Paris-Manchester 1918
Conservatoires in time of war

1915. First issue of the Gazette des classes du Conservatoire

This invaluable document marks the beginning of the story of the Gazette des classes du Conservatoire. At the start of 1915, Nadia and Lili Boulanger set up the Franco-American Committee of the Conservatoire in order to assist students and graduates of the Conservatoire of Music and Declamation, in particular via exchanges of letters and the sending of parcels.

After a year of work, meetings, and making lists of recipients, Nadia and Lili Boulanger presented their project to leading figures in the Paris music world. Their addressees were Gabriel Fauré, Director of the Conservatoire, Alfred Bruneau, Inspector of Musical Education, Théodore Dubois, former director of the Conservatoire, and the composers Camille Saint-Saëns, Gustave Charpentier, Charles-Maris Widor and Paul Vidal.

Visible here are the Boulanger sisters’ strategies for each institution: l’École des Beaux-Arts inspired their project; the student societies of the French Academy in Rome provided a fertile environment for its growth, and the Conservatoire was the target institution. The Académie des Beaux-Arts (“the Institute”) provided moral support and lent its prestige to

Though the assistance from the École des Beaux-Arts was more theoretical than practical, Whitney Warren’s support alone was enough for the fund-raising concert tours in the United State to meet with considerable success. These benefit concerts allowed food, instruments and books to be sent to musicians at the front.

In tandem with this initiative, Nadia and Lili Boulanger asked their camarades [comrades/classmates] to send in their news regularly, and the sisters published this in a gazette appearing at irregular intervals (11 issues were produced between December 1915 and June 1918). In total over 1,300 letters from students and graduates of the Conservatoire were published in this gazette, which constitutes the most important source of information on musicians in the Great War.

Thursday 23 September 1915[1]



Dear Sir,

Under the chairmanship of Mr Whitney Warren from the Institute, some former American students at the École des Beaux-Arts established a Committee that has been most helpful to their classmates who were called up. A gazette produced by this Committee allows these classmates to stay in contact with each other, and they receive all sorts of packages.

Having heard from the artists in residence at the French Academy in Rome about the moral and material support that they have received, we thought that it would be desirable for students from the composition classes also to enjoy such[3] assistance.

For this purpose, we have been to see Mr Warren to ask him if it would be possible to add the composition students from the Conservatoire to the students from the École des Beaux-Arts, since they are required to share accommodation in Rome.

With great kindness, Mr Warren most readily agreed to support our project and added a musical section, for which we remain responsible, to the sections dedicated to fine art students.

He wishes as soon as possible to begin a publicity campaign in the United States that will raise the funds necessary to make the idea a reality. However, he believes that, to achieve success, he would need some great French musicians who are members of the Institute to stand with him. Therefore we are taking the liberty of asking you, Sir, on Mr Warren’s behalf and on ours, to be kind enough to join the Honorary Committee.

Mr Warren, we ourselves and all our classmates would be most grateful if you would agree to do so.

In the hope that we shall soon be able to inform them of the great support that they will receive from you, we remain yours very faithfully,

Nadia and Lili Boulanger

[1]This letter was sent on 24 September 1915.


[3]In the draft, “brotherly” was added in pencil.

Nadia and Lili Boulanger (1915) Circular Letter to the Members of the Honorary Committee of the Franco-American Committee, unpublished, 23 September 1915.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Music Department, Rés Vm Dos 88 (2), f. 1.
Document description: draft manuscript in blue ink on a separate folio.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Music Department, Rés Vm Dos 88- (10), f. 4vo-5ro.

Document description: copy in the Committee record book.

Holland-Barry, Anya B. (2012) Lili Boulanger (1893–1918) and World War I France: Mobilizing Motherhood and the Good Suffering, doctoral thesis, Madison: University of Wisconsin. Available at (accessed 22.02.2015).

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Laederich, Alexandra (2009) “Nadia Boulanger et le Comité franco-américain du Conservatoire (1915-1919)”, in Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane et al. (eds.), La Grande Guerre des musiciens, Lyon: Symétrie, p. 161-174.

Mastin, David (2016) ‘“Aux Armes ! Musiciens !” Les élèves du Conservatoire national en Grande Guerre’, Jardin, Étienne (ed.), Music and War in Europe from the French Revolution to WWI, Turhout: Brepols Publishers.

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Segond-Genovesi, Charlotte (2009) “De l’Union sacrée au Journal des débats: une lecture de la Gazette des classes du Conservatoire (1914-1918) “, in Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane et al. (eds.), La Grande Guerre des musiciens, Lyon: Symétrie, p. 175-190.

Segond-Genovesi, Charlotte (2013) “Penser l’après-guerre : aspirations et réalisations dans le monde musical (1914-1918)”, in PONS Lionel (ed.), Lucien Durosoir. Un compositeur moderne né romantique, Albi: Fraction, p. 5-39 [available at: ].

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