The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music provides musical experiences to students from age four months through senior citizen, both amateur and professional. Our work to develop creative, artistic individuals enhances life in southeastern Wisconsin by providing exceptional performances and nurturing generations of innovative, inspired and visionary citizens. The Conservatory strives to provide an environment in which individual students can thrive and grow. The Conservatory is committed to tailoring each student’s instruction to his/her individual needs, abilities, interests and learning styles. Faculty members are encouraged to work carefully with students to guide them to achieve their goals at a pace that is appropriate for them. The philosophy which guides the Conservatory’s mission is:

  • To maintain the excellence of music education and performance opportunities for all of its clientele as the norm for all decisions regarding policy, programs, finance and general operations.
  • To respect, support and facilitate the instructional endeavors of its faculty who are the heart of the institution.
  • To clearly demonstrate, through open communication and action, the administrative responsibility to develop its faculty and enhance the professional bonds among the staff, faculty and administration.


The mission of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is to provide the finest musical education to the aspiring professional performer as well as to children and adults who desire cultural enrichment or musical self-fulfillment.


Celebrating over a century 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 Century.

In 1899, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music was formed by William Boeppler, Hugo Kaun and Dr. Louis Frank to be a “center 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 1994, Conservatory Connections was established to meet the increasing demand for music programs provided directly to schools, child daycare centers, senior citizen facilities, and community organizations. The program has expanded to include over 70 community partners in 2016-17, serving over 9,000 individuals throughout southeast Wisconsin.

In the 21st Century, the Conservatory remains committed to full continuum of music education for every age and every skill level. With over 90 teaching artists to provide expert individual, group, and class instruction, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music continues the tradition established in 1899 of providing the finest music education to the people of southeast Wisconsin.

Mansion photo

McIntosh|Goodrich Mansion

The first building on the bluff overlooking Lack Michigan at 1584 N. Prospect Avenue was a large brick residence of Robert C. Spencer, the founder of Spencerian Business College. In 1903, industrialist Charles L. McIntosh bought the lot for $57,500. He razed the Spencer home and built the present Neo-Classic, eclectic-style mansion at a cost of $140,000, a pricey sum in those days. To design the home, McIntosh hired Chicago architect H.R. Wilson. The finest and most expensive materials available were used to create the home in what was then called the “Colonial” style, but is now more accurately described as “Neo-Classical” style. Construction took 15 months. Macintosh and his wife, Effie, shared the home with their son and daughter. In 1921, ten years after McIntosh’s death, his widow sold the mansion to William Osborne Goodrich, a linseed oil heir who had married Marie Best Pabst, the oldest daughter of “beer baron” Captian Frederick Pabst. Goodrich, known in Milwaukee as a talented singer and devoted music patron, worked in his family business until age 30, when he went to Europe to study voice. In 1932 when the Goodrich family moved to a new home in Fox Point, they leased the mansion to the Wisconsin College of Music free of charge until 1948, when, upon the death of Goodrich’s widow, the school purchased the building for $50,000. Upon a recommendation by Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission, the building was declared a historic landmark by the City of Milwaukee Common Council on December 20, 1985. Although few original drawings, plans or elevations can be located, a 1904 newspaper article from The Evening Wisconsin gives an excellent description of this impressive structure:

The seven-bay, three-story exterior of the building features a circular driveway, dark red Galesburg paving brick, 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 master bedroom.

Several other features add to the magnificence of this building:

  • 13 bedrooms, including servants’ rooms at the rear of the second-floor and guest suites on the second and third-floors.
  • A billiard room, German Room, two wine cellars, laundry room and various storerooms in the lower level.
  • Over 22,000 square-foot interior with 10 handsome fireplaces, each unique, and some trimmed in mahogany, tile or marble.
  • Many gold plated fixtures and hand painted or gilded ceilings.
  • Floors of solid oak, with a finished top surface of 7/8-inch, quarter-sawn oak specially kiln treated with ammonia
  • A spectacular 55′ x 30′ music room and ballroom (now serving as the Conservatory’s Helen Bader Recital Hall), with stained glass Tiffany windows, gilt French rococo hardware, domed ceilings, large bay windows and many crystal chandeliers and wall sconces.
  • A library, finished in Circassian walnut, with a jade-tile fireplace mantel
  • The dining room, which faces the lake, and features hand-painted leather wallpaper, curved-glass windows, mahogany panelling and a parquet floor.
  • A grand mahogany-and-enamel staircase which pauses on a wide landing illuminated by a stained glass Tiffany window, made by the Louis Tiffany Studio in New York.

To ensure that the mansion will continue to serve musicians and the community-at-large for years to come, the Conservatory completed a $5.2 million Capital Campaign in conjunction with the school’s 100th anniversary  in 1999. Its aim: total renovation of the McIntosh|Goodrich Mansion. Some of the campaign funds were used to create additional teaching and performance space and to expand and preserve the music library collection.


  • Over 30,000 hours of student instruction per year
  • Branches in Bayside, Brookfield & Downtown
  • 50 in- and after-school programs
  • More than 8,500 students served in community programs
  • Private lessons on all instruments and voice
  • Thousands of dollars of scholarships and financial aid
  • Programs for youth, adults and seniors


  • Highly accomplished faculty members who are vetted for their educational as well as musical artistry
  • The acoustically superb Helen Bader Recital Hall
  • All styles of music, from classical to jazz, gospel, contemporary/popular and sacred
  • Customized individual instruction based on age, level and learning style
  • Group classes and ensembles for children, teens and adults
  • The finest pianos for rehersal and performance
  • Over 37,000 books, scores, CDs and DVDs
  • Free student use of available practice rooms
  • Scholarships and Financial aid

Comments are closed