The History of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz

From Vocal School to University

In 1815, what is now the Styrian Music Society was founded as the Academic Music Society (Akademischer Musikverein) in Graz. In 1816, the society announced that it was to open a vocal school. The Academic Music Society’s vocal school began offering tuition – making it Austria’s oldest music institute and the root of today’s University for Music and Performing Arts in Graz (KUG). The social and educational significance of this private society was highlighted in 1819, when Archduke Johann, one of the brothers of reigning Habsburg Emperor Franz I, became a patron of the Music Society. During his 40-year patronage, he made a significant contribution to the development of the society’s school. As a result, the number of students rose continuously, reaching well over 400 by the start of the 20th century and encompassing musicians from Turkey, Russia, France, Egypt and America.

In 1920, the Society’s music school was granted permission to use the title of Conservatoire.

As of 1 April 1939, the Conservatoire was separated from the Music Society and brought under public management by the Province of Styria as the Styrian Provincial Music School in Graz (Steirische Landesmusikschule Graz). Its purpose was to train professional musicians in the province, while the State University for Music Education (Staatliche Hochschule für Musikerziehung) in Graz-Eggenberg taught those who wanted to teach music at higher education establishments and music schools, as well as offering private music tuition. A four-semester course was introduced alongside this for folk music and youth music leaders.

After 1945 the Styrian Provincial Music School continued to be run, using public funds, as the Styrian Provincial Conservatoire with the School of Folk Music in Graz (Steiermärkisches Landeskonservatorium mit der Volks-Musikschule Graz).The role of the Conservatoire, known as the “training school”, was to provide professional training for musicians and music teachers in the individual subject areas.

Strictly speaking, the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG) is a relatively young institution. With an amendment to the Academy of the Arts Act (Kunstakademiegesetz) (Austrian Federal Law Gazette dated 17 July 1962), on 1 June 1963 the Styrian Provincial Conservatoire became a federal institution – the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz), one of four art academies in Austria. Its first president was Erich Marchkl. (Marchkl’s role in Nazi music education is being researched as part of wider activities involving scholarly examination of the history of the institution during and in connection with the Nazi era. As an example, please see the university archive project sponsored by the Austrian National Bank Anniversary Fund.)

As a result of the Austrian College of the Arts Organisation Act 1970 (Kunsthochschulorganisationsgesetz), the Academy became the College of Music and Performing Arts Graz (Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz), with Friedrich Korcak appointed as the first rector on 18 May 1971. He was succeeded in 1979 by Otto Kolleritsch, who was in office until 1987. Sebastian Benda was subsequently rector from 1987 to 1991, before Kolleritsch was reappointed to the role, remaining in office until 2007.

In 1983, when the Austrian College of the Arts Studies Act (Kunsthochschulstudiengesetz) came into effect, the College of Music and Performing Arts Graz was granted the authority to award degrees for completion of any degree course. Since 1986, it has also been permitted to confer doctoral degrees.


The University

At the start of the academic year 1998/99, the six Austrian colleges of the arts had their formal status changed from Kunsthochschulen to Universitäten and became fully-fledged universities.

The first rector to be appointed following the Austrian Universities Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz) was Otto Kolleritsch, on 9 May 2003. His vice-rectors were Hermann Becke (Resource Management and Infrastructure), Renate Bozic (Staff Development and Women’s Advocacy) und Georg Schulz (Teaching). One of the noteworthy and lasting outcomes of his tenure was the planning and political implementation of the House of Music and Music Theatre (Haus für Musik und Musiktheater – MUMUTH).

He was succeeded from 2007 to 2011 by Georg Schulz, whose vice-rectors were Doris Carstensen (Quality Management, Staff Development and Gender Mainstreaming), Robert Höldrich (Art and Scholarship) and Elke Straub (Teaching) With the Dr.artium programme, introduced during Schulz’s tenure, KUG became the first institution in the German-speaking countries to offer an artistic doctorate. The Centre for Gender Research (Zentrum für Genderforschung) was also established in the same year, and for the first time in the history of Austrian music universities, an ensemble – Klangforum Wien – received a professorship (Performance Practice in Contemporary Music).

Objections relating to the reappointment of Georg Schulz in 2011 triggered an interim period – from October 2011 until the end of February 2012 – under Robert Höldrich as Executive Vice-Rector together with Elke Straub as Vice-Rector for Teaching. From March 2012 to 12 December 2012, Georg Schulz was in office as Rector with Vice-Rectors Robert Höldrich (Research), Elisabeth von Magnus (Art), Barbara Simandl (Finance and Infrastructure) and Elke Straub (Teaching). Following the decision of the Higher Administrative Court on the procedure for election of a rector, the university had another period of interim management, with Robert Höldrich as Executive Vice-Rector and the aforementioned vice-rectors from Schulz’s tenure, who remained in office until the position of rector was filled. During this period the 50-year anniversary of becoming an academy was celebrated, the Computer Music and Sound Design degree course was introduced (in cooperation with the FH Joanneum) and there was a significant expansion of the technical and instrumental infrastructure.

In the 2014/15 academic year, Elisabeth Freismuth became the first woman to take up the post of Rector of KUG. Her Vice-Rectors were Barbara Boisits (Research), Elisabeth von Magnus (Art), Barbara Simandl (Resources) and Eike Straub (Teaching). During her office, Freismuth contributed greatly to the public image of KUG, making its 200th anniversary a real focus of attention.

As a result of complaints relating to the fact that Elisabeth Freismuth was not reappointed, an interim rector had to be appointed once again in 2018. Eike Straub acted as Executive Vice-Rector, assisted by Vice-Rectors Barbara Boisits (Research, to 31 December 2018), Elisabeth von Magnus (Art) and Barbara Simandl (Resources). A plan for organisational reform to modernise the university’s administrative structure was developed and subsequently implemented at the end of 2019.

At the start of the summer semester 2020, Georg Schulz took up the post of Rector once more. His team consists of Vice-Rectors Gerd Grupe (Research, Gender and Diversity), Barbara Simandl (Finance and Personnel Administration), Constanze Wimmer (Academic and International Affairs) and Marie-Theres Holler (Infrastructure and Digitalization). Alongside his statutory duties as Rector, Georg Schulz is also responsible for art and quality management.

At present (as of winter semester 2020), around 2,200 students from 69 nations are studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, which has 17 institutes, a centre for gender research, and both artistic and artistic-scholarly doctoral programmes. With more than 1,700 events annually, allowing students to receive practically assessed training, KUG is the largest cultural events organiser in Styria.

From an Academy to a University. KUG Timeline

[Translate to English:] Akademie

1963 | Styrian Provincial Music School elevated to Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz
The history of today's University of Music and Performing Arts Graz dates back to the year the school of the Styrian Music Society was founded in 1816. From 1920, this school was permitted to use the title of “conservatoire”. Strictly speaking, the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz is a relatively young institution. With an amendment to the Austrian Academy of the Arts Act (Austrian Federal Law Gazette dated 17 July 1962), on 1 June 1963 the Styrian Provincial Music School in Graz became a federal institution – the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz – one of four art academies in Austria.

Erich Marckhl, head of the Conservatoire since 1957, was the Academy’s founding president. (Marchkl’s role in Nazi music education is being researched as part of wider activities involving scholarly examination of the history of the institution during and in connection with the Nazi era. As an example, please see the university archive project sponsored by the Austrian National Bank Anniversary Fund.)

Palais Meran, the residence of Archduke Johann and his heirs from 1845 to 1939, has served as the university’s headquarters since 1963.

Together with the departments of music theory, keyboard instruments, string instruments, guitar and harp, wind and percussion instruments, music education, church music, solo singing, choirs, orchestral conducting and repetiteur work, and performing arts, the Institute of (Practical) Music Folklore and the Archive of the Styrian Association of Music Schools formed part of the basic structure of the academy. While some of the names may have changed, the 17 artistic and scholarly institutes of today’s University of Music and Performing Arts Graz are based on this organisational structure for the academy.

1964 | Foundation of Music Folklore and the Archive of the Styrian Association of Music Schools
The primary role of the Academy’s scholarly institutes was research. These institutes were autonomous facilities, independent of the artistic departments.

The Institute of Music Folklore and Archive of the Styrian Association of Music Schools (known as the Institute of Ethnomusicology since 2009) is the oldest of a total of five institutes. It was founded and initally run by Walter Wünsch. According to its mission statement, it is dedicated to researching “tradition and modernity in the world’s musical cultures”. The Archive of the Styrian Association of Music Schools, which was attached to the institute, was where all key documents (including sound documents) relating to music education activities in music schools in the Province of Styria were collected and stored.

1964 | Inaugural General Meeting of the Society of Friends of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz
On 10 April 1964, the inaugural General Meeting of the Society of Friends of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz took place in the academy’s hall in Nikolaigasse. Former Deputy Governor Tobias Udier, who had contributed greatly to the elevation of the state conservatoire to an academy, was appointed as the first president. The purpose of the society is set out in Section 2 of the Articles of Association: The Society of Friends is an independent, non-political association whose functions include the moral and objective support of the further expansion of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz, material assistance where other means are not available, the support of the students and the procurement of instruments, books, tapes and records. At the outset, the association had about a hundred members.

1965 | Foundation of the Jazz Institute
The institute founded and run by Friedrich Körner was initially a research and teaching facility. In April 1969, it was split into the department of jazz practice – headed by Dieter Glawischnig – and the independent Institute of Jazz Research, which deals with scholarly research in the field of jazz and jazz-idiomatic music.

1965 | Establishment of a campus in Oberschützen in Burgenland
The campus in the municipality of Oberschützen in Burgenland was originally set up to enable those people who would otherwise have been prevented due to transport issues to complete a degree at a college of the arts. Integrated into the organisational structure of KUG as Institute 12 since 1998, it has its own studies and examination department as well as a library. Since 1982, the campus has been housed in the new building of the Oberschützen cultural centre.

1965 | Foundation of the Institute of Electronics
A studio for producing electronic music was set up as early as 1965. In autumn 1971, the studio headed by Heinz Hönig was sufficiently well-equipped to allow the principal methods for performing electronic compositions to be demonstrated for teaching purposes. Today’s Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics sees itself as an interface between science and art, between new technologies and musical practice.

1967 | Establishment of the Institute for Performance Practice and Evaluation Research
Headed by Vera Schwarz, the main function of the Institute of Early Music and Performance Practice (as the academy’s institute of work practice is now known) is to research early music, along with its performance traditions and practices, and make it accessible. The Institute of Aesthetics of Music was founded as the Institute of Evaluation Research at the academy in May 1967 by Harald Kaufmann, who ran it until his death in July 1970. His research areas included studies analysing the value of bodies of works, value analysis of musical interpretations, music-psychological tests and cultural-political market research. Today the institute is devoted to questions of music aesthetics.

College

1970 | Conversion of the Academy into a college
As a result of the 1970 College of the Arts Organisation Act (Austrian Federal Law Gazette dated 10 February 1970), the Academy was converted into a college on 1 August 1970. At an administrative level, this brought about the introduction of the rectoral constitution, which replaced the presidential constitution that had previously been in force. Along with the overall collegial body, the departmental collegial bodies and the university convention were enshrined in law as governing bodies. For the first time, these also included a student representative. A director of the rectorate was appointed to assist the rector. On 18 May 1971, Friedrich Korčak was elected as the first rector of the College.

1974 | Authority to award degrees in music education and instrumental music education
The Austrian Studies Act (Studiengesetz), which has been in force since 1974, made it possible to award the academic degree of magister artium to alumni in the field of music education. This right was extended to include all diploma courses by the College of the Arts Studies Act 1983, and in 1986 the right to confer philosophical and scientific doctoral degrees in cooperation with the Karl Franzens University was also granted.

1974-1985 | General renovation of Palais Meran
Palais Meran, built by Georg Hauberisser the Elder from 1841 to 1843 and residence of Archduke Johann and his heirs from 1845 to 1939, has been the headquarters of what is today the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz since 1963. After the renovation of the roof structure, in 1981 work on adapting the interior of the palace began, based on plans by Graz-based architect Ignaz Holub. This work concluded with the completion of the Florentinersaal (Florentine Hall) in 1985.

1982 | Establishment of a concert series
A concert series was set up in 1982, in collaboration with the Society of Friends of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Graz, to provide KUG students with the best concert hall in Graz for their public performances. The series opened on 10 December 1982 with a memorial concert for the conductor Karl Böhm, who died on 14 August 1981.

1988 | Start of construction work on the new building
In 1988, the foundation stone was laid for the first section of a new building with teaching rooms in Brandhofgasse. The building, designed in the shape of a wing and based on plans by Viennese architect Klaus Musil, was opened in 1993. Work on the second section, in which the library was to be housed, began in autumn 1998. Construction took 18 months, and the building was opened in spring 2000.

1989 | International competition “Franz Schubert and the Music of the 20th century” held for the first time
Today’s international competition “Franz Schubert and Modern Music” is a chamber music competition devised by Otto Kolleritsch and held for the first time in 1989 by the University of Graz under the rectorate of Sebastian Benda. Since then, it has been held every three years, bringing young musicians from all over the world to Graz. From the outset it focused on relating Schubert’s chamber music to modern and ultra-modern works for appropriate ensembles. In addition, it actively promotes the expansion of chamber music repertoire with composition competitions and commissioned works.

University

1998 | University status
On 1 October 1998 the Austrian Federal Act on Organisation of Universities of the Arts (KUOG) came into force and the College of Music and Performing Arts Graz became the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, or KUG for short (Austrian Federal Law Gazette dated 18 August 1998). With the Universities Act 2002 (Austrian Federal Law Gazette dated 9 August 2002), the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz finally changed from a federal institution to a “legal entity under public law”. The university council, rectorate and senate have since formed the university's governing bodies. On 9 May 2003, Otto Kolleritsch was elected as the first rector under the new Universities Act.

2009 | Opening of MUMUTH
In 1998 Dutch architect Ben van Berkel won the EU-wide architectural competition for the construction of a House for Music and Music Theatre (MUMUTH) in Lichtenfelsgasse. Construction work began in March 2006, and the house was opened three years later on 1 March 2009.

2009 | Foundation of a scholarly and an artistic doctoral school
Vice-Rector Robert Höldrich drew up the founding documents with which the rectorate set up a scholarly and artistic doctoral school on 1 June 2009. With the Dr.artium programme, KUG became the first institution in the German-speaking world to offer an artistic doctorate degree. This academic doctoral school replaced the previous inter-university philosophy and science doctoral degrees. The first artistic doctoral degree was conferred at KUG in 2013.

2009 | Establishment of a centre for gender research
The Centre for Gender Research (ZfG) was founded in 2009 under Rector Georg Schulz to promote the development and expansion of women’s and gender research in music and theatre studies at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz. Teaching and research in this field is initiated and coordinated across institutes, and national and international connections are made with institutions and organisations, as well as scholarly and artistic experts on gender issues in music, drama, and music and theatre studies.

2009 | Introduction of Performance Practice in Contemporary Music
In the winter semester 2009/10, two Performance Practice in Contemporary Musicprogrammes (a two-year master’s course and a one-year postgraduate course) were introduced. These programmes offer supervision by a dedicated professorship in the major artistic subject, for the first time giving instrumentalists the opportunity to receive authoritative specialist teaching in this area. One of the innovative features is the curriculum, which can respond to current developments in contemporary music in terms of repertoire and performance practice. Another is the at that time new and unique idea of awarding the professorship not to a single person, but to the internationally acclaimed ensemble Klangforum Wien.

© University of Music and Performing Arts Graz Archive, Ursula Raff, Graz 2014; updated 2020 by Sabine Göritzer