Tools of the Trade

As an educational institution, teaching and learning are at the heart of music-making at the University of Melbourne. Music was included alongside Arts, Medicine, Law and Philosophy in the disciplines in which degrees could be offered when the University was founded in 1855.

In the 1880s, a gift of £20,000 gift from the grazier and philanthropist Francis Ormond allowed the University’s first endowed Chair, the Ormond Professorship of Music, to be established. The Conservatorium of Music opened as part of the University in 1895.

In its early days, the Conservatorium offered the unique combination of a practical musical education within an academic university environment in its first degrees—a Bachelor of Music, Diploma of Music, and Doctor of Music—on a model that was at the time little-known elsewhere in the English-speaking world. Many music students throughout the history of music training at the University, go on to become music teachers themselves. In the late 1930s, the Conservatorium established a Council for Music in Schools bringing together musicians who were broadly interested in music education, and in the following decade introduced both a Certificate for Music in Schools and a Degree in Music Education. Music Education became a focus at the University across the 1970s and 80s, further helped by the amalgamation with the Music Department in the State College (the Melbourne Teachers’ College).

Teaching, learning, and researching music uses and produces lots of material, from the tools and instruments that assist instrumental practice, to the archival materials, documents, and books the facilitate musicological research at higher degree levels. These objects are always evolving: for current students, centuries old sheet music is used alongside digital scores read from iPads, while metal tuning forks and mechanical metronomes become tuning and time-keeping apps.

One of the greatest musical resources at the University is the Music Library. Now a collection of considerable international importance, its lending materials of scores, books, and recordings are complemented with an expansive collection of scholarly literature, rare recordings of both Western and Indigenous musics, historically significant illuminated manuscripts, composer manuscripts, and an extensive set of concert programmes. The function of the Library has changed many times across its history, notably and primarily supporting the University Symphony Orchestra through the 1920s, but at the establishment of the Faculty of Music in 1926 growing to become a major research collection


Grainger Museum · ‘Barcarola’ from The Dalmatian 2019

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