McLaughlin College Musical Heritage & Traditions

McLaughlin College has an extraordinary musical heritage and tradition that goes back to our very first founding Master, as they were then known, of our College, Professor George Tatham. Professor Tatham was a distinguished Geographer who was recruited to York University by its founding President, Murray Ross. Professor Tatham was also a highly accomplished pianist. When President Ross invited Professor Tatham to become the first Master of McLaughlin College, he said he would only take up of the position if President Ross was to give the College a Bechstein piano. President Ross acquired the piano for the College, and Professor Tatham took up his duties as the first Master of McLaughlin College.

The Bechstein piano was played by Master Tatham on many formal and informal occasions at the College. Indeed, Master Tatham’s love of music did not end there. He soon invited members of the Department of Music at York University to join the College. For many years, the Department of Music was situated at McLaughlin College. The College also had a number of music practice rooms, at that time, where students could practice with their musical instruments. Each music practice room had its own piano.

In time, the McLaughlin College Dining Room was converted into a new, Digital Music Lab, and McLaughlin College became the hub of the most cutting-edge musical digital technology in the country. The most innovative and creative musicians were attracted to McLaughlin College as our College became the centre of new electronic musical digital recording technology.

The “roots” of our musical heritage and tradition run deep in the very founding of our College and in subsequent developments. And, they continued with a number of highly accomplished and world-renowned musicians who were attracted to McLaughlin College because of its firm foundations in music. For example, Canada’s greatest jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson, was appointed a Fellow of McLaughlin College and frequently practiced and performed at the College. Those who happened to come to McLaughlin College could often hear Oscar Peterson playing his distinctive jazz piano compositions on our College’s Steinway Grand Piano. Oscar Peterson, in fact, served as York University’s Chancellor from 1991-1994.

McLaughlin College has also had other very accomplished musicians as Fellows of its College including Peter Appleyard, the renowned Canadian vibraphone jazz musician, composer and band leader. And, most recently, Stephanie Martin, world-renowned musician, composer, conductor, and Professor of Music at York University who joined the McLaughlin College Fellowship. When Professor Martin first joined the faculty at York University she was, in fact, assigned an office in McLaughlin College.

Thankfully, McLaughlin College still proudly has two of its most precious musical instruments that are so integral to its history in so many ways: the Bechstein, that George Tatham insisted on before he would assume the office of the founding Master of McLaughlin College; and, the Steinway Grand Piano, that Oscar Peterson so enjoyed practicing and performing on at our College. With such a rich and distinguished musical foundation and history, music is clearly very much part of McLaughlin College and will, most undoubtedly, always be.