Centennial Schools - School of Music
April 15, 2013
This month, Special Collections and Archives celebrates the School of Music’s centennial by focusing on a few of the musical “firsts” in the school’s history, and on the wider campus. From its humble beginnings as a summer school program that could not provide college credit, to the impressive international reputation it has today, the School of Music has consistently entertained and impressed the community – inside and outside of DePaul.
Early Years of the School of Music
In the fall of 1913, Walter Keller, dean of the DePaul University College of Music, appealed to both the Chicago Board of Education’s Office of Superintendent of Schools and Chicago Normal College for approval to obtain provisional credit for his students taking courses in music. In a letter dated September 15, 1913, the Chicago Board of Education dismissed Mr. Keller’s request stating, “[Instrumental music, gymnastics, and dancing] are recreational, highly desirable, but are not construed as study courses.” Later, this restriction was lifted.
The School of Music has called many buildings “home” since 1912. The Lyceum building was the first building to house DePaul musicians from 1912 – 1930. Currently, the sweet melodies of the music students can be found resonating through the building at 804 W. Belden, the School of Music building. Looking forward, new facilities for the School of Music are in DePaul’s Master Plan. Buildings included in the plan are a music center and north and south buildings.
First Courses and Programs
The first courses under Walter Keller (the first head of the Music Department) were offered in the summer of 1912. The summer school courses included “Practical Music” – private and class lessons in piano, organ, vocal culture, violin and orchestra instruments – and “Theoretical Music” which the class bulletin noted as covering topics including “harmony, counterpoint, canon and fugue and orchestration as well as musical history and normal methods.” In these early years, student organists who were taking private lessons used the organ in St. Vincent’s church.
Soon after the program was established, music courses were offered through the university’s extension program. These courses began in fall of 1912, and included private and class lessons in instrument and voice. The private lessons ranged from $12 to $60 per term and class lessons ranged from $6 to $12 per term.
While the School of Music found its roots in 1913, it did not receive its National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accreditation until the early 1930s. Yet, DePaul was still trailblazing with this development: through the accreditation, the School of Music became the first Catholic music school to be admitted to and accredited through NASM.
In fall 1927, the first school band was organized at DePaul University. According to the DePaulia, the purpose of the band was to add spirit to student activities and sporting events. Students looked forward to the addition of the “boom of the big bass drum to the vociferous cheers and applause of the De Paulites” at football games.
The first school band was a very inclusive one: any student who wanted to partake in the band’s activities could participate and each student was offered free instrumental instruction.
Music outside of the School of Music
Outside of the School of Music, other departments formed their own musical groups. Members of the Secretarial School seeking variety and excitement in their extracurricular activities established their own choral society in 1928. The club’s inaugural concert was perceived by many as one of the “highlights of the social season.”
But the club did not stand alone: the Secretarial School’s choral society was allied with the existing glee club and orchestras, while the ROTC program (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), also had a band. Among other activities, they marched in local parades and aided university pep rallies.