Our Story

Our Story

Affordable, Quality Music and Arts Programs for Everyone

Throughout its history, the Music & Arts School at University Settlement has maintained its commitment to providing affordable, quality music and arts programs to children, teens, adults and seniors living in Toronto. We have never wavered from our founding principle that the arts should be a right, not a privilege, and that lessons should be available to everyone regardless of age, ethnicity, perceived talent, disability, or ability to pay.

University Settlement Sax Trio (circa 1950s)
Theory lesson (circa 1940s)

The Establishment of the Music & Arts School in 1921

In 1910, the then President of the University of Toronto founded University Settlement House in the heart of the City of Toronto. University students lived at University Settlement House to help newcomers and their neighbours adapt to living in Canada and forge new lives here. He went on to establish the Music & Arts School at University Settlement in 1921, two years after establishing the University’s Faculty of Music. He believed that that one of the best ways to learn about a new culture and build community was through music and the arts. He also wanted to give Faculty of Music students an opportunity to teach and connect with the community.

Today, the Music & Arts School is the oldest community music school in Toronto. What started with only two students has grown to be a vibrant school with an enrollment of over 450 students of all ages–from babies only a few months old to people in their 80s.

Marlene Dankiw and String students (1985-86)
Ann Edwards, Piano teacher, and her student (circa 1980s)

Distinguished Faculty and Music Advisory Committee

Our high calibre faculty are dedicated to nurturing talent and a love of music in a safe and fun environment that celebrates success.

Over the years, some of the most distinguished musicians in Canada have guided the School as members of the Music Advisory Committee, including Healey Willan, Ettore Mazzoleni, David Ouchterlony, John Beckwith, Clifford Poole, Boyd Neel, Boris Berlin and Aasta Levene. Our faculty has included pianists Eve Egoyan, Brian Finley and Garnet Ungar, and cellist Kristine Bogyo. Currently four of our alumni are enrolled in the performance programs at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music – three in piano and one in voice.

Students and Subsidies

Our student body represents the diversity of our community. Approximately 75% of our students self-identify as coming from south, east and southeast Asian countries.

Every year we provide financial assistance to approximately 100 children from low-income families. These children would not be able to study music without that assistance. The average income for a family of four receiving a subsidy is $22,500.

Notable events in the history of the Music & Arts School

1921

Music & Arts School opens with only 2 pupils.

1920s

Group of Seven member, Arthur Lismer, teaches drawing to children (age 4 to 9) on Saturday mornings.

1927

Teachers from the Conservatory give more than 2,000 free lessons. School is equipped with 6 pianos.

1929

Enrollment increases to over 100 music students. An orchestra is formed.

1931

Music Advisory Committee is formed.

1946-1958

The Music and Arts School develops a music program for the University Settlement nursery school.

1946

130 children take private lessons.

1951

Free theory classes are offered to orchestra and choral group members.

1953

190 children taking private lessons. A creative dance program begins.

1958

Ear training classes introduced.

1959

University Settlement Recreation Centre opens at 23 Grange Rd. Music & Arts School flourishes with affordable instruction, instrument loans, and good practice facilities.

1960

The Orchestra is revitalized, and a Chamber Music group is formed.

1969

Kristine Bogyo joins Faculty as cello teacher.

1971

Music Therapy Program introduced. Believed to be the first music therapy program in Canada for children with emotional and behaviour problems as well as those with learning disabilities.

1987

Number of students is now limited by the lack of available space.

1992

New classes offered in Chinese bamboo flute, Persian santour and Cantonese opera.

1992-1995

Eve Egoyan teaches piano.

1993

Two new group programs initiated: African Drum Circle and Chinese ensemble.

1994

Music School offers eurhythmics classes for HIV positive individuals in collaboration with the PWA Foundation.

1999

Bach Consort benefit Concert hosted.

2001

Music and Arts School celebrates 80th Anniversary.

2005

Contact Contemporary Music Ensemble welcomed as artist in residence

2009

Music Advisory Committee member, Aasta Levene, offers mock exams to students preparing for RCM examinations.

2011

90th Anniversary celebration held at the Glenn Gould Studio.

2011

University Settlement piano students invited to participate in Lang Lang’s 101 Pianists workshop at Roy Thomson Hall.

2014

Patricia Jacobs appointed Executive Director of University Settlement.

2014

Victoria Medeiros appointed Managing Director, Music & Arts School.

2015

String students attend workshop with Silk Road Ensemble and meet cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

2018

Music 4 Little Ones program established.

2019

100 children enrolled in private lessons receive financial assistance—the highest number of children to receive financial assistance since the School was founded. Music and Dance Programming is revitalized to include ukulele private and group classes, Ballet and Hip Hop for youth and adults. Enrolment increases 7% above 2018-19 school year to 476.

2020

The Music & Arts School quickly moves to digital lessons, classes and recitals.

2021

The Music & Arts School celebrates its 100th anniversary!