As the oldest and largest non-profit independent music school in the state, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music's mission is to provide the finest musical education and performance opportunities not only for the aspiring professional performer but also for all individuals who desire a means of cultural enrichment and self-fulfillment.
The Conservatory seeks to provide a continuum of learning for our students. The pathway begins with Early Childhood music and continues through Discoveries classes, Classes for Kids and then on to individual instruction, chamber groups, ensembles, and camps. The beauty of music is that you can begin the journey at any time. The pathway has numerous entry points for all ages.
Whether you are a parent looking to introduce your child to music or an adult wanting to realize your dream of playing your favorite instrument, the Conservatory will be able to provide a rich and fulfilling experience for you to create a lifetime of enjoyment.
Celebrating 113 years of musical excellence, the Conservatory of Music has descended from several Milwaukee music institutions, each representing a long-standing commitment to the finest in music education and performance. Organizations such as the Milwaukee Institute of Music, the Luening Conservatory of Music (founded by Eugene Luening, father of renowned composer Otto Luening) and the Wisconsin College of Music were founded in the late 19th C. In 1899 the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music was formed by William Boeppler, Hugo Kaun and Dr. Louis Frank to be a “centre of musical education not only for this city, but also for the state and the entire Midwest.” The founders’ lofty goal was to create “a real musical atmosphere…which is the first essential element for perfecting the musical culture of the community at large.” The Conservatory was located in the Ethical building on Jefferson Street, between State and Juneau. At that time the Conservatory offered classes and lessons for children and college students, and boasted a faculty performance series, master classes, scholarships and financial aid, as well as a music library intended to “be both educational and entertaining.”
In 1901, the management of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the Wisconsin College of Music joined forces to form the United Wisconsin Conservatories, a short-lived and contentious combination. The schools would split in 1904 and both continued to flourish independently. In the 1950s and 60s, both schools found themselves struggling and a merger took place in 1968. For a brief time the school was called the Wisconsin College-Conservatory of Music, which was changed in 1971 to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. The Conservatory continued to maintain the standards set by its founders, serving college-aged and community students of all ages. In 1985 the College Division was discontinued and the Conservatory became a true “community music school.”
Always a forerunner in creative programming (lessons were taught in banjo, mandolin and zither in addition to piano, organ, voice, and other band and orchestral instruments at the first Conservatory), the organization became one of the first colleges to offer a degree program in Jazz. The Jazz program was accredited in 1971 and flourished under the leadership of the legendary Tony King. The jazz program remains one of the hallmarks of the Conservatory’s programming today.
In the 21st C. the Conservatory continues its fine tradition of faculty concerts, holding 35 – 40 concerts each year and serving as home to three outstanding resident ensembles (Prometheus Trio, Philomusica Quartet and We Six). In addition, its commitment to a full continuum of education is manifested by its age-appropriate early childhood music program, Discoveries and Kids classes as well as a full roster of faculty members teaching beginning, intermediate and advanced students of all ages. Instruction is available in classical, jazz, rock, bluegrass, and folk styles.
History of 1584 N. Prospect Avenue
In 1903, industrialist Charles McIntosh purchased the Prospect Avenue bluff property and razed the home that had been there to build a neo-classic, eclectic-style mansion at a princely sum. Chicago architect H.R. Wilson designed the home using the finest materials available and it took 15 months to build before McIntosh and his wife and two children moved into the home. Mr. McIntosh died in 1911 and in 1921, his wife sold the mansion to William Osborne Goodrich, a linseed oil heir who was married to Marie Best Pabst, the oldest daughter of “beer baron” Captain Frederick Pabst. Goodrich was a talented singer and at the age of 30 went to Europe to study voice.
In 1932, the Goodrich family moved to their new home in the “country” (Fox Point) and leased the home to the Wisconsin College of Music. Upon Mrs. Goodrich’s death, the family sold the building to the College.
The following description of the building first appeared in The Evening Wisconsin in 1904:
“The seven-bay, three-story exterior of the building features a circular driveway, dark red Galesburg paving brink, a monumental four-column Corinthian portico, Michigan raindrop brownstone trim with copper cornices and a tile roof. The portico shelters the fully glazed, double entrance doors, which are surmounted by a wrought iron, railed balcony supported on brownstone consoles. Some of the windows have curved glass to accentuate the curved bay windows in the first-floor dining room and the second-floor bedroom.”
The 22,000 square foot home, with 10 fireplaces and 13 bedrooms, was fully renovated in 1999-2000 in honor of the Conservatory’s 100th Anniversary.