Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Great Plains has witnessed the development of many music programs in higher education that are, to a large extent, responsible for the rich musical heritage and culture of its people. These schools and departments of music in the region's colleges and universities have contributed greatly to the quality of life in the Great Plains in addition to training future teachers and professional and amateur musicians. Six music programs in higher education have a tradition of musical excellence and represent the impact that all of the schools and departments of music have had on the people of the Great Plains.

Two of these music programs, the University of Kansas and the University of Nebraska. Lincoln, are among the oldest in the Great Plains. They are geographically close to each other, and their music programs developed at approximately the same time. Both music programs were granted membership in the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in 1928, the first year nasm began awarding national accreditation. The first evidence of a music department at the University of Kansas appears in the university catalog of 1877-78, which lists music by special instructors. In 1884 a committee introduced music study to the curriculum to furnish instruction in all branches of music to both amateur and professional students, to combine music with regular collegiate work, and to train teachers. The idea that all three could be offered in a single department was unheard-of before 1884 and was not generally accepted until well after World War I.

The University of Nebraska catalog of 1877 describes the availability of vocal and instrumental study. The names of several different music instructors appear in the records between 1877 and 1887. In 1892 a plan was presented to enhance the music program by establishing a conservatory that would operate as a separate entity by generating its own funds. The conservatory would serve the university by offering instruction for which credit would be granted. The current School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln evolved from this plan and was officially founded in 1894. The following description of the School of Music appeared in a 1910 issue of the Musical Courier: "It stands here in a city of 40,000 inhabitants, situated in the center of a great prairie, isolated from all the great art centers of the United States." The board of regents purchased the School of Music in 1930, and it became an official academic unit of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Two additional institutions developed comprehensive music programs in the Great Plains. The School of Music at the University of Oklahoma became one of the first music programs in the country to be granted membership in NASM in 1931, and the music program at the University of Colorado grew to become a College of Music and was awarded accreditation in NASM in 1941.

Alberta College in Edmonton is one of Canada's oldest arts institutions. The music department, now the Conservatory of Music, was established in 1903 and has become one of the largest music programs in Canada. The School of Music at the University of Manitoba can be traced to 1944, when students in arts and sciences could minor in music with courses in music theory and music history. A degree program in music was instituted in 1963.

Lawrence R. Mallett University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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