Musical Education

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Musical Education


the system of training professionals in music—composers, musicologists, educators, and performers, including singers, instrumentalists, and choral and orchestral conductors. Musical education originated in the countries of the ancient East, where music held an important place in court ceremonies, rituals, military parades and campaigns, and folk holidays. In ancient Greece the development of musical education reflected the high level of its musical culture.

In most European countries during the early Middle Ages musical education was associated mainly with the Christian Church. From the fourth century, the centers of musical education in Western Europe were choir schools attached to monasteries and cathedrals. Subsequently, musical training was given at universities (in Paris from 1200 and in Prague from 1348), which originally were under ecclesiastical authority.

In the 15th century music boarding schools, called maîtrises, were established in the Netherlands and France to train choirboys. Such outstanding practitioners of polyphonic music as Orlande de Lassus and Guillaume Dufay received their training at these schools. As courtly music and urban musical culture developed, there arose societies and schools of Meistersingers and guilds of instrumentalists. The pedagogical activity of itinerant music teachers also became important. From the Renaissance onward, the secular trend in music grew stronger, stimulating the training of professional instrumentalists and singers for court theaters and orchestras. The teaching activity of famous composers and theoreticians of music strongly influenced the evolution of schools of music and the development of musical education.

The 17th century saw a new stage in the history of musical education in Western Europe. In Italy, orphanages, known as conservatori, began to offer musical training. The first conservatories (the name was derived from the conservatori) founded as institutions of higher learning were those of Paris (1795) and Prague (1811). In the 19th century such conservatories were organized in many large cities in Europe and North America. In addition to institutions of higher musical training, music academies and private music schools and studios were also founded.

In ancient Rus’, the earliest centers of musical education were the schools of liturgical singing and the choirs (krylosy) that arose in the 11th century in Smolensk, Novgorod, Vladimir, and other cities. In later centuries, in addition to sacred music, there flourished folk music (composing and performing) and secular music, which became an essential part of the daily life of princes and boyars; considerable attention was also given to martial music.

In the second half of the 17th century, as interest grew in “foreign musical entertainments,” foreign organists and other musicians were invited to Russia to teach talented commoners and music lovers among the nobility to play various instruments and to sing. In the early 1670’s a court theater was established in Moscow, in which serfs belonging to the boyar A. S. Matveev performed. The performers were trained in the first school of music and theater in Russia, organized by Matveev in 1673. During the reign of Peter I, a large group of foreign musicians were brought in to play in military bands and to teach soldiers’ children and choristers to play various instruments. The choir of “his majesty’s choristers,” transferred from Moscow to St. Petersburg, played an important role in the musical life of the court. The growth of musical culture in the first half of the 18th century and the founding of court musical institutions (an opera theater, and a court band and orchestra) led to the organization of new forms of professional musical education, for example, the Instrumental Class in St. Petersburg and the choir school founded in Glukhov in 1741 to train singers for the court choir. In 1779 the first Russian specialized school of theatrical and musical art, the Theatrical School, was opened in St. Petersburg. At the end of the 18th century musical training was introduced in women’s educational institutions and in foundling hospitals. Music was also an important part of the curriculum in the School for the Nobility, Moscow University, the Smol’nyi Institute, and other educational institutions in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Several specialized music schools were founded in the first half of the 19th century, notably D. Kashin’s Music Class in Moscow. The first conservatories were established in the 1860’s: the St. Petersburg Conservatory was founded in 1862 and the Moscow Conservatory in 1866. In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th, music schools were organized under the auspices of branches of the imperial Russian Musical Society. In Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other cities, music schools open to the public, called people’s conservatories, were organized. One of the best known was the Free Music School, founded on the initiative of M. A. Balakirev and headed by him from 1862 until the early 1870’s and again from 1881 to 1908. The number of private music schools increased every year.

The development of musical education in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is associated with the Moscow and St. Petersburg conservatories, whose instructors included their founders A. G. Rubinstein (St. Petersburg) and N. G. Rubinstein (Moscow), as well as the eminent musicians P. I. Tchaikovsky, N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, A. K. Glazunov, A. K. Liadov, M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, S. I. Taneev, A. N. Scriabin, N. Ia. Miaskovskii, and B. V. Asaf ev.

During the Soviet period a state system of musical education has been created, comprising seven-year primary music schools, four-year music uchilishcha (schools) providing professionals with a secondary musical education, 11-year secondary specialized music schools affiliated with conservatories, and various five-year music institutions of higher learning—conservatories, teacher-training institutes, and institutes of the arts. The largest conservatories and institutes also offer graduate training and teaching assistantships.

In 1973 the USSR had about 7,000 primary music schools, 242 music uchilishcha, 36 secondary specialized music schools, and 30 music institutions of higher learning. More than 1 million students were enrolled in primary music schools; more than 105,000, in uchilishcha; about 14,000, in secondary specialized music schools; and 22,300, in music institutions of higher learning. In addition, 46 pedagogical institutes and 92 pedagogical schools were training teachers of music and singing for the general schools. Music schools have been opened in small towns and rural localities, as well as in large cities.

The primary music school aims to familiarize children with music, to teach them to play an instrument, to provide instruction in elementary musical theory, to develop the pupils’ sense of pitch, and to prepare pupils for later professional training. The most capable students who wish to continue their musical education may enroll in music uchilishcha. Musically gifted children are taught at the secondary specialized music schools affiliated with music institutions of higher learning. The music uchilishcha train pianists; instrumentalists for symphonic and folk orchestras; choral singers; music-school teachers specializing in piano, orchestral instruments, music theory and solfege, or choral singing; and music instructors for the general schools and amateur musical activities. The most gifted graduates of the uchilishcha compete to enter conservatories and institutes. Musical institutions of higher learning train the most highly qualified professionals in all fields of musical education: composers, musicologists, performers, and teachers of various subjects in music uchilishcha and secondary music schools.

The curricula of the secondary and particularly the higher musical educational institutions are designed to provide students with a broad general education and theoretical musical training, a profound understanding of Russian, Soviet, and foreign music, and professional mastery.

A significant contribution to the development of Soviet musical education has been made by the Moscow Conservatory, the Leningrad Conservatory, the Kiev Conservatory, and Gnesin’s Music Pedagogic Institute. Higher music schools have been founded in every Union republic during the Soviet period. Among the leading figures in Soviet musical culture are M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, A. F. Gedike, A. B. Gol’denveizer, K. N. Igumnov, B. V. Asaf ev, L. V. Nikolaev, N. Ia. Miaskovskii, S. M. Kozolupov, G. G. Neigauz, S. E. Feinberg, V. V. Sofronitskii, I. V. Sposobin, Iu. A. Shaporin, V. Ia. Shebalin, F. M. Blumenfel’d, R. I. Gruber, S. S. Bogatyrev, A. I. Iampol’-skii, M. I. Tabakov, U. Gadzhibekov, Z. P. Paliashvili, A. A. Spendiarov, D. D. Shostakovich, and D. B. Kabalevskii.

A network of institutions of general musical education has been created for the musical-aesthetic education of the Soviet people, including schools of general musical education, children’s philharmonics and choral studios, and people’s universities, as well as various amateur performing groups associated with extracurricular organizations and clubs. Music is included in the curriculum of grades 1 through 8 of secondary general schools.

The major centers of musical education in the socialist countries are Berlin, Leipzig, Budapest, Bucharest, Warsaw, Prague, and Sofia. In capitalist countries the best music schools are in Boston, New York, Vienna, Cologne, London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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