In 1907, William S. MacPhail, an original member of the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra), established the MacPhail School of Violin in Minneapolis. Due to the overwhelming popularity of its programs, including music history and harmony classes, the school expanded its offerings.
The newly named MacPhail School of Music and Dramatic Art moved to a new four-story facility located at 1128 LaSalle Avenue in Minneapolis. With the larger space, MacPhail saw increased community interest and soon expanded to offer college degrees.
Among the graduates of MacPhail’s class of 1927 was a young man whose musical dream would soon become a part of American culture – Lawrence Welk. After World War II, MacPhail’s enrollment grew. Along with violin and classical instruction, MacPhail offered courses in popular styles of music, such as jazz, reaching a wider range of students.
MacPhail at the University of Minnesota
In 1966, four years after the death of William S. MacPhail, the MacPhail family gifted the MacPhail College of Music, with now 100 faculty members and 3,000 students, to the University of Minnesota. Under the University’s administration, the name was changed to MacPhail Center for the Performing Arts.
During its tenure with the University, program directors created revolutionary curricula for young children. In the late 1960s, MacPhail introduced an Early Childhood Arts program and one of the nation’s first Suzuki Talent Education programs. It would take more than a decade for similar programs to begin to be seen across the country.
In 1987, the University announced it would dissolve relationships with institutions that did not primarily serve college students. In 1994, after taking time to develop a board of directors and internal administration, MacPhail became an independent, non-profit organization.
A certified member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, MacPhail remains a steadfast leader in music education. In 2003, the organization changed its name to MacPhail Center for Music to reflect its dedication to the mission of its founder William S. MacPhail – promoting lifelong learning through music. In January 2008, MacPhail moved to its current location at 501 South Second St, Minneapolis, a brand new state of the art music facility.
MacPhail Center for Music continues to grow with more than 200 faculty members serving over 15,500 students. MacPhail provides instruction at more than 132 locations outside of its downtown Minneapolis facility in more than 35 instruments and a variety of musical styles.
Through MacPhail’s innovative Community Partnership programs delivered in the Twin Cities and throughout the state, MacPhail serves more than 8,500 people who would otherwise not have access to music education. Each program is tailored to the unique needs of each partner, offering everything from Sing Play Learn with MacPhail® classes at preschools to supplemental music programs at area schools to programming in long term care facilities. In addition, MacPhail helps make music education accessible by awarding more than $500,000 in support annually through its financial aid fund.