The Fontainebleau Schools
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.
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.
Some of the world’s finest musicians studied at The American Conservatory including Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones and many, many others. Some distinguished alumni such as Louise Talma, Robert Levin & Émile Naoumoff were also faculty.
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.