Last week, Jessica Grimmer gave her dissertation presentation, the final step before her dissertation defense. Those in attendance received a tantalizing preview of her dissertation, entitled “Ideological Battlefields in the Music Conservatoires of the French Provinces under the Nazi Occupation and Vichy Regime” (see abstract below). All the best in the home stretch, Jessica!
The Armistice of 22 June 1940 terminated hostilities between German and French forces, but inaugurated four years of government by the newly formed Vichy Regime and German Occupation. These forces swiftly reshaped nearly all aspects of French daily life, including the state-sponsored musical institutions. Among these, the French conservatoire system appears uniquely extensive and influential. Founded in the cradle of the French Revolution to train new generations of composers and performers, the Conservatoire de Paris served as a major musical tastemaker for the country. The institution expanded its reach by authorizing smaller provincial conservatoires and écoles de musique during the nineteenth century. Forty-two such institutions existed at the time of the Armistice.
These schools created an often-fraught relationship between state and municipal leadership. Municipal leaders made faculty and administrative appointments with approval of the state-appointed regional préfet, while state-appointed inspectors monitored the entire conservatoire system to ensure standards remained uniform under the auspices of the Ministre de l’Enseignement and its subsidiary the Ministre des Beaux-Arts. Tension compounded under Vichy and the Occupation as wartime constraints and political policy generated new conflicts.
This dissertation examines the wartime histories at provincial institutions in cities of the occupied zone (Bayonne, Orléans, and Lille) and initially unoccupied zone (Avignon, Toulouse, and Lyon) on the basis of student enrollment, faculty and administrative personnel and policies, classes conducted, and documentation of oversight. It presents a comparative study of these institutions through investigation of archival documentation at both the state and municipal levels from the Armistice through the liberation in August of 1944. This dissertation thus builds geographically outward from research on the Conservatoire de Paris and complements the literature on wartime histories of the provinces through the inclusion of these significant institutions.