Dr. Peter Simon, President
Dr. Peter Simon has served as President of The Royal Conservatory since 1991. During this time, he has overseen a dynamic transformation and dramatic expansion of this venerable Canadian institution founded in 1886.
When first appointed President, Dr. Simon sought to create a climate in Canada in which the arts were broadly recognized as an important means of furthering the personal, intellectual, and social development of all people. He firmly believes arts activities are the best means available to foster creativity and innovative thinking in all areas of endeavour, making them an indispensable element in the future social and fiscal success of our nation. Ultimately he seeks to promote a society in Canada in which the arts are a central part of the daily lives of all people and viewed as an integral element of a fulfilled life. He established The Royal Conservatory mission: to develop human potential through leadership in music and arts education.
With this expanded mission in mind, Learning Through the Arts® (LTTA) was founded as a new division of The Royal Conservatory. LTTA is a landmark educational initiative that places the arts at the centre of public education and creates a systematic means by which teachers use arts-based techniques to instruct the core curriculum. This pioneering program has now reached over 375,000 students and teachers in Canada and has been exported to over a dozen other countries around the world. Inspired by the success of LTTA in Canada, Prince’s Charities Canada, which supports the Canadian charitable work of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, has arranged to have the program brought to the United Kingdom.
The Royal Conservatory’s acclaimed early childhood music education programs were similarly conceived. Based on the latest findings in early childhood development, The Royal Conservatory’s Smart Start and Head Start programs incorporate the use of movement, singing, instruments, games, and positive experiences that foster and nourish children’s sensory ability, as well as their cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities.
The Glenn Gould School (formerly called The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School) was launched by Dr. Simon in 1997. It has become Canada’s leading training centre for highly-gifted young musicians. Named in honour of The Conservatory’s most acclaimed alumnus, The Glenn Gould School has emerged as one of the most forward-looking and innovative music schools in the world today.
Dr. Simon transformed The Royal Conservatory Examinations, vastly improving and expanding the curriculum, resulting in a substantial increase in the number of examinations given and candidates served. Beginning in 2003, a focused expansion of the Conservatory curriculum was launched into the United States where 100 examination centres now provide over 8,000 examinations to American students annually.
The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Royal Conservatory, and the exclusive publisher of all Royal Conservatory books, has grown substantially during Dr. Simon’s tenure. Today it is Canada’s largest print music company and publishes works by many Canadian composers.
Dr. Simon undertook the revitalization and expansion of The Royal Conservatory’s Toronto home into the heart of creative education for the nation and a vibrant cultural destination, creating the technologically superb TELUS Centre for Perforance and Learning. This extraordinary initiative included the full restoration of the magnificent historic Ihnatowycz Hall, Mazzoleni Concert Hall, and an array of new learning and performance spaces, as well as stunning Koerner Hall, which has brought the greatest international artists to perform at The Royal Conservatory and interact with students and audiences.
In 1992 Dr. Simon established The Royal Conservatory’s first Development Department. More than $200 million has been raised since this time and endowments have increased nine-fold.
As a result of all of these initiatives, the number of people across Canada and around the world who learn through Royal Conservatory programs has increased dramatically and now reaches well over 500,000 individuals annually.
Dr. Simon began his relationship with The Royal Conservatory as a student of Boris Berlin. He went on to study at New York's Juilliard School and in London with Louis Kentner. In 1983, Dr. Simon received a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying with the legendary pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher. He subsequently divided his time between performing, teaching at the University of Western Ontario, and overseeing the artistic direction of Preview Concerts in Toronto.
In 1986, Dr. Simon joined The Royal Conservatory as Director of Academic Studies where he was instrumental in planning and implementing a series of post-secondary programs, which led to the rebirth of The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School, now known as The Glenn Gould School. He also instituted regular classes by internationally acclaimed artists including Leon Fleisher and Jaime Laredo and supervised the compilation, editing, and recording of the Celebration Series of piano publications which have been used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
In 1989, Dr. Simon was appointed President of the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he initiated several key projects. In the area of programming, he introduced the first Master of Music Degree Program in Orchestral Performance in the United States and appointed the concertmaster and principal players from the New York Philharmonic as members of the faculty. Dr. Simon’s contribution to the school also extended to the area of fundraising, where he persuaded internationally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de Los Angeles and Shura Cherkassky to give benefit concerts. Under his leadership, the Manhattan School of Music began a physical plant renovation program and introduced new promotional materials and activities that led to a significant increase in the number of annual applicants.
Dr. Simon chaired the Arts Education sub-committee of the Minister’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture. He was honoured by the Salute to the City awards for his contributions to education in Toronto and has received an Urban Leadership Award from the Canadian Urban Institute.
In 2006, as part of a series of special events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising, Dr. Simon was acknowledged as one of 50 prominent Hungarian-Canadians whose contributions to creativity and innovation in Canada were celebrated.
Dr. Simon is married to the Canadian pianist Dianne Werner. They have two children, Nicole and Justin.