The Royal Manchester College of Music was opened in 1893. It was largely due to the late Sir Charles Halle that the scheme was carried through. Its inception arose from the real need for a central teaching and examining body in the North of England, where music is loved and performed more frequently and more truly than in any other part of the kingdom. Manchester was selected, not only on account of its central position, but because it had for forty years possessed a great orchestra, famed throughout Europe, and thus there were a number of competent professors on the spot, even for the rarer instruments which go to make up an orchestra.
Manchester's Need of the College
Once the idea had taken shape, it went on famously. The Executive Committee worked energetically, and as it included the mayors of thirty large towns in the northern counties, the project was speedily spread abroad. When the college was opened, it had a guaranteed subscription of 2,000 a year for five years. Queen Victoria showed her interest in the scheme by giving the title of "Royal" to the college.
When one remembers that professors of the top rank were only to be found in London or on the Continent, and considers the great expense involved in obtaining instruction when maintenance charges were added to the fees, one can only wonder that so musical a district as Northern England had not long before possessed some such institution.
The College immediately took a special place, not only because the professors were largely members of the famous orchestra, and Sir Charles Halle was principal, but because of the close connection of the college with the Victoria University of Manchester. The courses of study laid down by the University were, from the first, followed in the College; and the former now requiring practical work as well as theoretical, this course also is given in the college, so that students, with very little difficulty and scarcely any extra time, can go on from the College to take the degrees in music conferred by the University.
The College and Victoria University
The close connection between the two is seen by the fact that in 1902 the principal and three professors of the College were appointed to lectureships in the University faculty of music.
Queen Alexandra is the patroness, and the College is fortunate in possessing a very fine collection of musical instruments, a large musical library, and a great hall, all the gift of patrons. There is a special department for the training of students in the art and practice of teaching.
The College is governed by the General Committee (consisting of life members, subscribing members, and representative members), and the Council, which is a committee of the General Committee. The teaching body is under the direction of the principal, and consists of a board of professors and the staff appointed by the council.
Like the Royal Academy and Royal College in London, the Manchester College requires a student to take up a whole course of study, with one principal subject, and the student must enter for at least three terms. The entrance examination concerns itself solely with the principal subject, and on showing evidence of a reasonable amount of natural ability and careful preliminary training (except in singing), the student is admitted.
The full course of study occupies three years, but students, and especially if they wish to become performers, should try to take a longer course. If they choose to remain beyond three years, they can go on either with the whole course, or with their principal study alone, in which case the fees are reduced. At the end of three years they may enter for the diploma examinations in teaching or performing, or both.
The College year begins in September, and the vacations between the three twelve-week terms are arranged to fall at Christmas, Easter, and a week at Whitsuntide; besides the long vacation from July till September. Only a month's notice is required of a student leaving. They may enter at half-term. Intending students should write to the College for a form of application, which should be filled in by the applicant and the person responsible for fees, and sent in a week before the opening of term, which is, roughly, the first week in October and January and the third week of April; or, of half-term, which begins about the 15th of November, February, and June.
The applicant will then be summoned to the examination, singers bringing a song, and instrumentalists a piece and a study. The College provides an accompanist, ii wished. In the case of singing alone, no preliminary training is necessary, as untrained voices are rather an advantage from the professor's point of view. A few questions of harmony are put, to decide in which class the candidate is to go, but ignorance of harmony only disqualifies a candidate whose principal study is composition.
There is no fee for the entrance examination. Elocution, Italian, German, and the history of music are taught, besides all instruments and singing composition, theory, quartette and ensemble playing, etc. The Curriculum
The course in every case is designed with regard to the principal study, so that choral and opera singing are available to intending vocalists, while pianists are given extra lessons in ensemble playing, etc.
Two lessons weekly of an hour each, and one in other subjects, form the ordinary curriculum. In certain cases, students are allowed to take a second principal study, where it will not interfere with their first study, and they can show ability and training. There is no extra fee charged for this additional study.
There are two very great privileges for students at the College. They may take the course for the university degrees in music without an extra fee, and students of harmony can, by the principal's permission, receive free instruction in acoustics from the University. Also, students are admitted free to the rehearsals of the Halle orchestral concerts under Dr. Richter - a privilege indeed, and one which the students thoroughly appreciate, and of which they are not slow to avail themselves.
Students in their second and third years may take a special course if they wish to become teachers, or to study the art of teaching. The subjects dealt with include the general principles of teaching, order, method, and practice of teaching. There is a special prospectus on this point. No extra fee is charged. These classes are only open to students of the College.
The fees are 10 a term, payable at the opening of each term. Students of wind instruments, however, pay only 5 a term. Those staying on after three years for principal study alone, pay £8 per term, unless they are engaged in the study of wind instruments.
At the end of each year, an examination is held, and a report is issued on the progress of each student. The examinations for diplomas are held annually in July. They are only open to students who have been at the college for three years, and are of three kinds:
(a) For performers.
(6) For teachers.
(c) For either with distinction (the principal study being specially praised).
Students may enter for these diplomas separately, together, or successively. Singly, the fee is three guineas; concurrently, the fee is four guineas.
The examinations are held by three professors, two from the college staff, not including the candidate's professor, and one completely from outside. The professor who has trained the candidate may not be present, but he gives beforehand an outline of the student's training and progress to the examiners.
Annual public examinations are held, taking the form of evening concerts, operatic recitals, instrumental work, etc. Musical evenings are held during the latter half of each term, to accustom the students to public performance.
The course of instruction does not occupy every day, nor the whole of any day. It usually occupies portions of four or five days in the week, but it can sometimes be compressed into two days. Moreover, the time-table of each day is arranged to suit the convenience of the many students who come long distances, and the time between classes may be spent in practice or study. The college hours are from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.
Many tickets for concerts are given by the College to its students. In addition, a college card gives the students half-price privileges at concerts, and in the purchase of music, etc. There is a flourishing club for old students, to which, in exceptional circumstances, present students are admitted.
Those who wish to take the university degrees, for which there are three examinations, should write to the faculty for full particulars.
There is a sustentation fund, which is applied to the reduction of fees of poor students. It is dependent on voluntary contributions and the generosity of the Brodsky quartette, and has rendered most valuable services to struggling and talented aspirants.
The University awards an exhibition 01 30 a year for two years to students passing successfully the first examination for the degree.
Further, the College has various scholarships and exhibitions. There are three scholarships of £30 a year for three years (equivalent to the three years' course of study free), but the period may be lengthened or shortened at the discretion of the council. Two are for candidates of either sex, and one for female students only. Two of them are for candidates not already studying at the college, and the third requires one year's previous study there.
In addition, there are two Lancashire County Scholarships of 60 a year each, two Cheshire County Scholarships (30 a year), an exhibition for students of the violin or 'cello, and an exhibition in organ playing. There are also two gold medals - one for singing, one for piano.
Thus in its wide sphere of usefulness does the Royal Manchester College of Music amply justify its existence in the busy yet art-loving North.