Dr. Peter Simon, Michael and Sonja Koerner President & CEO
Dr. Peter Simon was appointed President of The Royal Conservatory in September 1991, a time when the venerable Canadian institution founded in 1886 was re-emerging as an independent entity and faced substantial financial, operational and program challenges.
Since that time Dr. Simon has led a dynamic transformation of the programs and facilities of The Royal Conservatory resulting in a dramatic expansion of the number of participants, earned and donated revenues, endowment funds, and scholarship support for students. Today, the broad array of RCM programs and educational services reaches 500,000 people annually.
When first appointed, Dr. Simon sought to create a climate in Canada in which the arts were broadly recognized as an important means of furthering the personal, intellectual, and social development of all people. He firmly believed that the arts were the best means available to foster creativity and innovative thinking in all areas of endeavour, and that this made them an indispensable element in the future social and fiscal success of our nation. Ultimately, he sought to promote a society in Canada in which the arts were a central part of the daily lives of all people and viewed as an integral element of a fulfilled life.
As a result, in 1991, the mission of The Royal Conservatory became to develop human potential through music and the arts. Through this expanded mission, Dr. Simon initiated a series of steps which would re-define the role of a Conservatory in society, one which offered the highest levels of excellence in performance and instrumental training but also developed, distributed, and offered a wide range of arts-based programs which fostered human development.
Over the past decade, The Royal Conservatory has set in motion a series of far-reaching and evolutionary changes in the role of arts organizations and their ability to affect society.
In 1994, Dr. Simon launched Learning Through The Arts® (LTTA), a new division of the RCM. This ambitious educational initiative sought to put the arts at the centre of public education and create a systematic means by which teachers could use arts-based techniques to instruct the core curriculum and enhance the academic, social, and emotional growth of students. Since its inception, more than 300,000 students in over 300 schools and communities have benefitted from this program. A 2002 national study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University found that students in the LTTA program scored 11 percentile points higher in mathematics test scores than peers in non LTTA Schools. LTTA programs have been developed for areas with high concentrations of indigenous peoples and was also implemented in several international settings including Germany and Sweden. In 2013, through the support of the Prince’s Charities of Canada and HRH The Prince of Wales (now HRH King Charles III), LTTA techniques were introduced in the UK. In 2015, an LTTA project in Fort McMurray led to substantial provincial test score gains especially by Indigenous students. More than 45 studies on the effects of the LTTA program have shown quantifiable benefits to students, teachers, principals, and LTTA Artist-Educators. Most recently, LTTA has focused on the development of arts-based digital tools for use in schools.
In 1997, Dr. Simon launched The Glenn Gould School – a highly focused performance training entity in Canada for exceptionally gifted musicians. Named in honour of The Royal Conservatory’s most acclaimed alumnus, The Glenn Gould School (GGS) has emerged as one of the most outstanding performance training institutions in the world. With 130 students, most of whom receive a full-tuition scholarship, GGS offers a highly enriched environment in which the development and artistic growth of each student is guided closely by teacher mentors. Each year, through the nearly 150 master classes offered at GGS, students are brought into contact with many of the world’s greatest performing artists and conductors such as Sir András Schiff, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Maxim Vengerov, Stefan Dohr, and Jeremy Denk. GGS faculty include acclaimed artists and teachers such as Hans Jørgen Jensen, John Perry, Adrianne Pieczonka, Paul Kantor, Andrew McCandless, Andrés Diaz, and the late Leon Fleisher. GGS graduates include Deutsche Grammophon recording artist and internationally acclaimed pianist, Jan Lisiecki.
The Royal Conservatory's young artists programs were restructured and renamed as The Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists in 2013. Each year, 90 highly gifted young musicians between the ages of 8 and 18 are mentored and trained by the RCM’s leading faculty. In 2016, Academy alumnus, 16-year-old Tony Yike Yang, became the youngest Prize Winner in the history of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Other acclaimed alumni include pianists Jan Lisiecki and Stewart Goodyear, violinists Blake Pouliot and Sarah McElravy, mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska (a BBC New Generation Artist), and conductor Earl Lee - the 2022 winner of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award.
In 2003, the RCM launched the ARC Ensemble, a chamber music group consisting of senior RCM faculty members which has since developed into one of Canada’s leading cultural ambassadors performing throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Three of the CDs recorded by ARC have been nominated for Grammy Awards. The ARC Ensemble has also played a major role in researching and performing works of music lost through the Holocaust. The Music in Exile series has been presented in London, New York, Washington, Warsaw, and Budapest. Recently ARC released its seventh CD featuring the music of Dmitri Klebanov, which was met with great international acclaim.
In 2005, Dr. Simon initiated a landmark capital project that would lead to the construction of a new home for the RCM. With the completion of the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning and Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory was able to occupy a unique hybrid facility of 200,000 square feet that served both educational and broader cultural purposes. The project included the restoration of a heritage site which was integrated with two transparent, accessible, and technologically up-to-date contemporary buildings. The centerpiece of the project was Koerner Hall
, a concert space sculpted for an optimal acoustical environment and regarded by many leading artists as one of the finest halls in the world today. Completed in 2009, the facility occupies an important site in the city of Toronto and has served as an anchor to the development of a new cultural precinct – the Bloor Street Culture Corridor.
With the opening of Koerner Hall, Dr. Simon established a new Performing Arts Division
at The Royal Conservatory in 2009 to present and oversee more than 300 concerts and events a year. The Performing Arts Division operates one of the most successful concert series in North America, presenting many of the world’s greatest performers in a variety of musical genres including: Lang Lang, Daniil Trifonov, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Anoushka Shankar, the Buena Vista Social Club, Chick Corea, Sona Jobarteh, and Rhiannon Giddens. Over 150,000 individuals attend events at Koerner Hall each year, making The Royal Conservatory an important cultural destination in the city of Toronto and the Ontario region.
In 2013, the RCM launched The Marilyn Thomson Early Childhood Education Centre
to develop and deliver innovative Early Childhood Music Education (ECME) programs and digital products for use in the home and classroom by parents, children, and teachers. Drawing on a foundation of neuroscientific research and working closely with the RCM’s own Research Centre
, the Marilyn Thomson Centre is focused on giving children an enhanced educational experience and promoting cognitive and social development through music and the arts. A major initiative was the creation of Smart StartTM
, the RCM’s ECME program for children aged 0 to 6 which combines the latest research in neuroscience with traditional early childhood learning methods. Smart Start
is being rolled out across the continent and includes teacher training modules and resources for parents/guardians.
Dr. Simon’s concern with the decline of music and arts programs in public schools and the level of participation in music study and in Canada and the United States led to the development of a number of curricular initiatives aimed at young music students and independent studio teachers. The RCM launched a Teacher Certification Program
aimed at ensuring high standards in independent teaching and equipping new music teachers with the tools to build successful studios. In 2016, the RCM launched its Teacher Portal
which offers an array of online tools and services for the benefit of its 30,000 system users.
Motivating Students To Greater Levels
Building on the reputation of excellence of The Royal Conservatory in the fields of curriculum development, publishing, and assessment, Dr. Simon initiated the expansion of the RCM Certificate Program into the US. Since 2010, the structured curriculum and assessment model has been adopted by more than 100 schools, 6,000 independent teachers, and approximately 10,000 students in the United States, including the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s Keys of Inspiration program.
In 2014, Dr. Simon established the Digital Learning division to create digital tools and resources in music training and professional development with the objective of making high quality music education accessible to everyone. Over 12,000 students and teachers actively access these resources on a monthly basis.
In June 2020, to ensure that RCM students could continue their music education during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Simon directed the creation of Remote Exams which, for the first time in the history of The Royal Conservatory of Music, enabled students across Canada and the United States to conduct their Practical Music Exam online. In the first few months of the new initiative alone, over 30,000 completed their RCM exams virtually.
In September 2021, Dr. Simon renamed the RCM’s community school to the Oscar Peterson School of Music in honour of the legendary jazz pianist, and beloved alumnus and Honorary Fellow of The Royal Conservatory. In February 2022, the Oscar Peterson Program – an initiative of the Oscar Peterson School providing comprehensive musical training, tuition free, for young people in underserved communities – was announced and Colin Clarke named as the Program's first Artistic Director.
October 2021 saw Dr. Simon’s appointment of acclaimed pianist, Stewart Goodyear, as The Royal Conservatory’s Inaugural Artist in Residence – a multi-faceted role comprised of performances, master classes at the RCM’s professional schools and content for the RCM Certificate Program. In September 2022, Robi Botos was named by Dr. Simon as the RCM’s inaugural Jazz Artist in Residence which encompasses performances, involvement with the Oscar Peterson Program, and community outreach.
As a means to secure investments for the future of The Royal Conservatory, Dr. Simon initiated the first Development function of the institution in 1992. This area has subsequently grown into a mature department serving a large donor community consisting of several hundred supporters. Over $400 million has been raised to fund the expansion of Conservatory programs and capital initiatives. Annual revenues of the RCM have grown from $11 million in 1992 to $55 million in 2022. Of this total, 5% are from government sources, 20% from annual donations and 75% are earned.
Our supporters are helping create a society in which the arts are catalysts for achievement, pathways to self-exploration, and bridges to mutual understanding.
Dr. Simon began his relationship with The Royal Conservatory as a student of Boris Berlin. He went on to study at New York's Juilliard School and in London with Louis Kentner. In 1983, Dr. Simon received a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying with the late Leon Fleisher, legendary pianist and conductor. He subsequently divided his time between performing, teaching at the University of Western Ontario, and overseeing the artistic direction of Preview Concerts in Toronto.
Dr. Simon joined The Royal Conservatory as Director of Academic Studies where he was instrumental in planning and implementing a series of post-secondary programs, which led to the rebirth of The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School, now known as The Glenn Gould School. He also instituted regular classes by internationally acclaimed artists including the late Leon Fleisher and Jaime Laredo, and supervised the compilation, editing, and recording of the Celebration Series of piano publications, which have been used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
In 1989, Dr. Simon was appointed President of the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he initiated several key projects. In the area of programming, he introduced the
first Master of Music Degree Program in Orchestral Performance in the United States and appointed the concertmaster and principal players from the New York Philharmonic as members of the faculty. Dr. Simon’s contribution to the school also extended to the area of fundraising, where he persuaded internationally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de Los Angeles and Shura Cherkassky to give benefit concerts. Under his leadership, the Manhattan School of Music began a physical plant renovation program and introduced new promotional materials and activities that led to a significant increase in the number of annual applicants.
Dr. Simon chaired the Arts Education sub-committee of the Minister’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture. He was honoured by the Salute to the City awards for his contributions to education in Toronto and has received an Urban Leadership Award from the Canadian Urban Institute.
In 2006, as part of a series of special events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, Dr. Simon was acknowledged as one of 50 prominent Hungarian-Canadians whose contributions to creativity and innovation in Canada were celebrated. In 2022, Dr. Simon was recognized for his exemplary commitment to Canada’s arts sector, receiving the prestigious Peter Herrndorf Arts Leadership Award
, and later that year, he was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary
, one of the highest orders of decorations that can be granted to civilians or military personnel by the Hungarian Republic.
Dr. Simon is married to noted Canadian pianist Dianne Werner. They have two children, Nicole and Justin, and two grandchildren, Peter and Maggie.
Alexander Brose, the former Executive Director and CEO of The Tianjin Juilliard School, will succeed Dr. Peter Simon as President & CEO
upon Dr. Simon’s retirement on August 31, 2024.