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The Royal Conservatory of Music Renames School in Honour of Alumnus Oscar Peterson

The Royal Conservatory of Music Renames School in Honour of Alumnus Oscar Peterson

Published on September 9, 2021

The Oscar Peterson School of Music will also include a scholarship program for underserved youth

The Royal Conservatory is one of the greatest leaders in music and arts education and a force for artistic and cultural development.
Oscar Peterson

The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) is proud to announce that the Royal Conservatory School – its community school – has been renamed the Oscar Peterson School of Music in honour of the legendary jazz pianist, and beloved alumnus and Honorary Fellow of The Royal Conservatory.

Dr. Peterson, widely regarded as one of the foremost jazz pianists of his generation, started his music training using the curriculum of the RCM Certificate Program, known for its internationally acclaimed standard of music education and achievement, and credited his classical music training as foundational to his success. He also asked his students to learn Bach, particularly The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Goldberg Variations, among others, as he considered these to be essential learning for pianists.

Dr. Peter Simon, The Royal Conservatory’s President & CEO stated: “It is The RCM’s immense pleasure to honour Oscar Peterson, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, by naming our school after him.”

“I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Oscar several times – we discussed his early training and how he developed his extraordinary command of the keyboard. He studied initially with his sister, Daisy, using the curriculum of The RCM to learn pieces and theory. He subsequently studied with Paul de Marky – a pianist whose teacher had studied with Franz Liszt and thus was able to pass along the virtuoso piano techniques that Liszt developed. Oscar believed that a classical grounding was essential for any musician and from this base, one could go anywhere.”

On behalf of the Peterson family, Ms. Kelly Peterson said: “The renaming of the Royal Conservatory School would have humbled Oscar tremendously – and he would have been thrilled. It was Oscar’s belief that music education is extremely important for every single person, regardless of whether they intend to pursue a career in music or not, and that his classical music training gave him his technical foundation.”

The RCM will also launch the Oscar Peterson Program, a scholarship program offering tuition-free music instruction to underserved youth, in the fall of 2022. Details will be announced early next year.

In an CBC Radio interview about establishing Toronto’s Advanced School of Contemporary Music in the 1960s, Dr. Peterson was asked about the importance of a classical grounding and how it laid the foundation for a wide range of genres and styles. He stated that classical training is “quite definitely essential for any musician … these are theories and practices we employ in the development of students”.

This is the second time that The Royal Conservatory has named one of its schools after an RCM alumnus. In 1997, The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School was renamed The Glenn Gould School.

Learn more about the Oscar Peterson School of Music