under Edgar Bainton (Director 1934–48), the Conservatorium Opera School was founded, later performing works such as Verdi's Falstaff and Otello, Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Die Walküre, and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, among others. Under Sir Eugene Goossens (Director 1948–55), opera at the Conservatorium made a major contribution to what researcher Roger Covell has described as " the most seminal years in the history of locally produced opera...". Although the most prominent musician to have held the post of Director, Goossens' tenure was not without controversy. Apart from the international scandal surrounding his departure in 1956, Goossens was said during his directorship to have channelled the best players in the Conservatorium Orchestra into the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (of which he was concurrently Chief Conductor),

Expansion and reforms

Verbrugghen Hall
Verbrugghen Hall, named after the first director of the Conservatorium

Under the direction of Rex Hobcroft (1972–82), the Conservatorium adopted the modern educational profile recognised today. Hobcroft’s vision of a "Music University" was realised, in which specialised musical disciplines including both classical and jazz performance, music education, composition and musicology enriched each other.

In 1990, as part of the Dawkins Reforms, the Conservatorium amalgamated with the University of Sydney, and was renamed the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

A 1994 review of the Sydney Conservatorium by the University of Sydney resulted in a recommendation that "negotiations with the NSW State Government about permanent suitable accommodation for the Conservatorium be pursued as a matter of urgency."

As in 1916, a wide range of sites were considered, many of them controversial. In May 1997, 180 years after Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone for the Greenway Building, State Premier Bob Carr announced a major upgrade of the Conservatorium, with the ultimate goal of creating a music education facility equal to or better than anything in the world. A team was assembled to work to that brief, resulting in a complex collaboration between various government departments (notably the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Public Works and Services), the Government Architect, US-based acoustic consultants Kirkegaard Associates, Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke Architects, the key users represented by the Principal and Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and the Principal of the Conservatorium High School, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and many others.

Centenary commissions

To mark the centenary of the Conservatorium in 2015, it commissioned 101 new works, the spread designed to represent those who have shaped music over the past 100 years. The first work in the series was John Corigliano's Mr Tambourine Man, based on the poetry of Bob Dylan, which was presented on 11 September 2009.

Notable alumni

See also: Category:Sydney Conservatorium of Music alumni
  • Essie Ackland, contralto
  • Richard Bonynge, conductor
  • Alexander Briger, conductor
  • Tony Buck, member of band The Necks
  • David Butts, former member of The Hooley Dooleys
  • Romola Costantino, piano
  • Carl Crossin, conductor, director of the Elder Conservatorium
  • Iva Davies, frontman of band Icehouse
  • Tania Davis, member of band Bond
  • Bryan Fairfax, conductor
  • Richard Farrell, piano
  • Rhondda Gillespie, piano
  • Julian Hamilton, band member of The Presets, The Dissociatives and Silverchair
  • David Hansen, countertenor
  • Bernadette Harvey-Balkus, piano
  • Dominic Harvey, french horn, conductor
  • Michael Kieran Harvey, piano
  • Rowan Harvey-Martin, violin, conductor
  • Erin Holland, Miss World Australia 2013
  • Dulcie Holland, piano and composition
  • Bryce Jacobs, film composer and guitarist
  • Carmel Kaine, violin
  • Constantine Koukias, composition
  • Geoffrey Lancaster, fortepiano
  • Indra Lesmana, Indonesian Jazz musician
  • Cho-Liang Lin, violin
  • Stephanie McCallum, piano
  • Jade MacRae, voice
  • Anthony Maydwell, harp
  • Richard Meale, composition
  • Sam Moran, former member of The Wiggles
  • James Morrison, trumpeter
  • Kim Moyes, band member of The Presets, The Dissociatives and Silverchair
  • Margaret Packham Hargrave, poet, writer
  • Geoffrey Parsons, piano
  • Geoffrey Payne, trumpet
  • Deborah Riedel, voice
  • Kathryn Selby, piano
  • Larry Sitsky, composition and piano
  • Rai Thistlethwayte, lead singer of Thirsty Merc
  • Katia Tiutiunnik, composer
  • Richard Tognetti, violin
  • Esme Tombleson (1917–2010), Member of Parliament in New Zealand, and multiple sclerosis advocate
  • Nathan Waks, cellist
  • Gerard Willems, piano
  • Kim Williams, composition, clarinet
  • Malcolm Williamson, composition and piano
  • Rowan Witt, theatre and film actor
  • Roger Woodward, piano, conductor
  • Simone Young, conductor

Notable teachers

See also: Category:Sydney Conservatorium of Music faculty
  • Winifred Burston, piano
  • Edwin Carr, composition
  • Richard Goldner, viola
  • Isador Goodman, piano
  • Alex Henery, double bass
  • Stephanie McCallum, piano
  • William Motzing, jazz
  • Robert Pikler, violin and viola
  • Natalia Sheludiakova, piano
  • Lois Simpson, cello
  • Howie Smith, jazz
  • Alexa Still, flute
  • Alexander Sverjensky, piano
  • Mark Walton, woodwind, performance
  • Gordon Watson, piano
  • Wanda Wiłkomirska, violin
  • Gerard Willems, piano

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