The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus 1927-2009

Excerpt of text written by Claus Møller Jørgensen

Compared to most other educational establishments, the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus (DJM) offers an unusually broad spectrum of courses. Composers and performing musicians, including church musicians and singers, are trained here for careers as professional musicians, as are music teachers for all levels of musical instruction. There is a separate line for teaching based on a combination of song, dance and playing.

The courses are made up of a system of major subjects and minor subjects, and are more practical than intellectual in orientation, than is normal for teaching at higher institutes of education. This training of practical and technical skills, which gives the courses the form of master classes, requires a very large number of highly specialised teachers attached to the academy. 

1927-1944

The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus was founded by Johan Nilsson in 1927. None of the teachers were employed on a permanent basis. Nilsson’s chief occupation was that of court musician, singing teacher Thøger Rasmussen was a schoolteacher and concert singer, and organ teaching was provided by the organists from the cathedral and other churches around Aarhus.

It was only when the Aarhus City Orchestra was formed in 1930 that the academy was able to offer teaching in wind instruments, as it then became possible to recruit teachers there. In contrast, there were more than enough students. After the 3 years of teaching that the academy’s course took, the first six students took their leaving exam in 1930, the year after there were 18, and the following year 18 again, after which time the numbers stabilised at around ten.

The total number of students varied between 80 and 100 until after World War II. This figure covers over a somewhat more heterogeneous group than the current full-time students, however, as it also included children in the so-called pre-school. Only about a quarter of them were actually academy students.

1945-1963

On 13th of March 1944 DJM became an independent institution. In 1955 DJM was awarded its first Government grant, so the former student payment was considerably reduced. The activities could be expanded, and so the academy’s list of subjects and degrees offered was continuously developed and expanded up to the start of the 1960s.

The music teachers’ degree was added to the original conservatoire course in 1944. In 1951 the decision was taken to start up a solo class, culminating in a diploma exam, a course preparing organists for the cantor exam, and also a course for professional musicians.

1954 saw the introduction of a degree in choral direction, courses were given in orchestral conducting, and master classes were offered. Teaching was provided in those instruments and subjects that enabled competent performance of classical music, including church music.

In 1958 construction was started on a proper conservatoire at Fuglesangs Allé 26, in the west of Aarhus, and the building was ready for use in 1961. During this period the academy’s governors tried to transform DJM into a state institution, and they succeeded in 1963. The takeover by the state meant that DJM was finally on an equal footing with the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, both financially and in terms of educational recognition.

1963-1991

Tage Nielsen became Principal of the DJM in 1963, and this was the start of a new era at the academy, where modern music came to play an ever more important role – whilst the classic musical heritage continued to play a leading role.This could be seen in 1968 when DJM hosted the 23rd edition of the Young Nordic Music Festival for the first time, and the organisers – including Jens Wilhelm Pedersen (Fuzzy), Tom Prehn and Karl Aage Rasmussen – selected a programme comprising only modern music.

Whilst this reflected the arrival of modern music at the academy, it was still a fact, according to the Principal of the academy, that by far the majority of the population did not have their musical needs satisfied by the music viewed by the academy as its central mainstay. For this reason great effort was required on the teaching front – a broad effort, aimed, not least, at the youngest age groups. This was the reason given for launching a brand new course in “General Music Teaching” (better known in the abbreviation of the Danish, “AM”) in 1972. AM became a brand new 3-year course in musical instruction.

A new, more democratic means of management, called the Academy Council, was introduced at the music academies by decree in 1974. The Principal naturally continued to run the academy, but the Academy Council became the highest teaching and professional authority, and comprised the Principal, the Vice Principal, representatives elected by the students and teachers from each staff-student study committee, and representatives elected by the technical and administrative staff.

1991-2001

The rhythmic music teacher course was started in 1991, in close collaboration with AM, and shared the same staff-student study committee.

In 1992 Erik Bach became Principal of the DJM, and that same year work was started on the academy’s long-awaited extension, which had become necessary due to the establishment of the rhythmic music teacher course as mentioned above, amongst other things.

But at the same time – in the period from 1993 to 1997 – the number of student places was also increased by 75 places, so there were now 257 students. This meant that after the new building was completed in 1996, Erik Bach could round off 1997 with the words “The new building and the extension in Jens Baggesensvej have formed the setting for new activities and for more students and teachers. What we were unable to predict was that the new facilities were by no means adequate for all the activities and for the student boom we have experienced over the past few years.”

The “Danish Act on Artistic Institutions of Higher Education under the Ministry of Culture” passed in 1994 made the Centre for Rhythmic Music and Movement (CRMB) in Silkeborg a department of the DJM as of the start of 1996. CRMB was established with a programme of further training in the autumn of 1987, as a trial project under the leadership of Steen Brandt Nielsen, and in 1988 20 students started a 4-year music teacher course.

The last chapter before the merger

In February 2001 Henrik Svane became the new Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, thereby starting a new chapter in the history of the academy.

To date, growth, variety and pedagogy would seem to be three good catchwords for describing DJM’s 75-year history. Growth in the physical sense can be perceived in the financial growth, the growth in the number of students and staff, the growth in the physical setting, and the growth as an organisation. And there has also been growth in the musical sense, perceived as growth in the different kinds of music, and approaches to teaching music, that are taught and practiced at the academy. Thus the academy is also characterised by musical variety and pluralism of a very different nature than was the case just 30 years ago, and the pedagogical and ideological views that form the basis of our work are varied, and even directly contrary.

John Christiansen captured this very well in his review of the gala concert in the Concert Hall Aarhus on 6th April 2002, on the occasion of DJM’s 75th jubilee. He wrote in the national newspaper, Jyllands Posten, that “the rest of us were made aware that students from the academy’s three departments can do a great number of different things, and that the pleased, proud master of ceremonies, the Principal, Henrik Svane, would like to see them all move under the same roof, in collaboration with other forms of art and culture.”

In May 2003 Ulrik Spang Hanssen was appointed ad interim rector at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. In June 2004 the rhythmical department of the Academy in Silkeborg moves to Aarhus and will, in the future, be located at Jens Baggesensvej 90B – along with the other rhythmical programs.

September 1 2004 Finn Schumacker was appointed rector at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus.

August 1 2007 the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus moved to a new location in the centre of the city. The new and spacious building is as an integrated part of the Concert Hall Aarhus.

February 1 2008 Thomas Winther was appointed rector at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus.

Page last updated 24th of March 2015