Five music teachers who changed the face of western classical music

Behind every great composer and musician is support of a teacher. While some went on to have illustrious composing careers of their own, others have been overlooked in the history of music. Here, we name five teachers we think you should know about

French composer, conductor and teacher Nadia Boulanger (1887 - 1979), circa 1975. (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Simon Sechter (1788-1867)

Based in Vienna, Sechter taught a number of the leading musical figures of his era, including (briefly) Schubert, Vieuxtemps and Bruckner, his most famous pupil.

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As a composer himself, he was less successful. Though hugely prolific – he penned around 5,000 fugues – very few of his works are still played today.

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

By no means the hapless grump portrayed in Amadeus, Salieri was by all accounts very affable company and generous to a fault, teaching many of his pupils for free. That prestigious list includes Beethoven, whom he taught all matters choral for two years, as well as Schubert, Meyerbeer and the young Liszt.

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

Appointed professor at the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 1899, Glazunov showed an admirable devotion to the welfare and education of his many students. These included Shostakovich, who Glazunov personally ensured was provided for in terms of both food and manuscript paper.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Holding posts first in Vienna and Berlin and then, after moving to the US in 1934, Boston and Los Angeles, Schoenberg’s list of students was prestigious and varied. As well the like-minded Anton Webern and Alban Berg, diverse composers such as John Cage, Roberto Gerhard and the conductor Otto Klemperer also enjoyed his tutorship.

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)

Herself a student of Fauré and sister of the formidably talented composer Lili Boulanger, Nadia Boulanger decided her strength lay in teaching. The length and breadth of the list of those who came to Paris to learn from her is extraordinary: from modernists George Antheil and Elliott Carter to minimalist Philip Glass; from Nuevo tango pioneer Ástor Piazzolla to jazz’s Donald Byrd.

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Top image: Nadia Boulanger (Getty Images)