The New England Conservatory is the oldest independent music school in America. Founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee, it was chartered in 1882. Originally located off Tremont Street –- classes were held at what is now the Orpheum Theatre — the NEC moved to Franklin Square in the South End in 1870, then to 290 Huntington Avenue in 1902. The following year Jordan Hall opened at 30 Gainsborough Street, which to this day hosts 600 concerts a year, seats 1,000, and is considered one of Boston’s most acoustically perfect performance venues.
Academic highlights include the initial offering of the Master of Music degree, in 1933; the founding of the Preparatory School in 1950; and the opening of the Jazz Studies program in 1969 – faculty in latter program include pianist/saxophonist Jaki Byard.
A list of alumni could fill a telephone book, but a handful of famous alumni include pianist and free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor, Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist and co-founder Bernie Worrell, drummer and entrepreneur Vic Firth, and the members of popular indie/Americana act Lake Street Dive.
In 1994, the New England Conservatory was named a National Historic Landmark – the only American music school with such a designation. Always looking to the future, the NEC announced a campus expansion in 2012, its first in nearly fifty years.
(by Stephen Haag)