The Establishment of the Swinney Conservatory of Music at Central Methodist University


The Swinney Conservatory of Music at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri has a long history with unique beginnings. After the Civil War, Central College (Central Methodist's original name) grew alongside a "Female Seminary," Howard-Payne Female College. Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the two schools developed their own distinct musical cultures with Howard-Payne faculty developing a music curriculum, and Central students forming their own musical ensembles. When the schools merged in 1923 these two cultures united to create a conservatory of music at a time when many other American conservatories were being established. Just before the merger, Kansas City banker Edward Fletcher Swinney, who had strong family ties to the Fayette area and a history of philanthropy towards causes in Missouri education, donated $35,000 to Howard-Payne College for the construction of the conservatory building that would eventually bear his name. This article focuses on the early history of both Central College and Howard-Payne Female College, the role that music played at both schools (as a curricular and non-curricular activity) and the events leading to the formation of Central College's music curriculum and construction of the Swinney Conservatory.


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy

Keywords and Phrases

19th Century; 20th Century; College Music History; Higher Education; Missouri Music Education; Music Education History

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

2328-2525; 1536-6006

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





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Publication Date

01 Jan 2022