Music in the Oshawa Schools

In 1927/1928, Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin president of the Home and School Council with the help of Mrs. Gertrude Colpus,[1] asked the school trustees to appoint a musical supervisor, with the result that Mr. Leslie Unitt was the first one appointed here. He was here until 1929 and it could be said that he laid the ground work for the others who followed.

In 1929, Mr. Leonard Richer was the next supervisor to be appointed and he was here until his death in January 1945. He did much to organize the new project here. In spite of his lameness, Mr. Richer was able to get around to the different schools and conduct the lessons in the classes, himself. It was stated that the children’s ability to read music was excellent. Part singing was also developed.

Concerts were given in the schools where there was a large auditorium and all of the schools in the town took part. The same songs were taught in the different schools and the children did not sing together until the night of the concert. These festivals were very good.

Mr. Richer, an excellent violinist himself also did much to promote the establishment of orchestras in the schools. He conducted the first violin classes in the public schools for children who wished to take it up.

At first Mr. Richer’s work was in the public schools, but later in 1928 and 1929, he organized a Glee Club in the Collegiate on Simcoe Street North. Also about this time an orchestra was started.

Just before this, the two sons of Rev. Maxwell, pastor of St. Andrew’s church, wrote a song for the Collegiate. One of the boys wrote the words for the song and the other composed the music.

After Mr. Richer passed away in 1945, Mr. E. Wallace who was the supervisor at present was appointed. In 1954, the first assistant to the music supervisor was hired.

Under the guidance of Mr. Winkler in the Central Collegiate, music was put on the curriculum in 1955. This comprised the Glee Club and Orchestra. The C.C.J. was the first secondary school to do this. Eastdale Collegiate held the banner for having the best orchestra of any of the Oshawa schools in this year 1967. They played at “Expo.” The McLaughlin Collegiate also had the honour of playing there, as well.

…Those recitals were comprised of piano solos, ducts trios, quartets and quintets – I hope the pianos were all tuned to the same pitch for the last named. The numbers consisted of few by the composers Bach B, etc. but most of the selections were variations on old song tunes and descriptive pieces such as ‘Falling Water.”

There were many locale and passages pieces also chores and Oct. They were showy when being excused played but were wonderful.

[1] Executive of the Centre Street Home and School Association and first woman to be elected Chairman of the Oshawa Board of Education. Public school named after her – officially opened February 1959. (Ross. P. 179)


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