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The Conservatoire Americain at Fontainebleau
The Conservatoire Americain at Fontainebleau
The Fontainebleau Fine Arts and Music Schools is a well-established and unique institution which has its roots in the United States’involvement in the First World War.
The Conservatoire Americain at Fontainebleauexte
One could call it the “grand dame” of Franco-American summer programs abroad. At the instigation of General Pershing, who wished to improve the quality of US military band music. Walter Damrosch, then conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was asked to organize a school in Chaumont (where US troops were headquartered) led by composer and teacher Francis Casadesus.

After the war, Damrosch and Casadesus decided to continue this successful operation. With the full support of French authorities, as well as that of composer and organist Charles-Marie Widor (who became its first director), and Francis Casadesus, the American Conservatory as it was called was granted permission to open in the Louis XV wing of the Fontainebleau Palace in 1921. Its mission was to make available to promising young American musicians the best training that French musicians could give them—most were professors at the Conservatoire National de Paris. The Conservatory has faithfully and uninterruptedly kept up its mission even during the Second World War when Robert and Gaby Casadesus held the 1940-1945 summer sessions in New England before reopening the School in its historic Fontainebleau venue in 1946. In 2011, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Conservatoire Américain (American Conservatory).

Since its founding in 1921, the American Conservatory has included on its faculty the most prestigious names: Isidore Phillip, Maurice Ravel, Lucien Capet, Marcel Dupré, Robert, Gaby and Jean Casadesus, Igor Markevitch, Jean Francaix, Nikita Magaloff, Henri Dutilleux, Betsy Jolas, Leonard Bernstein --to name but a few. Starting as a young harmony professor, Nadia Boulanger devoted her talent, energy, knowledge and influence to the Conservatory of which she became Director from 1949-1979. One can legitimately say that the American Conservatory has played a major role in the training of a large number of American musicians: Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Louise Talma, Samuel Dushkin, Elliott Carter, Beveridge Webster, Kenton Coe were all Fontainebleau alumni.

In 1994, Philippe Entremont, world-renowned pianist and conductor, became the director of the Conservatoire; he is continuing to fulfill its mission of introducing the best American music students to the French musical tradition in teaching, composing and performing. A recent amendment to the statutes now allows the Conservatoire to recruit students world-wide, particularly from Eastern Europe and the Far-East. Classes in composition, theory, piano, strings and chamber music create a stimulating environment provided by the young artists’varied cultural background as they pursue the common goal of achievement of excellence. A unique feature of the summer program is the collaboration of the musicians and the architects attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts School).

The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, created two years after the Conservatoire, adopted the same mission as its predecessor in the sphere of painting, architecture and sculpture. Its students have the opportunity to come in direct contact with the works, theories and artists of European and particularly French culture. It is currently headed by architect Anthony Béchu. Concerts, and some classes, both in Music and Fine Arts, take place in the Fontainebleau Palace itself which provides the greatest artistic inspiration imaginable.

The Fine Arts and Music Schools are a Foundation—la Fondation des Ecoles d’Art Américaines-- recognized by the French Government (l9 décembre 1926). It is closely linked to the Fontainebleau Associations (501c3), a support organization of Alumni and friends in the US.

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