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- School


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The inception of the Heino Eller Music College coincides with the beginning of Estonian-language professional music education in 1919. During this period, a total of three music schools were opened in Estonia,

two of which were in Tartu: August Nieländer’s First Music School was opened in January and the Tartu Higher Music School of the Estonian Sound Art Society in September. The latter was housed in the current building of the music school at Lossi 15 and was led by Juhan Aavik. On 21 December 1921, these schools were merged to form the Tartu Higher Music School, which went on to include all former teachers and students. The school even had two directors: Juhan Aavik and August Nieländer. In April 1925, the school was renamed and became known as Tartu Conservatoire. On paper, there were still two directors, although Aavik was already more active in Tallinn at the time. In the interests of national savings, a decision was made that the conservatoire as a national educational institution would remain only in Tallinn.


The Society for the Advancement of Musical Education and Culture (Tartu Sound Art Society from 1931), led by Miina Härma, started working on the establishment of the new school. On 1 September 1927, the new Tartu Higher Music School was opened, with Harald Laksberg (1887–1963) serving as its director from 1927 to 1940. A number of teachers from the former conservatoire joined the new school. Thanks to a well-designed school system, strong teaching staff and exemplary organisation of work, the educational institution led by Laksberg rapidly developed into a school where the calibre of its best graduates was comparable to that of the Tallinn Conservatoire. Several graduates seized the opportunity to graduate from the conservatoire as an external student in the year following their completion of the music school (eg Olav Roots, Leonid Milk, Leonhard Virkhaus, Alfred Karindi, Wilhelm Tilting).


The period from 1927 to 1940 was marked by stability and success in the history of Tartu Higher Music School. The school was run by the Tartu Sound Art Society and additional income was received from tuition fees as well as grants from the state cultural endowment, institutions and private individuals. The study programme was divided into primary, secondary and higher education as well as preparatory and continuing education courses. Despite being one level lower than the Tallinn Conservatoire in the education system, teaching at the school adhered to the requirements of the conservatoire. Those who completed the full course of the music school could take the final exams of the Tallinn Conservatoire as an external student after a year of continuing education.


During these decades, the teaching staff of the school included a number of renowned musicians and music educators, with the most prominent being the composer Heino Eller (1887–1970) who worked here as a teacher of composition and music theory from 1920 to 1940. The impact of Eller’s work in Tartu is evidenced by his students, the most notable of whom are composers Eduard Tubin and Eduard Oja, pianist and conductor Olav Roots and musicologist Karl Leichter.


In 1940, Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union, which led to a major reorganisation of the country’s education system. Tartu Higher Music School was equated to a Soviet technical type school (only secondary education remained) and was renamed Tartu Music School. Since that time and up to the present day, Heino Eller Tartu Music College is a national educational institution which, just like Georg Ots Tallinn Music College, prepares musicians with secondary education. Some of the most renowned teachers at Heino Eller Tartu Music College during those decades included Johannes Bleive, Aare Allikvee and Vivian Tordik in music theory; Aleksandra Semm-Sarv, Aime Karm and Anu Antzon in piano speciality; Linda Riiner and Eduard Poolakene in violin speciality; August Metsa and Kaupo Antzon in wind instruments speciality; Richard Ritsing, Roland Laasmäe, Alo Ritsing and Vaike Uibopuu in choral conducting speciality; Uno Arro in accordion speciality, and many others.


After the Second World War, Tartu Music School was first led by Aleksandra Semm-Sarv (director 1950–1969) who as a talented teacher prioritised pedagogy, but as a person with a big heart, reorganised the school and retained individuals whom the Soviet authorities might not have tolerated. Under her successor, Ago Russak (director 1969–1991), the era of the Eller school commenced, as the school was named after Eller in 1971. During that time, a massive overhaul was undertaken and concert activities were revived. In 1981, primary school classes (current Youth Department) were established at the school. Russak also dreamed of restoring higher musical education in Tartu. However, it was only after his death, in 1997, that the Tartu branch of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre was established.


In the meantime, the school was also led by Jüri Kuus and Mart Jaanson. Kadri Leivategija has been the director of Heino Eller Tartu Music College since 2001.


On 30 November 2009, the fully renovated school building was reopened.


In autumn 2012, the construction of a new study complex commenced which was opened on 15 September 2014.


On 1 September 2019, the Estonian name of the school was changed from Heino Elleri nimeline Tartu Muusikakool to Heino Elleri Muusikakool.

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