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American Conservatory of Music

American Conservatory of Music
Active 1886 (1886)–1991 (1991)
Type Private
Location Chicago

The American Conservatory of Music (ACM) was a major

  1. ^ Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, sixth edition, revised by Nicolas Slonimsky, Collier Macmillan Publishers.
  2. ^ Marquis Who's Who in America, 1992–1993, 47th Edition Vol 1, A-K, pg 1547, Reed Reference Publishing Company, New Providence, New Jersey (1992)
  3. ^ , Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1991Changing The Score, American Conservatory Gets Another ChanceJohn Richard von Rhein,
  4. ^ , Chicago Tribune, March 09, 1991All Out Of Miracles, Century-old Music School Will Close In MayJohn Richard von Rhein,
  5. ^, accessed October 4, 2011
  6. ^ Obituaries: John Robert Hattstaedt, The Chicago Tribune, pg. C13, February 6, 1978
  7. ^ Leo Heim, 78; Helped Save American Conservatory of Music, Chicago Sun-Times, January 7, 1992
  8. ^ International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory, 10th edition, Cambridge, England (1984)
  9. ^ Leaders in Education, Fifth edition, R.R. Bowker, New York (1974)
  10. ^ Who's Who in America. 46th edition, 1990-1991, Marquis Who's Who, Wilmette, Illinois (1990)
  11. ^ Who's Who in American Music: Classical, R.R. Bowker, New York (1983)
  12. ^ Charles E. Moore, DePaul Music Teacher, Chicago Sun-Times, January 31, 1995
  13. ^ Charles E. MooreGravestone: , Greenleaf Cemetery, Brownwood, Texas,
  14. ^ a b Ailing Music School Given An Encore – Numbers Man Rides To RescueHoward Reich, , The Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1987
  15. ^ How For-Profit Management Saved a Failing Institution, Nonprofit World, Jan–Feb 1988, Vol. 6 Issue 1, pg. 36-37
  16. ^ Buck, Dudley (2005). N. Lee Orr, ed. American Victorian Choral Music. Recent researches in American music, Volume 53. A-R Editions, Inc. p. xx.  
  17. ^ Herringshaw's City Blue Book of Biography: Chicagoans of 1916, edited by Mae Felts Herringshaw, Clark J. Herringshaw (publisher) (1916) OCLC 36048155
  18. ^ Wishart Bell official website
  19. ^ Hint to Singers, Wisconsin State Journal, col. 3, May 12, 1953
  20. ^ Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra website: Thomas Thompson
  21. ^ Tauno Hannikainen, Conductor, Noted Sibelius Interpreter, Dies, The New York Times, October 13, 1968
  22. ^ Who's Who in America, Volume 33 (1964–1965), pg. 93 Marquis Who's Who, Inc. OCLC 493777888 LCCN 04-16934 ISSN 0083-9396
  23. ^ , Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1986Long-ignored Composer George Perle Unfazed Standing In Pulitzer SpotlightJohn Richard von Rhein,
  24. ^ American Conservatory of Music Plans Near West Side MoveDavid Ibata, , The Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1985
  25. ^ Joseph Kirby, Debts Force The Closing Of Famed Music School, The Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1991
  26. ^ Note: In 1979, Horwitz authored the book, How to Set Up and Run Successful Nonprofit Arts Organizations, published by Chicago Review Press, of which E. Curtis Matthews Jr. was CEO. OCLC 560415669 OCLC 608827741
  27. ^ , Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1985American Conservatory Of Music Plans Near West Side MoveDavid Ibata,
  28. ^ Rehab Firm Marches To A Different Drummer, Chicago Tribune, June 08, 1986
  29. ^ International Who's Who in Music and Musicians Directory. 12th edition, 1990-1991, edited by David M. Cummings & Dennis K. McIntire, International Who's Who in Music, Cambridge, England (1990) OCLC 185572505
  30. ^ Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America, First edition, 1987-1988, Marquis Who's Who, Wilmette, IL (1987) OCLC 16395697 ISSN 0895-965X
  31. ^ Who's Who in the Midwest, 20th edition, 1986-1987, Marquis Who's Who, Wilmette, IL (1985) OCLC 13088248 ISBN 0-8379-0720-9 ISBN 9780837907208
  32. ^ Who's Who in the West, 16th edition, 1978-1979, Marquis Who's Who, Wilmette, IL (1978) OCLC 6261917 ISBN 0-8379-0916-3 ISBN 9780837909165
  33. ^ (biography)Harvey Jewell — Oboe & Flute79 Army Band (US) alumni website:
  34. ^ National Association of Schools of Music archives, Reston, Virginia
  35. ^ Illinois State Board of Education archives
  36. ^ Teresa Jimenez, Carl L. Waldschmidt, 78, Ex-dean, Music Director, The Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1995
  37. ^ Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1991Changing The Score: American Conservatory Gets Another Chance,John Richard von Rhein,
  38. ^ U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Chicago), 1991 Case No. 91-19363
    — Case location: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Chicago
    — Location No. 175995-176144; Accession No. 021-99-0097; Box 053


Efforts to resurrect the bankrupt Conservatory

Then, when faced with financial failure from, among other things, no viable operating funds or other prospects for survival, the Board closed the school in 1991 and filed for protection under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The main secured creditor was the landlord, Morris Kalish, who owned the Stevens Building at 17 N State Street, a 19-story building erected in 1913 which had housed the Chas A. Stevens Department Store. At the invitation of Kalish, the Conservatory had taken up residence on the top two floors in 1987.[38]
By late 1990 it was clear to the Board of Directors that the milestones of the survival plan would not be met. In January of 1991, the Board reappointed Vern Nelson as President, pro-bono. Grants totaling $2 million had been depleted by faculty salaries, student scholarships, and recruitment and development programs. Enrollment had fallen to 90 — down from 2,000 full-time in 1977. The Board determined that, in order to survive, the Conservatory would have to be merged with another entity. Discussions were held with the Northwestern University School of Music, which had an interest in developing a Downtown presence to house the performance department with better access to members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera. Discussions were also held with Roosevelt University to merge the Conservatory with its Chicago Musical College.[37] The Board felt that prospects were viable, but a merger of any sort was resisted by members of Conservatory faculty.

1991 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In 1987, Regnery led with a $1 million gift to the Conservatory. Other foundations followed. This provided operating capital to run the Conservatory during the restructuring. Under the Deanship of E. Harvey Jewell, DMA (born 1942),[29][30][31][32][33] the Conservatory strengthened its programs, raised entrance requirements, recruited prominent faculty, passed a rigorous accreditation review in 1988 by the National Association of Schools of Music,[34] and cleared a probationary status placed earlier by the Illinois State Board of Education on the Bachelor of Music Education program.[35] After eighteen months, the Conservatory had developed a survival plan and raised enough money to provide a balanced budget for three years. If the milestones were met, the Conservatory would be able to function independently going forward. When Nelson expressed to the Board his desire to leave his pro-bono post, the Board accepted it and launched a nationwide search for a new President and a Dean. The Board hired Steven J. Nelson, as President and Carl L. Waldschmidt, PhD (1917–1995), the former dean, longtime music professor, and choral director from Concordia University in Chicago (retired 1987), as Dean.[36] Steve Nelson had studied violin at Cleveland Institute of Music and had served as President of the Center for Creative Studies – Institute of Music and Dance in Detroit. After leaving the American Conservatory of Music, Steve Nelson served as Vice President College of Relations at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. In 1998, he became head master at the Calhoun School in New York City. Vern Nelson remained on the Board.

Efforts to reorganize

  • Ruth Anderson (née Teninga; born 1918), philanthropist from Hinsdale, Illinois, wife of Roger Allen Anderson (1919–2005)
  • Paul J. Henry (born 1953), Conservatory faculty member – classical guitar
  • Fumio Ralph Fujimoto (born 1923), partner (now retired), Ernst & Young
  • Norman A. Ross (1922–2008), second generation journalist & broadcaster, and son of Olympic swimmer Norman Ross

Other directors

Hickman’s firm, Hopkins & Sutter, handled the bankruptcy, pro-bono.

New directors who joined to help reorganization

  • Henry Regnery (1912–1996) remained as Chairman
  • Fred Hickman, (born 1927) an attorney and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy from 1971 to 1975 under Presidents Nixon and Ford
  • Leo Edward Heim (1913–1992), a career Conservatory faculty member and former President
  • Bernard James McKenna (1933–2010), the CEO of Sanwa Business Credit Corp, chaired in 1987 the Conservatory's new building committee; he served as a Conservatory director from 1985 to 1992
  • Robert (Bob) Getz, a musician and alumnus

Directors who stayed on during Chapter 11 reorganization

In January of 1987, the Conservatory filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection; and shortly thereafter, Charles Moore, its president, resigned. Henry Regnery – an industrialist, publisher of conservative books, benefactor, and amateur cellist – asked Vernon Nelson to step in as acting President. Nelson – an engineer with an MBA from the University of Chicago – had, since 1986, been leading a group from the University of Chicago to design a business plan for the Conservatory. Nelson agreed to serve as President for a short time on a pro-bono basis. Many of the directors resigned shortly after the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

1987 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

In 1975, using funds from its endowment, the Conservatory acquired and renovated a 17-story, 105,400-square-foot "turn-of-the-century" office building at 116 S. Michigan for about $1.2 million and moved from the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. The Conservatory's strategy was to occupy part of the building and earn enough rent income to cover some losses. But that plan failed, and in 1983, the Conservatory sold the building to developer Horwitz Matthews, Inc. — Tem H. Horwitz (born 1944) and E. Curtis Matthews Jr. (born 1943) — who launched their own $4.5 million renovation.[26] That year, they gave the Conservatory, which had been occupying 25,000 square feet on 4-1/2 floors, two years to find new quarters for its 125 faculty members and 250 full-time and 800 part-time students.[27][28]

1975 acquisition & 1983 sale of building

1975–1991 restructuring efforts

  • ????–1975: 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Fine Arts Building
  • 1975–1987: 116 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
  • 1987–1991: 17 N. State Street, Chicago, Stevens Building[24][25]

Former locations

Recipients of honorary doctorates

Other notable alumni

  • 1946 — Leo Sowerby (1895–1968), pianist & composer, Master of Music 1918
  • 1952 — Gail Kubik (1914–1984), Master of Music 1936
  • 1976 — Ned Rorem (born 1923), studied with Leo Sowerby 1938–1939
  • 1979 — Joseph Schwantner (born 1943), Bachelor of Music 1964
  • 1986 — George Perle (1915–2009), Master of Music 1942

Pulitzer Prize for Music recipients


Other notable former faculty members

From the post-WWII years to the late 1960s, Irwin Fischer, composer, pianist, and conductor, served as Dean of Faculty and conductor of the American Conservatory Orchestra. Violinist Scott Willits coached many members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1940 to 1974. Pianist Wilhelmina Pouget, student of Walter Gieseking, specialized in late Romantic piano technique in the 1970s. Acclaimed pianist William Browning, heir of the Brahms-Schumann piano dynasty and one of the legendary pianists and teachers of the 20th century, was on faculty from 1957 to 1989.

For over a century, many prominent artists such as Sergei Rachmaninoff's colleague Josef Lhévinne and later his student Adele Marcus taught master classes in piano and other instruments at the American Conservatory.

Former faculty, guest teachers and associates

  • circa Adolf Weidig, Associate Director and Dean of the Department of Theory[17]

Former department deans

  • circa 1942: Heniot Levy
  • post-WWII to the late 1960s: Irwin Fischer
  • circa mid-1980s: E. Harvey Jewell, DMA
  • late 1980s: Carl L. Waldschmidt, PhD

Former deans of faculty

Former general directors

  • 1886–1931: John James Hattstaedt (1851–1931)
  • 1935–1971: John Robert Hattstaedt (1887–1978), John James Hattstaedt's son, a Princeton graduate, served as president.[6]
  • 1971–1981: Leo Edward Heim (1913–1992)[7] was instrumental in the attempt to save the Conservatory after it had filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in 1991. In 1981, the Conservatory named him President Emeritus.[8][9][10][11]
  • 1980–1987: Charles Ethelbert Moore (1930–1995),[12][13] a classical pianist, was president when the Conservatory filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in January 1987.[14] Moore had joined the faculty in 1961 and became Dean in 1972.
  • 1987–1989: Vernon R. Nelson (born 1945), a graduate of the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, temporarily saved the Conservatory, extending its life until 1991.[14][15]
  • 1989–1990: Steven J. Nelson (no relation to Vernon)
  • 1990–1991: Vernon R. Nelson

Former conservatory presidents



  • Leadership 1
  • Former faculty, guest teachers and associates 2
    • Other notable former faculty members 2.1
  • Alumni 3
  • Former locations 4
  • 1975–1991 restructuring efforts 5
  • Efforts to resurrect the bankrupt Conservatory 6
  • References 7


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