Happy Birthday, New England Conservatory!

February 18 marks New England Conservatory's 156th birthday! For over one and a half centuries, thousands of the world's finest musicians have performed, studied, and taught here at NEC. To commemorate this special occasion, embark with us on a walk down memory lane.

Eben Tourjée (1867)

Eben Tourjée, a choral conductor, organist, and music educator, founded NEC in 1867.

Eben Tourjee

Opening Night (1867)

Attendees received this flier on NEC's opening night—February 18, 1867. 

NEC's Opening Night Flier

NEC's First Home (1867-1882)

Boston Music Hall—now the Orpheum Theater—was NEC’s first home, from 1867-1882.

Boston Music Hall

Graduation of Rachel M. Washington (1872)

Rachel M. Washington was most likely the first African American to graduate from NEC. She majored in voice. Below is the Commencement program listing Rachel's name. 

Commencement Rachel

NEC's Second Home (1882-1902)

NEC’s second home, from 1882-1902, was the former St. James Hotel in Franklin Square at 11 East Newton Street. The building, now made up of apartments, is still there today!

Second Home

50th Anniversary (1917)

NEC's 50th Anniversary concert attendees enjoyed a program of Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven. 

50th Anniversary Concert

Founders Day Picnic (Early 1900s)

Faculty members with spouses and NEC alums gathered for a Founders Day Picnic in the early 1900s. Instead of holding the picnic on NEC's birthday, it was held annually on June 1st, the birthday of Eben Tourjée.

Founder's Day Picnic

Image caption: Founder's Day Picnic
1. Mrs D. S. Blanpied, 2. Mrs. Emil Mahr, 3. Mrs. Louis C. Elson, 4. Miss E. I. Samuel, 5. Henry M. Dunham, 6. Mrs. Crumley, 7. Mrs. Henry M. Dunham, 8. Miss Estelle Burgheim, 9. Miss Clara Woltmann, 10. Miss Pauline Woltmann, 11. Dr. Eliza B. Cahill, 12. Miss Martha Perkins, 13. Miss Sarah Perkins, 14. Miss Violin Michels, 15. Mrs. Charles A. White, 16. George W. Chadwick, 17. J. C. D. Parker, 18. Benjamin Cutter, 19. F. Addison Porter, 20. Dr. J. Albert Jeffery, 21. Louis C. Elson, 22. Charles A. White, 23. David S. Blanpied, 24. Emil Mahr, 25. Henry C. Lahee 

33 Gainsborough (1960)

NEC Trustees laid the cornerstone for 33 Gainsborough, which opened in 1960. At that time, the building was home to NEC's library, cafeteria, and dorms. 

33 Gainsborough

Celebrating NEC's Centennial (1967)

NEC's Centennial took place in 1967, and celebrations were held in conjunction with the inauguration of Gunther Schuller as NEC’s President.  

NEC's Centennial

The day of the Centennial concert, November 15, an early snowstorm hit Boston and caused quite the traffic jam. But the show must go on—the concert went on as scheduled and was well attended! 

Snow storm

The Birth of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Musical Arts at NEC (1969 and 1972)

In 1969, NEC launched the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory, with saxophonist Carl Atkins as the founding chair. First called the Afro-American Music and Jazz Studies Department, now called Jazz Studies, the department was born from the conviction that jazz was as important, nuanced, and worthy of study as European classical music. Pictured below is Jaki Byard, one of the cornerstones of the department.

Jaki Byard

In 1972, the Third Stream Department was founded by Gunther Schuller and current NEC faculty member Ran Blake, with Blake as its inaugural chair. Later called Contemporary Improvisation (CI) and now Contemporary Musical Arts (CMA), the department began by celebrating the fusion of European classical and American jazz traditions, and later expanded to embrace the richness of global musical traditions beyond these two. Schuller is pictured below.

Gunther Schuller

Construction of the Student Life and Performance Center (2015)

A jazz trio performed in the partially constructed Student Life and Performance Center (SLPC) in May 2015. 

Jazz Trio

The SLPC Opens (2017)

The SLPC opened in September 2017, marked by a celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony. Mayor Marty Walsh, student representative Darynn Dean '19, Board Chair Kennett F. Burnes, and Interim President Thomas Novak joined to cut the ribbon.

Ribbon Cutting
Darynn Dean

We are grateful for all members of the NEC community, past and present, who have contributed to our joyful, music-filled history!

Jordan Hall

Please help us celebrate NEC's birthday by making a gift to The NEC Fund!