New England Conservatory

New England Conservatory
New England Conservatory logo.jpg
Established 1867
Type Private
Endowment $89.6 million[1]
Location Boston, MA, U.S.
Campus Urban
Enrollment 750
New England Conservatory of Music
Jordan Hall
NEC's principal performance space
New England Conservatory is located in Massachusetts
Location: 290 Huntington Ave., Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°20′26″N 71°5′13″W / 42.34056°N 71.08694°W / 42.34056; -71.08694Coordinates: 42°20′26″N 71°5′13″W / 42.34056°N 71.08694°W / 42.34056; -71.08694
Area: 1 acre (0.4 ha)
Built: 1903
Architect: Wheelwright & Haven
Architectural style: Renaissance
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 80000672[2]
Added to NRHP: May 14, 1980

The New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest independent school of music in the United States.[3]

The conservatory is home each year to 750 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies along with 1400 more in its Preparatory School as well as the School of Continuing Education. At the collegiate level, NEC offers the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts, as well as the Undergraduate Diploma, Graduate Diploma, and Artist Diploma. Also offered are five-year joint double-degree programs with Harvard University and Tufts University.[4]

NEC is the only music school in the United States designated as a National Historic Landmark. Its primary concert hall, Jordan Hall, plays an important role in the cultural scene of the entire New England region, hosting over 600 concerts each year and receiving frequent praise for its acoustical qualities.[5]



1871 winter term

Early Years

In June 1853 Eben Tourjée, at the time a nineteen-year-old music teacher from Providence, Rhode Island, made his first attempt to found a music conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. He met with a group of Boston's most influential musical leaders to discuss a school based on the conservatories of Europe. The group included John Sullivan Dwight, an influential music critic, Dr. J. Baxter Upham, president of the Harvard Musical Association, and Oliver Ditson, a prominent music publisher. The group ultimately rejected Tourjée's plans, arguing that it was poor idea to open a conservatory amidst the nation's political and economic uncertainty that would lead up to the American Civil War.

Tourjée made his next attempt in December 1866 when he again met with a group of Boston's top musician's and music patrons. Among Upham, Ditson, and Dwight at this meeting were Carl Zerrahn, a popular Boston conductor, and Charles Perkins, a prominent arts patron. In the thirteen year interim Tourjee had founded three music schools in Rhode Island, and this time was able to win over his audience. The men agreed to help Tourjee and The New England Conservatory officially opened on February 18, 1867 and consisted of seven rooms rented above Music Hall off Tremont Street in downtown Boston. In 1870 it moved to the former St. James Hotel in Franklin Square in the South End.

Over the coming years the conservatory would distinguish itself from rival Boston Conservatory thanks to several decisive factors: First, the fast-rising success of NEC alumna Lillian Norton, or Nordica as she came to be known. Second the overwhelming publicity generated by the Peace Jubilees. Third, the beneficial alliance between NEC and the BSO.[6]


The NEC campus consists of three buildings on both sides of Gainsborough Street between St. Botolph Street and Huntington Avenue, one block from Symphony Hall. The Jordan Hall Building, whose main entrance is at 30 Gainsborough Street, is NEC's main building, home to Jordan Hall, Williams Hall, Brown Hall, the Keller Room, the Isabelle Firestone Audio Library, the Performance Library, professor studios/offices, and practice rooms. The second building, at 33 Gainsborough, is the Residence Hall, a coed dormitory which also houses the Harriet M. Spaulding Library and the "Bistro 33" dining center. The St. Botolph Building, at 241 St. Botolph street, contains Pierce Hall, a computer laboratory, the electronic music studio, and the majority of the school's classrooms and administrative offices.

Jordan Hall

The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra performing in Jordan Hall.

Jordan Hall is NEC's central performing space. Opened in 1903, Jordan Hall was the gift of New England Conservatory trustee Eben D. Jordan the 2nd, a member of the family that founded the Jordan Marsh retail stores and himself an amateur musician. In 1901, Jordan donated land for NEC's main building, while also offering to fund a concert hall with a gift of $120,000.

The dedication concert of Jordan Hall, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, took place on October 20, 1903. Effusive newspaper accounts deemed the hall "unequaled the world over," and The Boston Globe reported that it was "a place of entertainment that European musicians who were present that evening say excels in beauty anything of the kind they ever saw." [7]

A major renovation project was completed in 1995, and since then Jordan Hall has won numerous awards including the 1996 Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award, the Victorian Society in America's Preservation Commendation, the 1996 Boston Preservation Alliance Award, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Award of Merit, and the Illuminating Engineering Society 1996 Lumen Award.


Admission to NEC is based primarily on a competitive live audition. NEC is renowned for its strings, jazz, brass, percussion, and chamber music departments. The Conservatory's piano department has recently risen to international significance. The Conservatory offers degrees in orchestral instruments, conducting, piano, jazz studies, contemporary improvisation, voice & opera, composition, music history, and music theory.

The conservatory has served as a training ground for orchestral players to fill the ranks of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, much like the Curtis Institute serves as a training ground for the Philadelphia Orchestra, although composers, pianists, and singers are offered courses of study as well.

Preparatory School

New England Conservatory's Preparatory School is an open enrollment institution for pre-college students that offers music classes and private instruction for young musicians, and fosters over 20 small and large ensembles. Students enrolled in New England Conservatory's Preparatory School may participate in the Certificate Program, allowing students to achieve their optimum performance skills, competence in music theory, and a knowledge of the literature that includes choral, orchestral, and chamber music, as well as solo repertoire. NEC Prep is home to one of the world's leading youth orchestras, the highly selective Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (YPO), headed by Benjamin Zander. In June 2007, the orchestra embarked on a highly publicized three-week tour of China. The Preparatory School also houses the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble (MYWE), a highly selective touring wind ensemble open to advanced high school woodwind, brass, and percussion players directed by Michael Mucci. The Preparatory School routinely sends students to the finest conservatories and universities in the world.

School of Continuing Education

New England Conservatory's School of Continuing Education allows members of the surrounding community to experience the benefits of New England Conservatory's world class instruction, offering classes, lessons, and ensemble opportunities to musicians of any background. At NEC's School of Continuing Education members can participate in chamber, jazz, and vocal ensembles, an opera studio, an adult chorale, a Klezmer Band, and a Community Gospel Choir. In addition, NEC's School of Continuing Education offers classes in several fields including music history, music theory, and Alexander technique, many of which are instructed by members of the New England Conservatory college faculty.


NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.[8]

The conservatory offers five-year joint double-degree programs with Harvard University and Tufts University and cross-registration with Tufts, Northeastern University, and Simmons College.[9]

NEC is the founding institution of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity and Kappa Gamma Psi Performing Arts Fraternity.


See New England Conservatory alumni for a list of members of the alumni community.

See New England Conservatory past and present teachers for notable members of the faculty.


Although the institution is properly known as New England Conservatory, both the National Historic Landmark and the National Register of Historic Places nominations call out New England Conservatory of Music as the name.[2][10] Also, despite the statement on the subject's web site,[11] there is only one listing for each program, which covers the whole main building, including Jordan Hall, and no separate listing for Jordan Hall.[12]



  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009 (2009 -06-30). "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-08. 
  3. ^ "Jordan Hall Unveiled". New England Conservatory. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "Programs of Study". New England Conservatory. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  5. ^ "New England Conservatory of Music". National Park Service -- National Historic Landmarks Program. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  6. ^ McPherson, pp. 24.
  7. ^ "Jordan Hall History". Handel and Haydn Society. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  8. ^ "Partners". From the Top. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "Course Offerings". New England Conservatory. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "National Historic Landmark nomination for New England Conservatory of Music". National Park Service. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Fast Facts". New England Conservatory. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "National Historic Landmarks in Massachusetts". National Park Service. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 


  • McPherson, Bruce, and James Klein. Measure by Measure: a History of New England Conservatory from 1867. [Boston]: Trustees of New England Conservatory of Music, 1995. Print.
  • Williams, Chester W., and Susan Watson. Moline. Indeed, Music: My Years at New England Conservatory. Boston: New England Conservatory of Music, 1989. Print.

External links

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