Musical beginnings at the UW: The early years (1862-1962)
Musical instruction has been an important part of the offerings at the University of Washington since 1862, when piano instruction was first offered just one year after the territorial university first opened its doors 150 years ago. By 1888 a Conservatory of Music had been organized within the university, and two years later, the university newspaper announced, “The Conservatory of Music has been enlarged and students now have the opportunity of taking lessons in violin, mandolin, and guitar from Prof. J.F. Langer.” Lessons in piano, pipe organ and singing were also offered by 1891 by a faculty of at least four.
The first University orchestra was formed by student violinist Aubrey Levy, a scion of Seattle’s Cooper-Levy family, which amassed considerable fortune outfitting prospectors during the Alaska Gold Rush before selling the family retail operation in the early 1900s to the Bon Marche. The first orchestra was an eight-piece ensemble featuring a double bell euphonium, a turn-of-the-century cornet, a French horn, percussion, piano, and two violins.
The UW’s 1900 Tyee Book praised the fledgling organization, stating, “There is perhaps no organization of which the University is more proud that the orchestra. It is safe to say that it has done more to advance student interests and college spirit than any other organization in the institution.”
By 1904, Charles Kimball had been appointed Director of Music, a post he held until 1911. His specialties included orchestra, chorus, glee club, band, and music history. A photo of the Music Building and faculty from 1909 pictures Kimball along with faculty members Mrs. Ada Billing, harmony; Albert Cleveland, trumpet; Grace Zimmerman, piano; Moritz Rosen, violin; Frederick Beale, piano and organ; and Charles Case, voice.
By 1910-11 there were nine music faculty at the University, and in 1911 an official Department of Music was added to the University and a Bachelor of Music degree approved by the Regents. That year also saw the arrival of Irving Mackey Glen, who established a College of Fine Arts and served as its dean, which included overseeing the music program, until his death in 1931.
Frances Dickey became Director of Music in 1931 and served in that capacity until 1939. This period also saw the establishment of the School of Music (1935), which coincided with the merging of the College of Fine Arts and the College of Sciences into the College of Arts and Sciences. After Dickey’s death in 1939, Carle Paige Woods, a member of the Music faculty since 1918, became the next director, serving until his death in 1947.
The appointment of Stanley Chapple as Director in 1948 signaled a new era for the School of Music and the beginning of the School in its modern form. A passionate spokesperson for music and a highly respected conductor, his accomplishments during his long period of leadership (1948 to 1962) included establishing the opera program at UW and indeed, bringing opera in a significant sense to Seattle.