It was founded in 1867, less than four decades after the city of Chicago was incorporated. It has given over a hundred years of uninterrupted service to music and music education and has played an important role in the development of the cultural life of the Midwest.
In 1865, after initial efforts to establish a Florenz Ziegfeld, Sr. as its director. (Ziegfeld Sr. was the father of Florenz Jr. who is better known as a successful and trail-blazing Broadway impresario.)
Two years later, in 1867, Ziegfeld established his own Chicago Academy of Music, the fourth conservatory in America. In 1871, the conservatory moved to a new building which was destroyed only a few weeks later by the Great Chicago Fire; despite the conflagration, the College was again up and running by the end of the year.
In 1872, the school changed its name to Chicago Musical College; over 900 students were enrolled in that year. A Normal Teachers' Institute was added to the school's offerings. Tuition in those far-off days cost an average of one dollar per lesson. Four years later the State of Illinois accredited the College as a degree granting institution of higher learning. A Preparatory Division was opened which established branches throughout the city.
Rudolph Ganz joined CMC's faculty in 1900 and, except for a brief hiatus in the 1920s, remained associated with the school until his death in 1972. In 1917, CMC offered a Master of Music Degree, and seven years later the School became a charter member of the National Association of Schools of Music.
By 1925, the College moved into its own eleven-story building at 64 E. Van Buren Street. One hundred and twenty-five names appeared on the faculty roster for that year, and the School opened three dormitory floors for students. In 1936, CMC was admitted as a full member to the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the only independent music college in the Midwest to enjoy such status. By 1947 the College was offering Doctorates in Fine Arts and Music Education.
In 1954, CMC merged with Roosevelt University's School of Music which was founded in 1945. The name "Chicago Musical College" was retained for the new college which was created by the union of the two schools. All operations moved to join the University in the now national landmark Auditorium Building at 430 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago's Loop. The building houses one of the finest auditoriums in the world, in addition to the Rudolph Ganz Memorial Recital Hall.
In the Fall of 1997 Roosevelt established a College of Performing Arts which joined Chicago Musical College and the Theater Program under one administrative unit. In 2000, under the leadership of new dean James Gandre, the name was changed to Chicago College of Performing Arts. The College has two divisions: The Music Conservatory and The Theatre Conservatory.