Tourjée, Dr. Eben

1834-1891

 

Organizer and musical educator, who by unceasing work established a great musical conservatory, founded a number of lesser schools and promoted musical cultivation in this country. He was born at Warwick, R. I., and in his youth he was greatly handicapped by poverty, working in a factory in East Greenwich when only eight years old. He managed to attend the East Greenwich Academy for a time, and when he was eleven years old became a chorister in the excellent choir of the Methodist Church at Phoenix, where he obtained the position of organist, then began to study with Henry Eastcot of Providence, where he was clerk in a music store. When only seventeen he opened a music store at Fall River, taught in the public schools, and edited The Key Note, a musical periodical, which under his direction became merged in the Massachusetts Musical Journal. In spite of all this work he was diligently studying with the best teachers of Boston, and in 1856 was appointed organist of Trinity Church, Newport, R. I. He also became choral director there and taught, using the class system. In 1859 he organized a musical institute at East Greenwich, in which he was able to work according to his own ideas. In order to learn the methods used in the best conservatories of Europe he went abroad and entered as a student at the representative conservatories of France, Germany and Italy, thus studying under many celebrated teachers, notably August Haupt of Berlin. Returning to America he founded the first American Musical Conservatory at Providence in 1864 and was so successful in his management of this institution that in 1867 the school was removed to Boston, where in 1870 it was incorporated under the name of The New England Conservatory of Music. This is now one of the largest and most successful conservatories in the country. Its first location was in the Music Hall building, but in 1882 it outgrew these rooms, and the old St. James Hotel, which has been equipped with a concert hall containing a large organ, class-room and dormitory accommodations for about five hundred students, was purchased. The success of this  institution and the high standard it maintains is proof of Dr. Tourjee's consummate ability as an organizer and manager. He had been equally successful as a choral leader, especially in connection with the two peace jubilees arranged by Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore at Boston in 1869 and 1872. Public school music and religious music also show his influence. He was  the originator of Praise Service in the church. In 1869 he received the degree of Doctor of Music from Middleton University; in 1872 he was elected Dean of the College of Music of Boston University. His work in church-music includes the compilation of several collections, among them The Methodist Church Hymnal, Chorus Choir, and Tribute of Praise.