Since New England Conservatory's founding in 1867, the school and its musicians have played a major role in the musical life of Boston, the nation, and the world. Here are some milestones from NEC's history, representing the the traditions and values that continue to shape our future and the future of music.


Boston Music HallNew England Conservatory founded
Eben Tourjée founds one of America’s first conservatories, making it possible for Americans to pursue excellence in music in this country rather than in Europe. Classes are held at the Boston Music Hall in downtown Boston, currently the site of the Orpheum Theatre.


Peace Jubilees
At the conclusion of the Civil War, Tourjée introduces large-scale public concerts on the Boston Common, in an effort to expand the audience for music and musical education. By 1872, the event has expanded to include a chorus of 20,000.


Music Teachers National Association founded
As followup to organizing the National Music Congress, where uniform standards for musical education in America were developed (1869), Tourjée is elected first president of the Music Teachers National Association.


NEC in Asia
Serving as governmental supervisor to newly opened Japan, Luther Mason introduces Western music in 30,000 schools, based on courses he introduced in the U.S. in 1874. The Japanese still call his method “Mason-Song.” East Asia gradually emerges as an important source of students, with Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan among the most significant contributors to NEC's international enrollment.


Boston Symphony Orchestra founded
Seeking to make the Boston Symphony Orchestra a world-class ensemble, founder Henry Higginson turns to the NEC faculty for 19 of his section leaders.

Find more on the NEC/BSO connection.


NEC chartered


NEC Symphony Orchestra
Conservatory director George W. Chadwick creates an ensemble designed to prepare young musicians for professional orchestra careers, and that offers Boston concertgoers affordable, quality concerts of major repertoire, contemporary works, and premieres. Today NEC's orchestra program is led by Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras Hugh Wolff, and encompasses three full orchestras, a chamber orchestra, and wind ensembles at the College level. The Preparatory School orchestra program offers a six-tier system as well as four chamber orchestras and wind ensembles.

NEC School of Opera
The Conservatory forms an opera department under the direction of Oreste Bimboni. Key figures in opera instruction since that time have been Boris Goldovsky, John Moriarty, John Greer, and current program directors Luretta Bybee and Stephen Lord.


NEC’s Jordan Hall opened
A year after NEC's move from its Franklin Square campus to the 290 Huntington Avenue building, built to meet the specialized needs of musical education, Jordan Hall astounds its first audiences with its beauty and superb acoustics. A gift of trustee Eben D. Jordan, 2nd, the hall serves music lovers with free concerts by NEC ensembles and soloists, in addition to functioning as a presenting venue for the world's top touring artists.

Explore free concerts at NEC's Jordan Hall.


Boston Opera Company
NEC provides the manager, conductors, solo artists, orchestral players, chorus, library, and rehearsal space for this early endeavor to satisfy Boston's opera lovers. The principal companies filling that need nowadays are Opera Boston and Boston Lyric Opera.


Master of Music program
NEC’s commitment to professional levels of performance and research is marked by the introduction of its Master of Music program. While at first only a handful of students enter this program each year, it will become one of NEC’s most popular programs: today close to half the student body is made up of master’s candidates.


NEC Preparatory School
“Music for Children” program—now the Preparatory School—is founded by Frances Brockman Lanier and Virginia Bacon.


Accreditation for NEC
The Conservatory is admitted into the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. With a swell in enrollment due in part to the GI Bill, the academically based bachelor's and master's degrees have greatly outstripped the performance diplomas in popularity. NEASC reviews accreditation on a ten-year cycle, with NEC's reaccreditation process taking place in 2009.


100th Anniversary of New England Conservatory
Inauguration of new president Gunther Schuller is tied to NEC’s centennial, including a symposium on “The Conservatory Redefined.”


NEC Jazz Studies Department established
Conservatory president Gunther Schuller makes NEC the first major conservatory in this country with a fully accredited jazz studies program.


Third Stream Studies Department established
Under pianist Ran Blake, students in this department (now called Contemporary Improvisation) synthesize diverse musical traditions to conceive music aurally. The program is currently led by Hankus Netsky, an NEC alumnus.


NEC/Tufts University double-degree program established
A combined program of study leads to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from Tufts University and a Bachelor of Music degree from NEC.


NEC and Walnut Hill
NEC at Walnut Hill School Program established for resident students, grades 8–12. Walnut Hill students take music lessons at NEC and participate in ensembles.


“Making Music Together”
NEC and Moscow State Conservatory collaborate for the era’s largest cultural exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.: festivals set in Boston and Moscow.


Restoration of NEC’s Jordan Hall
At the close of cellist Laurence Lesser's almost 15-year presidency, a year after receiving a National Historic Landmark designation (along with NEC itself), and as the capstone of NEC’s first major fundraising campaign, the $8.2 million restoration of Jordan Hall is completed to resounding acclaim.

Doctor of Musical Arts program
First students graduate in NEC’s Doctor of Musical Arts program.


“From the Top” radio show launch
Now heard nationwide on more than two hundred stations, From the Top, a talent show for young classical musicians, begins weekly broadcasts hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley ’81 A.D., with NEC as the program’s home and educational partner.


Professional String Quartet Training Program launch
As new president Daniel Steiner prioritizes enhancements to NEC's strings and chamber music programs, NEC launches Professional String Quartet Training Program under the leadership of cellist Paul Katz. A year later the Professional Piano Trio Training Program is launched under the leadership of pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein.


Youth Orchestra of the Americas forms
Under the guidance and sponsorship of NEC, Youth Orchestra of the Americas forms. It is the first youth orchestra to bridge together North, South and Central America through youth, musical education and cultural interaction. NEC hosts rehearsals and the inaugural performance.


Jordan Hall Centennial
NEC enters a new century of Jordan Hall concerts with a weekend of musical celebrations, as well as the public launch of its unprecedented $100 million "Gift of Music" capital campaign to boost student scholarships, increase faculty support, and launch a facilities upgrade.


Harvard/NEC double-degree program admits first students
Six students are accepted to a new five-year program that results in a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a Master of Music degree from NEC. This unique program is an initiative of NEC President Daniel Steiner, who for many years was a Harvard vice-president.


Tony Woodcock assumes NEC presidency
Woodcock is a violinist and orchestra administrator who makes NEC's program of orchestral studies one of his first priorities, recruiting Hugh Wolff to lead the large ensemble program and relaunch the graduate program in orchestral conducting.