The Conservatoire Américain, the French musical institution at the Palais de Fontainebleau, was responsible for training generations of American musicians. Its students and faculty are among some of the most influential musical figures of the twentieth century, including Aaron Copland, Nadia Boulanger, and Elliott Carter. Within its walls, students were introduced to great French composers like Maurice Ravel, Jean Françaix, and Darius Milhaud, many of whom wrote works specifically for Fontainebleau attendees. It brought performers into the recording age and encouraged women to pursue solo musical careers at a time when such a thing was exceptionally rare among Americans.
The Conservatoire Américain: A History is the first full-length narrative of this institution. Drawing on rare materials from the Conservatoire’s archives, combining them with personal correspondence, interviews, and first-person narratives with students and faculty, author Kendra Preston Leonard discusses a variety of topics important to the institution. These topics include—among others—the dissemination of French repertoire during the twentieth century, the pedagogical approaches used in teaching American music students, the impact of training Americans abroad, and the influence their French training had on performance, interpretation, and composition. The book concludes with several appendixes offering comprehensive reference information on the school’s practices, the courses offered, awards and diplomas given, and notable students, faculty, and guest artists who attended the institution.