History



To learn more about important milestones in the Conservatory's history, launch the interactive timeline and view videos on the history of the Dance, Music, and Theater divisions.

In 1866, Boston newspapers advertised the opening of the new "Boston Conservatory of Music" in the heart of the city. Located across from the Boston Common, the school would usher in a new era of music education in Boston, rooted in the vision of its founder, Julius Eichberg.

Trained in the European conservatory tradition, Eichberg believed that superior music education is achieved by building strong connections with students, and that all students—regardless of gender or race—should have the opportunity to excel. After founding the Conservatory, Eichberg quickly enacted this vision, forming the first-ever all-female string quartet: the Eichberg Quartet.

The Conservatory flourished during the latter half of the 19th century, until Eichberg's death, when leadership changes led to years of financial uncertainty. It was not until 1920, when Agide Jacchia—then conductor of the Boston Pops—realized that the school's legacy was worth preserving. With his Boston Symphony Orchestra connections, Jacchia revitalized the Conservatory by establishing the country's first-ever department of grand opera and hiring the city's best musicians as faculty to shape the next generation of performing artists and entrepreneurs. One such alumnus from that time was Albert Alphin, who would go on to change the entire course of Conservatory history.

Following his graduation from the Conservatory, Alphin recognized Boston as a hub for music education, and established his own collective studio for music instruction, the National Associated Studios of Music (NASM). While Alphin's business flourished, Jacchia's death in 1932 brought on another period of uncertainty for Boston Conservatory. Alphin, fearing the collapse of his alma mater, stepped in as president and amalgamated NASM with the Conservatory to keep it running.

While Alphin's leadership upheld Eichberg's principles of building strong student connections, his vision of performing arts education went beyond classical music instruction. Soon after assuming a leadership role, Alphin brought in Harlan F. Grant to establish a theater program and, in 1943, Alphin persuaded renowned modern dancer Jan Veen to merge his burgeoning dance studio with the Conservatory. Thus, Boston Conservatory became the area's premier performing arts institution, and was the first conservatory to grant undergraduate degrees in all three major arts disciplines: dance, music, and theater.

Under the recent leadership of William Seymour and Richard Ortner, the student body expanded, while maintaining the feel of a small community, and the Conservatory solidified its status as a leading institution in performing arts education. Today, Boston Conservatory at Berklee remains a community where students can perform, collaborate, learn, and excel. 

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