History of the University

    The beginnings of our university can be traced back to 1857, making us the oldest university of music in Baden-Wurttemberg and the fourth-oldest university of music in Germany. Initially, the university was called ”The Conservatory of Music“ and then later in 1869 became ”The Royal Conservatory of Music“, which implies patronage from the King of Wurttemberg. However, shortly after the Weimar Republic was established in 1921, it changed its name to ”The Wurttemberg College of Music“. In its first decades, the university was both an educational center for professional musicians and a music school for the so-called ”dilettante class“. It was only in 1921 that there was a separation of both parts and an emphasis on the university education.

    As early as the 19th Century, there was evidence of a piano conservatory based in Stuttgart that was using a very popular textbook as the foundation of its teachings (Lebert/Stark: Große praktisch-theoretische Klavierschule). In the first two decades of the 20th Century, there were two renowned pianist directors of the institution: Prof. Max Pauer (1907–1924) and Prof. Wilhelm Kempff (1924–1929).

    In 1938, when the violinist Prof. Carl Wendling (1929–1940) was director, the university was nationalized and, thus, financially secure for the foreseeable future. 

    The Second World War had a profound effect on “The State University of Music“. The university lost its building – the Villa Schönlein located on the Urbansplatz square – and had to be temporarily relocated to Trossingen. This became the university’s new location until 1946 thanks to the support of the Hohner company. In 1955, after years of temporary housing, the university was finally able to move into an adequate new building, which was once again situated on the Urbanplatz square. However, due to the ever-increasing number of students (more than 900 within a few years) the new building proved to be too small as well. As a consequence, in the 1980s, a new building for the University of Music was planned in connection with the extension of the Staatsgalerie and as part of the developments of the so-called “culture mile”. The internationally ranked post-modern building ensemble was constructed according to the design of the British architects, James Stirling and » Michael Wilford. In 2002, the University of Music was finally complete when the second stage of construction was finished, thus bringing the design full circle. 

    In the 19th century, the Stuttgart conservatory was a center of education and training for budding actors, yet it was only in 1942 that an acting school was founded. And so as of 1963, the university was re-named “The State University of Music and Performing Arts” ─ and the name still stands today. 

    Of course, the range and scope of the performing arts extends well beyond acting alone: here in Suttgart it includes a school of opera (and our has a very rich tradition), an institute for the spoken arts (that is renowned well beyond the federal state borders) and a visual theatre – puppetry and animation, which was founded in 1983, and which is unique among the former West German states. Since 1987, the university has the lavishly restored Wilhelma Theater (built in 1837–1840) at its disposal. The Wilhelma Theater is unique and can rival any metropolitan city theater.

    Besides the architectural and structural progression, recent decades were  characterized by developments in personnel and artistic-education. Another traditional and very strong area of development at the university is church music, which was further developed by the director Prof. Dr. Hermann Keller (1946-1952). With a total of 11 organs the university is one of the best-equipped in church music and concert organ playing in Germany today. Numerous renowned composers came from the State University of Music Stuttgart. Prof. Helmut Lachenmann being one of the best-known in recent years. In 1989, an outstanding electronic studio was built heralding a new era in experimental music and another group of instruments other than the traditional music instruments familiar to a music university. This new development enriched the university and paved the way for its introduction to the syllabus through educational didactics.

    Although predominantly classical music oriented, the university charged ahead in its determination to widen its scope. And in 60s and 70s, it did just that when it welcomed Jazz into the fold. Erwin Lehn, the long-time leader of the SDR-Big Band started another Big Band at the university, which at the time only consisted of students with a background in classical music. It was in 1986 with the advent of Prof. Bernd Konrad that a proper course for Jazz and popular music was founded.

    In 2001 the university decided to employ a new strategy, electing for the first time in its history an external applicant as president, Prof. Dr. Werner Heinrichs. Prior to his appointment as president he had been the Professor of Arts Management.  In 2002 the second phase of construction was completed by Stirling, Wilford and Associates (today » ORANGE BLUE).  This included the multiply award-winning School or Theatre, Elementary Music Education and Organ Collection. A year later in 2003, the university was awarded the right to confer doctoral degrees in musicology and music pedagogy. In 2005, the university re-structured itself completely giving rise to its current structure of four faculties and eleven institutes. The infamous Bologna Reforms triggered the administrative changes of 2008, when under Pro-rector Prof. Dr. Matthias Hermann the program of study was converted to the Bachelor and Master system. Alongside one active support association, the university has been fortunate enough to benefit from two university own foundations since 2010. With respect to commercial concerns, the university utilizes its own company in the form of a GmbH, which it has been using as a subsidiary since 2006.   

    The university’s outstanding reputation is reflected in the countless first-rate appointments, the many successful international competitions and professional public relations. Annually, the university receives some 2,800 applications for 100 possible study places, powerful testimony indeed of its reputation.