From the Archives: A Celebration of 120 Years of Jordan Hall

October 20, 2023 marks the 120th anniversary of New England Conservatory's beloved Jordan Hall. Since its opening, Jordan Hall has been central to musical life in Boston, hosting an estimated 25,000 performances, including appearances by virtually every prominent classical musician of the past century. 

The following photo essay highlights notable figures, performances, and visiting artists in Jordan Hall's history from its opening in 1903 to today. 

1903: Eben D. Jordan

Jordan Hall opened on October 20, 1903 as a gift of Eben D. Jordan II, a Conservatory trustee. It was built at a construction cost of $120,000. 

Eben Jordan

1903: News of Jordan Hall Spreads 

After its opening, newspaper accounts deemed Jordan Hall "unequaled the world over.” The Boston Globe ran the following article reporting that the hall was "a place of entertainment that European musicians who were present that evening say excels in beauty anything of the kind they ever saw."

Boston Globe JH
Boston Globe JH 2

1903: Jordan Hall's Inaugural Concert

The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the following program at Jordan Hall's Inaugural Concert on October 20, 1903.

Jordan Hall Inaugural Concert

1906: Commencement Concert Featuring Florence Price

NEC's 1906 Commencement Concert featured NEC alumna Florence Price (then Florence Beatrice Smith) performing the first movement of her teacher Henry Dunham's Sonata in G minor for organ.  

1906 Commencement Concert

1938: Nadia Boulanger

Renowned French music teacher and conductor Nadia Boulanger works with a group of NEC students in March of 1938.

Nadia Boulanger

1954: "Concert of Music from the Americas" Featuring Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King, an NEC alumna who graduated in 1954, performed the chamber work Motivos de Son by Amadeo Roldán (1900-1939) at a March 1953 performance in Jordan Hall called “Concert of Music from the Americas.” This ws the first-ever Boston performance of the piece. Below is the concert program.

Concert of Music of the Americas

1956: Early NEC Prep Program

New England Conservatory's Preparatory School was founded in 1950. This program is for a 1956 Preparatory Department performance in Jordan Hall.

Prep School Program 1956

1965: Aaron Copland

Iconic American composer Aaron Copland guest conducted a concert with the NEC Chorus led by Lorna Cooke deVaron in March 1965.

Aaron Copland

1972: Milton Babbitt

American composer and music theorist Milton Babbitt was NEC’s Commencement Speaker and the recipient of an Honorary degree in 1972.

Milton Babbitt

1973: Jaki Byard

Jaki Byard conducts students Edwin Schuller ’76, Ross Bauer ’75, Lance Van Lenten ’70, and Alan Pasqua ’75 during a Jordan Hall performance. Byard was a highly influential jazz pianist and multi-instrumentalist, and a cornerstone of the original Afro-American Music and Jazz Studies Department founded in 1969 at NEC by Carl Atkins and Gunther Schuller.

Jaki Byard

1986: Homage to Olivier Messiaen

Great French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen interacts with students at a Contemporary Ensemble concert entitled Homage to Olivier Messiaen in April 1986.

Olivier Messiaen

1987: Mstislav Rostropovich

Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich conducted NEC’s Symphony Orchestra during a 1987 performance in Jordan Hall.

Mstislav Rostropovich

1990: John Heiss Conducts NEC Symphony

Beloved NEC faculty member John Heiss conducted the NEC Symphony Orchestra in the 1990 concert “Over There and Back Here.” This concert was part of a festival called The Magic Years, 1900 to 1915. The performance featured works by Ives, Berg, and Stravinsky.

John Heiss

1991: A Festival Around John Cage

Composer John Cage instructs students in Jordan Hall during “Instantaneous and Unpredictable: A Festival Around John Cage” in March 1991.

John Cage

1992: George Russell Premieres Time Line

Jazz icon and former NEC faculty member George Russell conducted the premiere of his piece Time Line, performed by the NEC Big Band at the “Music from the Source” festival in March 1992.

George Russell

1993: György Ligeti Coaches the Borromeo String Quartet

György Ligeti instructed the Borromeo String Quartet in 1993. One of the most sought-after string quartets in the world, the Borromeo Quartet has been in residence at New England Conservatory since 1992.

Ligeti with Borromeo String Quartet

1995: Jordan Hall's Restoration

Following its declaration as a National Historic Landmark in 1994, Jordan Hall underwent a major restoration in May-October 1995. It has since 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.

Jordan Hall Restoration

1997: Aretha Franklin

Legendary singer and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music by NEC in 1997.

Aretha Franklin

1999: NEC Prep's 50th Anniversary

NEC Preparatory School celebrated its 50th anniversary in November 1999. Below, Prep students rehearse for the anniversary concert in Jordan Hall. 

Prep 50th

 2003: Jordan Hall's Centennial

NEC celebrated the 100th anniversary of Jordan Hall in 2003 with a series of celebratory concerts, including one with pianist and free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor.

Cecil Taylor

NEC Millennium Gospel Choir and director Calvin Hicks performed at the concert “Glorious Multitudes,” another concert celebrating Jordan Hall’s Centennial.

NEC Millennium Gospel Choir

Ran Blake, Ricky Ford, and Dominique Eade performed in the Best of Jazz concert, also part of the Jordan Hall Centennial celebration, in October 2003.

Ran Blake, Ricky Ford, and Dominique Eade

 2004: Coretta Scott King Delivers Commencement Address

Coretta Scott King '54, ’71 Hon. DM delivered NEC’s Commencement address in 2004. Mrs. King was also presented with an Outstanding Alumni Award at her 50th Reunion in May 2004.

Coretta Scott King

 2009: 40 Years of Jazz 

Gunther Schuller rehearsed his piece Rush Hour on 23rd Street with the NEC Jazz Orchestra ahead of the Jazz 40 Summit concert in October 2009. A composer, conductor, author, renowned horn player, and NEC's President from 1967-1977, Schuller is the most transformative figure in NEC's history. He formalized NEC’s commitment to jazz during his presidency by establishing the first degree-granting jazz program at a major classical conservatory.

Gunther Schuller

 2009: 25 Years of First Monday in Jordan Hall

Laurence Lesser created the much-loved First Monday in Jordan Hall concert series in 1984 and has directed the series ever since. A former NEC President, Lesser spearheaded the fundraising campaign to restore Jordan Hall in the 90s. In the photograph below, Lesser performs Mozart’s Quintet in G minor, K. 516, with Miriam Fried, David McCarroll, Roger Tapping, and Paul Biss at October 2009’s First Monday in Jordan Hall concert.

Laurence Lesser First Monday

 2014: An Evening in Valhalla

Renowned soprano and NEC faculty member Jane Eaglen and bass-baritone Greer Grimsley performed in An Evening at Valhalla in December 2014 with NEC Philharmonia. The performance was part of a Wagner Gala concert to benefit the new Student Life and Performance Center.

An Evening in Valhalla

 2016: Yo-Yo Ma Gives a Masterclass

Yo-Yo Ma worked with NEC students during a masterclass in October 2016.

Yo-Yo Ma

 2017: Lake Street Dive Celebrate NEC's 150th Birthday

NEC alumni Lake Street Dive returned to the Jordan Hall stage to kick off NEC’s 150th birthday celebration in February 2017. After meeting while students at NEC in the early 2000s, Lake Street Dive catapulted to stardom. The foursome—vocalist Rachael Price '07, trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson '05, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney '08 Tufts/NEC, and drummer Mike Calabrese '07—have filled major concert venues all over the country.

Lake Street Dive

 2022: Commencement Speaker James Taylor

Multiple GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor delivered the Commencement speech and received an honorary doctorate at NEC’s 151st Commencement in May 2022. In his speech, Taylor implored students to continue playing live music after the challenges and isolation of the post-pandemic years.

James Taylor

2023: NEC Opera Presents Mozart's The Magic Flute

In February 2023, Robert Tweten conducted NEC Opera students and members of NEC Philharmonia in two concert performances of Mozart's iconic opera The Magic Flute. Artist Diploma candidate Yeonjae Cho '24 AD gave a remarkable performance of the Queen of the Night aria that garnered over 13 million views across social media channels.