Wilfred Conwell Bain

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Wilfred Conwell Bain
Wilfred Conwell Bain (1908–1997).JPG
Wilfred Conwell Bain ca. 1940s
courtesy of the
University of North Texas
Music Library Archives
Born (1908-07-20)July 20, 1908
Shawville, Quebec
Died March 7, 1997(1997-03-07) (aged 89)
Bloomington, Indiana
Nationality U.S. (naturalized 1940)
Alma mater

A.B., Houghton College (1929)
B.M., Westminster Choir College (1931)
M.A., Music Ed., NYU (1936)

Ed.D., Mus. Ed., NYU School of Education (1938)
Occupation Opera workshop director
Music educator
Music school dean
  University of North Texas
  Indiana University
Partner(s) Mary E. Freeman (1905–1993)
Betty Myers
Parent(s) James Alexander Bain
Della Hawn (born 1881)

Wilfred Conwell Bain (January 20, 1908 – March 7, 1997) was an American music educator, a university level music school administrator (former Dean of two major music schools spanning 35 years), and an opera theater director at the collegiate level. Bain is widely credited for rapidly transforming to national prominence both the University of North Texas College of Music as Dean from 1938 to 1947, and later, Indiana University School of Music as Dean from 1947 to 1973. Both institutions are major comprehensive music schools with the largest and second largest enrollments, respectively, of all music schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. He was born in Shawville, Quebec, and died in Bloomington, Indiana.[1]

James R. Oestreich, classical music critic for The New York Times, referred to Bain as a legend who lifted the Jacobs School of Music to national prominence from 1947 to 1973.[2]

Contributions to collegiate schools of music[edit]

Created a new model
Bain’s major contribution to higher music education was uniting what formerly (pre World War II) had been three different kinds of music learning centers:

  1. Conservatories, a European model where student musicians trained exclusively in music to become music makers – instrumentalists, singers, composers, and conductors;
  2. Music Departments at liberal arts colleges – including those of Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago – that had two basic functions: (a) preparing young music scholars for futures in higher education, as functioning scholars in musicology, music history, and music theory, and (b) serving as curricular enrichments for general students;
  3. Teachers Colleges (aka "Normal Schools"), that trained young musicians expressly to be teachers of pre-collegiate music, the K-12 curricula of the nation.

At two public institutions, Bain put all three models together into comprehensive music schools with the critical mass (large enrollments) needed for major productions in opera, large chorus, and symphony orchestras. And, Bain integrated these large, comprehensive music schools within their host colleges: first at the University of North Texas (then the nation’s largest public teachers college that was emerging as a liberal arts university), second at Indiana University at Bloomington.[3] Putting talent aside, Bain strongly felt that a music degree from a comprehensive music school that was embedded within a liberal arts university was a more powerful degree (from an interdisciplinary, rounding perspective), for both undergraduate and graduate students. Bain capitalized on the intellectual assets inherent of a university. The science core requirement, for example, might offer musical acoustics taught by physics professors. The English departments and theater wings might collaborate with the composition department. The music schools of North Texas and Indiana, often, were beneficiaries of talented students not majoring in music (Michael Brecker, while at Indiana, declared English as his major).

Presided over the first college degree in jazz studies

While at the University of North Texas College of Music (1938–47), Bain, as dean, presided over, advocated, and spearheaded the country's first degree program in jazz studies during the 1946–47 school-year.

Stressed vocal and opera to galvanize a wide spectrum of music disciplines

Until Bain, opera education (capable of producing fully mounted operas) was a discipline relegated to conservatories in urban settings. While at North Texas, and more so while at Indiana University, Bain not only stressed opera, he built enrollments, quality, and performance-frequency to levels never witnessed in their respective regions (audiences were, of course, familiar with professional touring companies, such as the Charles Wagner Company). Bain viewed opera as the "perfect vehicle for the musical experience – for the student, for the faculty, and for the audience." He said that "Opera is the crossroads where they all meet." "And, opera is the public review of a music school's total work." Bain believed that, at Indiana, he had built a great music school, in part because of its size, which allowed it to achieve the critical mass, the power and drive of a faculty and hundreds of talented students.[4]

Presided over the construction of an opera hall of unparalleled quality at a university

When the Musical Arts Center at Indiana officially opened in April 1972, it was the first of its kind at a university. Before then, there were performance venues at universities with great aesthetics and acoustics (such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Gammage at Arizona State University), but few equipped specifically for both education and state-of-the-art professional level opera productions. The hall's proscenium is 69 feet (15 feet longer than that of the Met). Like the Met, the hall has four stages: The main (90 by 60 feet), two side stages (50 by 50 by 28), and a rear stage (which holds a 48-foot turntable and allows the front stage to increase its depth by an additional 55 feet). The side and rear stages are equipped electrically controlled wagons on which complete sets can be assembled and them moved onto the main stage. And on the main stage, there are traps every 6 feet. The house's pit is on elevators and is 55 by 60 feet. The lighting equipment was, at the time, sophisticated, capable of presetting over 200 cues. The hall has a full audio/visual recording studio with facilities for live radio and TV broadcasts. Bain saw the facility not as a gigantic auditorium, but as a giant, varied classroom. There are dozens of rooms for rehearsals and classrooms (two that are large enough for orchestra and chorus), three for ballet, and several of identical size for staging rehearsals. A typical production could involve 200 students, faculty and staff. And, while one work is being performed, several others can be in rehearsal simultaneously. Bain felt that the hall was as good as that of the Metropolitan Opera, if not in many ways superior. Although the Met seats 3,700 while IU's hall seats 1,450, Bain regarded it as an advantage because (i) it makes possible a more intimate theatrical experience for the audience, (ii) it doubles the need for performances (good for double casting and student musicians needing experience), and (iii) it puts less strain on young voices.[5]

Dean of deans

Bain has been called "The Dean of Deans," for various reasons, including the fact that several students under him at both North Texas and Indiana went on to become heads of music at notable institutions of higher learning. Some of these people include:

Positions held[edit]

Memberships & affiliations[edit]

Professional & honorary fraternal affiliations

  1. Alpha Alpha, 1966 (National Honorary Chapter)
  2. Gamma Theta, 1940 (University of North Texas College of Music Chapter)

Baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate education[edit]

Bain had been a pupil of John Finley Williamson, Father William J. Finn (1881–1961; former choirmaster of Manhattan's Church of St. Paul the Apostle), Isidore Luckstone (1861–1941), Hollis Dean, and Percy Grainger[8]

EdD Thesis Wilfred Conwell Bain, The status and function of a cappella choirs in colleges and universities in the United States, New York University School of Education (1938)

Honors & awards[edit]

Honorary degrees




May 1918 – Bain, a Canadian of Scottish descent, moved from Canada to the U.S. – crossing at Ogdensburg, NY – with:
His parents
James Alexander Bain (1883–1960), a Methodist minister
Della Bain, née Hawn (1881–1965), (James and Della married February 15, 1905, Renfrew County)
His brothers & sister
  1. Howard Erskine Bain (1906–1988)
  2. Donald John Bain (born 1912)
  3. Doris Evelyn Bain (1917–2010),[9] (aka Doris Bain Thompson, wife of Dean V. Thompson)
Doris earned a bachelor of music in 1938 from Houghton College and a masters in music education from the UNT College of Music and became a music educator with emphasis in choral music[10]

Marriages & naturalization

  • July 1, 1929 – Bain married Mary Elizabeth Freeman (1905–1993)
  • November 27, 1941 – Bain became a naturalized U.S. citizen during a ceremony in Federal Court in Sherman, Texas[11]
  • Second wife, Elisabeth Bain (aka Betty Myers Bain, née Elisabeth Perkins; born 1918); widow of John Holmes Myers, PhD, CPA (1915–1993), former IU Professor Emeritus Accounting. Betty is a prolific author of young people's books, particularly in areas of U.S. history.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]
  1. Thomas Perkins Myers (of Lincoln, NE)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ HEADS Data – Special Report, 2009–10, National Association of Schools of Music Note: For more than 20 years, North Texas Music enrollment has tracked closely to that of Indiana. Institutions that include Berklee, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music are not among the 627 NASM members. One non-NASM music school has a student enrollment larger than North Texas – Berklee.
    North Texas Indiana
    2006–07 1,649 1,638
    2007–08 1,659 1,633
    2008–09 1,608 1,554
    2009–10 1,635 1,557
    2010–11 1,596 1,578
  2. ^ James R. Oestreich, Innovative New Baton Keeps A School's Faculty Aquiver; Still, Indiana's Dean Emphasizes Grace Notes In Adjusting a Venerable Institution's Themes, The New York Times, April 16, 1998
  3. ^ William Ennis Thomson ("Ennis Williams"), Wilfred C. Bain: A Reminiscence In Memoriam, College Music Symposium, Vol. 38, College Music Society (1998)
  4. ^ John Ardoin, Arts Bloom in Indiana, The Dallas Morning News, pg. 1, April 23, 1972
  5. ^ John Ardoin, Arts Bloom in Indiana, The Dallas Morning News, pg. 1, April 23, 1972
  6. ^ Denton Music School Chief Elected by National Group, The Dallas Morning News, pg. 5, Jan 12, 1941
  7. ^ Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial Edition, Nicolas Slonimsky, Editor Emeritus. Schirmer, now part of Gale (Cengage) (2001)
  8. ^ NTSC Music Head Resigns, The Dallas Morning News, pg. 4, June 17, 1947
  9. ^ US Dept of Labor, Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission, Sheet 3-E, lines 10–15, May 1918
  10. ^ Obituary: Doris Bain Thompson, Seattle Times, October 15–20, 2010
  11. ^ U.S. Citizenship Given 18 Persons in Sherman Rites, The Dallas Morning News, pg. 8, Nov 28, 1941
  12. ^ Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, Volume 14: September 1984 — August 1986, H.W. Wilson Company, New York (1986) OCLC 30457106
  13. ^ Contemporary Authors: A bio-bibliographical guide to current writers in fiction, general nonfiction, poetry, journalism, drama, motion pictures, television, and other fields, Volumes 5-8, 1st revision, Gale Research, Detroit (1969) OCLC 18923896
  14. ^ Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series: A bio-bibliographical guide to current writers in fiction, general nonfiction, poetry, journalism, drama, motion pictures, television, and other fields. Volume 3, Gale Research, Detroit, (1981) OCLC 655229943
  15. ^ Something about the Author, Facts and pictures about authors and illustrators of books for young people, Volume 36, Gale Research, Detroit (1984) (biography contains portrait) OCLC 792606853
  16. ^ The Writers Directory, St. Martin's Press, Gale Research, & St. James Press
    3rd ed., 1976-1978 OCLC 59834531

    4th ed., 1980-1982 OCLC 59053972, 8163214
    5th ed., 1982-1984 OCLC 8163214, 8144062
    6th ed., 1984-1986 OCLC 10116323
    7th ed., 1986-1988 OCLC 13670332
    8th ed., 1988-1990 OCLC 17932548
    9th ed., 1990-1992 OCLC 21388451
    10th ed., 1992-1994 OCLC 24625196
    11th ed., 1994-1996 OCLC 29382476
    12th ed., 1996-1998 OCLC 60308426

  17. ^ Authors of Books for Young People, Supplement to the second edition, by Martha E. Ward et al. Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, New Jersey (1979) OCLC 4037056
  18. ^ Foremost Women in Communications: A biographical reference work on accomplished women in broadcasting, publishing, advertising, public relations, and allied professions, Foremost Americans Publishing Corp., New York (1970) OCLC 105233
  19. ^ Who's Who of American Women, Marquis Who's Who, Wilmette, Illinois

    7th ed., 1972–1973 (1971) OCLC 11933893
    8th ed., 1974–1975 (1973) OCLC 8105910
    9th ed., 1975–1976 (1975) OCLC 11933910
    10th ed., 1977–1978 (1978) OCLC 3908342