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history

The Fontainebleau Schools

The Fontainebleau Schools (also known as Les Ecoles d’Art Américaines de Fontainebleau) are comprised of the Conservatoire Américaine and the École des Beaux-Arts. For almost 100 years the schools have been offering international summer programs of the highest level for students in music and architecture.

Boulanger and Stravinsky
Nadia Boulanger and Igor Stravinsky in Fontainebleau, August 15, 1938 (Library of Congress)

The schools originally got their start with the involvement of the United States during the First World War: General Pershing wished to improve the quality of the United States military bands and so asked the conductor of the New York Philharmonic — Walter Damrosch — to organize a music school in Chaumont, France, where US troops were headquartered. The school was led by composer and teacher Francis Casadesus.

After the war, Damrosch and Casadesus decided to continue the school, and with the support of the French government, the American Conservatory (Conservatoire Américain) opened in the Louis XV wing of the Chateau of Fontainebleau in 1921. The American Conservatory — with composer and organist Charles-Marie Widor as its first director — intended to offer the best of French musical education to young, promising musicians.

Nadia Boulanger Teaching
Nadia Boulanger Teaching

The school's illustrious faculty has included Maurice Ravel, Marcel Dupré, Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Philippe Entremont, Trio Pasquier, Jean Francaix, Henri Dutilleux, Charles-Marie Widor, Gilbert Amy, Betsy Jolas, André Boucourechliev, Pierre Amoyal, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Rubinstein, and Leonard Bernstein. The famed composition and harmony professor Nadia Boulanger was among this distinguished faculty from the beginning. Her energy, knowledge, and spirit guided the school while she was Director from 1949 through 1979.

The American Conservatory has influenced many of the world's finest musicians including Burt Bacharach, Daniel Barenboim, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Clifford Curzon, John Eliot Gardiner, Egberto Gismonti, Phillip Glass, Quincy Jones, Vilayat Inayat Khan, Dinu Lipatti, Astor Piazzolla, Louise Talma, Virgil Thomson, and many others.

Schools sign

The Ecole des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau (or School of Fine Arts) was founded in 1923 and adopted the same mission as the music conservatory in the spheres of painting, architecture, and sculpture. Over time, the program has focused its development exclusively on architecture, taking advantage of its location and the rich history of architectural education in France. Inspired by the setting of the Chateau and its magnificent formal gardens, its faculty has included prestigious international architects including Félix Candela, B.V. Doshi, Sheila Hicks, Lucien Kroll, René Pechère, Božidar Rašica, Paolo Soleri, Jerzy Sołtan, Aldo van Eyck, and Vilhelm Wohlert. Past directors of the school are Jacques Carlu, André Remondet, Pierre Devinoy, Bernard de la Tour d’Auvergne, Marion Tournon-Branly, Jean-Louis Nouvian, and Jean-Marie Charpentier.

Fontainebleau 1921 Season
From the 1921 season, in front of the Fontainebleau Chateau with Charles-Marie Widor (Director of the Conservatoire Américain and professor of organ); Mme George Montgomery Tuttle (President of the Executive Committee in America); Francis Casadesus (Director/Founder of the Conservatoire Américain and professor of the orchestra class); Maurice Fragnaud (President/Founder of the Écoles d’Art Américaines); Nadia Boulanger (harmony); Paul Vidal (composition, fugue and counterpoint); Isidore Philipp (piano); Georges d’Esparbès (conservator of the Chateau); André Bloch (assistant to Paul Vidal); Motte-Lacroix (assistant, piano class); Robert Casadesus (assistant, piano class); Aaron Copland (composition student).

administration

President of the Fondation des Écoles d’Art Américaines
Louis Schweitzer
Honorary President
Pierre Boyer

Director of the Conservatoire Américain (Music)
Philippe Bianconi
Director of the École des Beaux-Arts (Architecture)
Anthony Béchu

President of the Fontainebleau Associations (USA)
Therese Casadesus Rawson
Head Administrator in Fontainebleau
Catherine Delloye

Vice-President for Music
Jennifer Jahn
Vice-President for Architecture
Nicholas Stanos
Program Director for Music
Joseph Kerr
Assistant Director for Architecture
Tom Sheehan

Founded to expose the best American students to the French tradition in music and architecture, the Fontainebleau Schools have hosted more than 10,000 students from around the world at the Chateau de Fontainebleau during the summer sessions since its establishment in 1921. The Fontainebleau Schools are organized as a Foundation, recognized since 1926 as a public service corporation. They are affiliated with the Fontainebleau Associations, an American tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable foundation.

Scholarship funds are solicited in order to provide financial aid to talented students. You can support one full music scholarship for $3,500 and one full architecture scholarship for $4,500. Or, you can make a donation of any size, payable to the Fontainebleau Associations.

Fontainebleau Associations
P.O. Box 66
Wayne, PA 19087

Fondation des Ecoles d’Art Américaines
BP 50068
77301 FONTAINEBLEAU CEDEX