The History of SICM

trafalgar_historic_signFounded in 1970 by Dr. Stanley L. Osborne, the Summer Institute of Church Music has for nearly 40 years welcomed students from across Canada and the United States, from all Christian denominations and at all levels of ability, and the foremost figures in the world of Church Music as the faculty for a week of study, community, and discernment in the field of church music. It was the first and remains Canada’s only summer study program in church music.

Dr. Osborne was principal of the Ontario Ladies’ College in Whitby, Ontario, which under that name and its name since 1979, Trafalgar Castle School, the Institute has called home for most of its history. In 1974, he resigned as Director and was succeeded by his assistant, Kenneth Inkster.

faculty6_sosborne_dhiggsIn 1976, using the proceeds from his book, If Such Holy Song (a commentary on the Anglican/United Church Hymn Book of 1971), Dr. Osborne and his wife endowed what is now called the Osborne Organ Competition, which celebrated its 20th scholarship competition in Summer 2008.

Since Mildred Andrews appeared as the Institute’s first guest instructor in 1970, SICM has brought to Whitby and its students the finest performers, conductors, teachers and thinkers the field of church music has to offer in North America. This team is based annually on the presentation of daily classes in organ and choral/vocal music.

As the field of church music has broadened and become more complex, the basic organ/choral duo team has expanded to include specialty presenters to instruct, speak and lead discussions on such subjects as the use of piano and other instruments, newer trends in worship and music, the special challenges of youth choirs, new technologies and musical administration.

Dr. Inkster’s Thirty Year Tenure

faculty5_willpat_wrightFor 30 years, the second Director of the Institute, Dr. Ken Inkster, served faithfully and with distinction. Under his leadership the Institute’s visiting faculty became a who’s who of prominent church musicians in North America, and generations of church musicians and hundreds of congregations were the beneficiaries.

Perhaps most significant during Dr. Inkster’s tenure were three developments in 2001:

  • the adoption by Members of the Institute of its first Constitution,
  • its registration as a Charitable Organization, and
  • the election of its first Board of Governors.

Also beginning in Dr. Inkster’s tenure and ever since, bursaries have been made available to assist church musicians in attending the Institute and in reaping its benefits for themselves and for their congregations.

In 2004, Dr. Inkster retired and was succeeded in 2005 by the Institute’s third Director, Christopher Dawes.

Music-Retailer Participation

choir2Throughout the years, one of Canada’s major music retailers has visited the Institute to exhibit published music and lead anthem reading sessions to expose students to material, new and old. Mostly this role has been played by the Canadian Choral Centre(Winnipeg, MB) and Hysen Music (London, ON). In 2003, Music Plus (Kitchener, ON), joined this group of music retail partners which remains at the heart of church music in Canada.