Canada's McGill University Shuts Down Community Music Conservatory

The community offshoot of McGill's Schulich School of Music will no longer provide private music lessons to students of all ages

(Photo courtesy: McGill University)


McGill University's Schulich School of Music, the institution's university-level music school, remains intact and is welcoming a new class of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students this fall.

However, its community music program, the McGill Conservatory, will close this year. For more than a century, the program has offered thousands of children in Montreal access to musical education.

Much like a pre-college program, the music building was always filled on Saturday mornings with children on their way to class. McGill Conservatory offered classes in the Suzuki Method, Orff Method, ukulele, and "Little Musicians" general instruction. There were also conservatory choirs, string ensembles, jazz classes, theory and ear training, and private lessons that students could participate in.

After consultations and reviews of the Conservatory's current and future prospects, the conclusions were "sobering, yet unavoidable." The program will officially close its doors at the end of this summer so that currently registered students can finish their classes.

In a statement released by the university, the Conservatory has faced financial and logistical challenges as of late.

"Operational costs have increased," the statement reads. "Historically, the School has provided the Conservatory with administrative and teaching space free of charge. As the School continues to grow its University-level programs, these spaces are now at a critical premium.

"Further, as it has done with many aspects of our lives, the pandemic has dramatically changed the reality of operating the Conservatory. As an example, before the pandemic, there were close to 100 instructors working at the Conservatory and over 550 students taking private lessons each year. Last year, instruction was offered online; there were 62 instructors working and fewer than 300 private lesson students. Our best-case projection for in-person enrolment for next year would not exceed 100 students. The trend is as clear as it is unfortunate.

"Although this decision is extremely sad for our staff, our instructors, and the Montreal music community, we will always be proud of the generations of pre-school to adult learners who have furthered their musical education through the Conservatory — and of the generations of instructors who made those educations possible," signed Dean Ravenscroft and incoming Dean Ferguson.