History and Tradition

Main VanderCook History Page

VanderCook College of Music traces its roots to 1909, when Hale A. VanderCook established the institution as a school where professional musicians could learn to function as public school band directors.  The early curriculum focused upon techniques for developing skills in conducting, music composition and arrangement, organizing the high school band program, performing music with expression, and principles of musical performance.  This early program was offered in an old brownstone on Chicago’s west side neighborhood to groups of 6 to 8 students. A “hands-on” performance-oriented learning environment -- essentially an expanded music teaching studio -- characterized the program.

The College’s reputation as a teacher-training institution grew through the early decades of the 20th century, in part because of correspondence courses in conducting and cornet performance that were marketed nationwide.  Also, early monographs on teaching the high school band and musical expression were widely disseminated, as were an extensive series of solos and ensembles for young band students.

In 1928, the college was incorporated as a not-for-profit educational institution and a curriculum designed to prepare music teachers was recognized by the State of Illinois.  Largely through the work of Hubert E. Nutt, co-founder of the College, VanderCook became one of the first three institutions in the United States to offer a degree in instrumental music teacher education.

Although the curriculum has expanded, to this day it remains exclusively focused upon music teacher education, the only such institution in the United States.  The 2,100 living alumni of the College teach music to school children in most states of the country and abroad.