The Game Changer?

After the First World War the government gave grants out to returning soldiers to go back into education, including music.


It’s 1919, right? You’ve just finished a war that took four years to end when you thought it was going to take four months. The country is shaken and an incredible number of people, families and livelihoods are destroyed.

You need to rebuild. You need infrastructure.

I know! Musicians. That’s what we’ll do.

And that’s what they did. Between 1919 and 1920 around 90 returning soldiers came back from the war, collected government grants (primarily through the Board of Education) and entered into study at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

RMCM student registers giving information of soldiers


RMCM student registers listing the soldiers’ grant giving body and length of study.

Instant game changer.

Why? Because prior to that the College was mainly women. Young ladies who came to the College as a sort of specialist finishing school, since, as we all know, the only way to get a good husband is to learn to play the piano.

Satire aside, that was the overall environment of the College. So then you have these young women who have been affected by war in (as yet) unknown ways and then suddenly you get these soldiers turn up in the dozens who have seen and done and are feeling who knows what, to study with them.

What an drastic change in environment. This changed so many things. Or, at least, we think it did.

This is what we’d like to learn on this project. Did this change the College? How so? Was this a game changer? We already know that it increased the use of wind and brass instruments, as women were discouraged from playing them. Putting something in one’s mouth is highly unseemly, don’t you know.

But did the repertoire change? Did the actual performance change?

Keep an eye out on this blog as we delve into the College’s records and share with you what we find.



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