Carleton professor puts $2M toward a chair honouring career of Helmut Kallmann

Helmut Kallmann was a pioneering music historian and a leader in the study of music in Canada. As is often the case, a new Canadian is responsible for contributing something vital to the culture of this country.

Kallmann was born in Berlin in 1922. His life before he arrived in Canada was pretty dramatic too. In 1939, as part of a rescue spiriting Jewish children and youth out of Nazi Germany, he made it to Britain. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

Kallmann, because he was German, was sent to camps in Canada where he spent much of the war. In 1944, sponsored by a Canadian Jewish family, he found himself in Toronto working in a bookstore and taking piano lessons.

That sparked a career in music at the CBC, as the head of the music division in Library and Archives, and as the writer of a monumental History of Music in Canada 1534-1914, published in 1960. He also co-edited the 1981 and 1992 editions of The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada among literally hundreds of publications. That career has now been honoured by the creation of a chair in his name at Carleton University.

The individual filling the Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada will work with undergraduate and graduate students and research topics of Canadian music. The chair has been endowed by a $2 million commitment by a member of the Carleton faculty Prof. Elaine Keillor. The Koerner Foundation has also contributed. 

“I’m thrilled to be doing this,” said Keillor in a media release from Carleton.“I asked that we name the Chair to honour Helmut Kallmann, the former head of the music division at Library Archives Canada. He was a wonderful influence in my life, as he was for so many during his long career. I’m thankful to Helmut’s family and friends for being so supportive of the naming.”

Elaine Keillor

“The Kallmann Chair will take advantage of the unique archival research resources in the Ottawa area and will play a leadership role in bringing insights from Canada’s music history to students, music professionals and the public.” said Brian Foss, director of Carleton’s School for Studies in Art and Culture.

The search for the first occupant of this position will begin soon.

Keillor, who has been recognized for her philanthropy with a Leadership award, has also endowed the Helmut Kallmann Graduate Scholarship in Canadian Music, endowed by Keillor in 2014.

This caps a flurry of activity surrounding music at Carleton following as it does the plan to purchase Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Centretown and turn it into an arts centre for the university and the community.

Keillor was a talented young pianist, but she chose to pursue a professional career in musicology. She joined Carleton in 1977 as music school’s first female professor. She is a member of the Order of Canada.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.