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With the opening of the UCR College of Letters and Sciences in 1954, John W. Olmsted, then Head of the Humanities Division, invited Edwin J. Simon (Ph.D UCB) and William H. Reynolds (M.F.A. Princeton) to come to Riverside and coordinate the teaching of music courses within the humanities curriculum. Additionally, they would develop a major in music, and, most importantly, work towards the creation of a Department of Music. Simon, a pianist and musicologist specialized in classical forms, started teaching music history courses in February 1954, while Reynolds, a choral music conductor, critic, theorist, and Danish music specialist arrived in the Summer to cover music theory. Still in that decade, composer, flutist, and theorist Donald C. Johns (Ph.D Northwestern) started teaching as an instructor in 1957 and joined the ladder-rank faculty in 1959. He would continue teaching for 36 years during his long career at UCR.

The major in music was offered for the first time in 1956. A number of developments in the following years paved the way for the creation of a full Department of Music that would offer both undergraduate and graduate programs. A new Humanities building was in construction, with improved facilities for teaching and rehearsing music, and the music library was augmented with important acquisitions of scores and complete editions of music. In 1963, the Baroque Music authority George J. Buelow, also a pianist and harpsichordist, joined the ladder-rank faculty, along with Edward H. Clinkscale, a band director and musicologist specialized in Medieval and Renaissance music. Both Buelow and Clinkscale came with a PhD from NYU and glaring recommendations from their mentors Curt Sachs, Gustav Reese, and Martin Bernstein. Completing the music faculty prior to the creation of the department, composer and violist Alfred T. Loeffler arrived as a lecturer also in 1963. The Department of Music became official in the academic year 1964-65, with William H. Reynolds as its first chair. Enrollment that year was 29 students in the undergraduate program and six graduate students. The M.A. program offered emphases on music theory/composition and music history. Voice and instrument lessons were offered to majors and non-majors through University Extension.

In 1965 and 1966, the department welcomed Austrian visiting professors Kurt Schwertsik, Karl Schiske, and Oswald Jonas. A former student of Heinrich Schenker, Jonas was nominated Regent’s Professor for one year, then worked as a Visiting Professor until 1973 and as an adjunct from 1975 until his death in 1978. He taught seminars in music theory and directed vocal performances, especially of art songs. Throughout the 1970s, William Reynolds worked towards the acquisition of Jonas’s monumental collection of manuscripts, letters, and a variety of other materials documenting the life and works of Heinrich Schenker and the musical life of Vienna during 1896-1935. This impressive material was finally transferred in 1978 to the Special Collections at UCR’s Rivera Library (See Oswald Jonas Memorial Collection https://library.ucr.edu/collections/oswald-jonas-memorial-collection).

Arriving in that same year of 1966, Lowell J. Smith became the university’s first carillonneur. He remained at UCR for eleven years, also working as an organist, theory instructor, and department chair. Margo A. Halsted followed Smith at the carillon, until getting a position at the University of Michigan in 1987. She was replaced by her assistant David W. Christensen, who continues to perform and maintain the university’s carillon up to this day. (link: https://chass.ucr.edu/press/2019/05/31/david-christensen-man-behind-carillon).

Music performance at UCR predates in many years the creation of the department. At the dedication of the College of Letters and Sciences on October 22, 1954 William Reynolds directed the newly created Choral Society, performing selections of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, and Purcell’s Ceremonial Music. The group was then composed of 45 singers, 18 of them faculty and staff, and increased to around 100 singers in the course of the years. Under Reynolds direction, they would perform works by Mennin, Orff, and the Requiem masses by Mozart, Brahms, and Fauré. Still in 1954, Reynolds created a smaller vocal ensemble, the Madrigal Singers, to perform Renaissance and Baroque music. Later renamed UCR Chorale and Chamber Singers, both ensembles continue to be active up to this day, performing a wider repertory.

The UCR Orchestra was created in 1956. Its first director was Edwin J. Simon, followed by Donald C. Johns (1959-1961), Arthur Daniels (1962) and Howard Lynch (1963), after which a permanent conductor was finally hired. The conductor and violist Robert S. Gottlieb joined the faculty in 1963 and in the following years he would expand the repertory of the orchestra and perform in various venues in Southern California. In one of his first concerts, Gottlieb conducted the first U.S. performance of J. S. Bach’s Concerto for two keyboards, with George Buelow on the harpsichord and Edwin Simon on the piano. After Gottlieb’s separation from UCR the orchestra relied again on temporary conductors, including John L. Golz (1968-69, 1970-71, 1984-85), Philip A. Truman (1971-73), John A. Farrer III (1973-74), and Lawrence Christianson (1976). In 1977 the ladder-rank faculty Anthony Ginter was appointed conductor of the UCR Orchestra, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1996. During these two decades, the UCR Orchestra became one of the most important musical assets of the Inland Empire. Performing extensively on and off campus and cultivating a meaningful involvement with the off-campus community has been the guiding tenets of the orchestra under Ruth Charloff, who has been directing the UCR orchestra since 1997. Since 1995, Dr. Charloff also directs the Chamber Singers (formerly Madrigal Singers) and teaches theory and history courses.

Another musical ensemble that emerged before the organization of the department was the Collegium Musicum. Created in 1957, it provided opportunities for the study and performance of chamber music for various instrumental combinations--woodwinds, strings, brasses, art song, and mixed instruments. Taught by various faculty throughout the 1960s, these ensembles were individualized under specific course numbers in the 1970 catalog. The ensemble that retained the name Collegium Musicum was the one focusing on Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque performance on historical instruments. Created by the early music specialist Frederick Gable in 1968, this group performed more than 100 times under his direction, over a period of more than two decades.

A well-known scholar on German Baroque and the leading authority on Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629), Frederick Gable was for many years UCR’s most active musicologist. During the 1970s and mid 1980s, the musicology track was complemented with the temporary appointments (as Acting Visiting Professors), of the eighteenth-century music and early dance scholar Judith L. Schwartz, the well-known Mozart specialist Isabelle Emerson, and Kathryn L. Reichard, who was writing a pioneer book on women in music. Conductors and composers at UCR also dedicated some of their time to music scholarship. Anthony Ginter presented his work at AMS meetings and published critical editions of the violin sonatas by Pierre Gaviniès (1728-1800). John Crawford and Donald Johns developed a dual career as theory scholars, publishing their research in The Musical Quarterly and American Music. Most notably, the prolific composer Byron Adams would become a leading scholar on Britten and Vaughan-Williams and an important force in refocusing and updating musicological research within the department. Likewise, music theory pedagogy was substantially improved between 1983 and 2014 with the work of the composer and theorist Barbara Bennett. The co-author of an influential textbook on Harmony, Dr. Bennett also taught counterpoint, composition, music appreciation, and keyboard literature during her three decades at UCR.

Jazz performance has a long history at UCR. The ASUCR has sponsored jazz concerts since the 1950s, and the department of music has offered courses in performance and history/theory of jazz since the early 1970s. Edward Clinkscale included jazz repertory in his Stage Band, which he directed alongside the Concert Band and the Varsity Band. But Clinkscale was an early music expert, not really a jazz musician, so he allowed his jazzist students to put their skills into practice by arranging and conducting. Steve Carr performed that role in the early 1970s, and Roger Myers and Bill Helms in the mid 70s. Helms became the UCR director of bands in 1980 and up to his retirement in 2011 he was a transformative force in the jazz program and the department’s opening to popular music. Another factor that strengthened the presence of the university and the department in the Inland Empire’s jazz scene was Donald Johns’ long running radio program at KUCR. (link: https://kucr.org/2013/07/18/dr-donald-johns-co-founder-of-the-ucr-music-department-and-longtime-kucr-radio-host-passes).

The 1990s were years of transformation. Reynolds, Johns, Clinkscale, Crawford, and Ginter retired, and five new faculty, along with several lecturers joined the department between 1987 and 1997. Under the visionary direction of Philip Brett (1991-2001), the Department of Music participated actively in the changes that redefined musicology and ethnomusicology. Musicology at UCR saw the expansion of critical methods with Philip Brett and Byron Adams, while scholars/performers specialized on Asian studies and Southeast Asian music—Deborah Wong, and René Lysloff, and Ethan Nasreddin-Longo—gave a strong start to the ethnomusicology program. Ensembles focusing on world music traditions have been created and effectively incorporated into the department’s teaching philosophy. Gamelan was the first one in 1997, followed by Taiko in 1999, Rondalla in 2001, Andean Music (Mayupatapi) in 2005, and Mariachi in 2006. The early 2000s also saw expansion in music scholarship and composition, through the hiring of an increasingly diverse faculty, which includes composers with an expertise in digital media and musicologists and ethnomusicologists specialized on Iberian and Latin American music and indigenous studies. These changes were accompanied by the construction of a 100k square feet Fine Arts Building in 2001, with ample and well-designed spaces for rehearsals and performances, and the creation of an international research center (link: cilam.ucr.edu) and a strong Ph.D. program, which since its inception in 2007 has been welcoming students and visiting scholars from five continents.