In the mid-nineteenth century Reverend Nathaniel E. Thayer’s wealthy sons constructed a palatial Victorian manse on the family homestead property in Lancaster, Massachusetts. It was designed with mansard roofs and the largest formal hall and staircase in New England. In the 1880’s the mansion was redone and extended. In 1902 architect Ogden Codman, the leading American Designer in the Beaux Arts Style, who was famous for his design of the Vanderbilt mansion, The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, redesigned the present house. The house is one of the high points of the American architectural style known as Georgian Revival. Its interiors, especially the Louis XVI elements, are some of the finest of its age found anywhere in the world. It is impressive to note that local artisans did the work. The building is proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1942 Atlantic Union College acquired the building and over the years it served as an administration building, college library, and men’s dormitory.
In 1972, Jon Robertson, the first African American to obtain a doctorate from The Julliard School, spearheaded the relocation of the college music department to Thayer Hall. Not long after, Mark Churchill, who later became director of the prep department at New England Conservatory, started the music preparatory department at Thayer. Since 1972, thousands of students have found this historic site an inspiring place to study the music of the masters. Our former Thayer students hold faculty and performing positions in prestigious conservatories, chamber ensembles, and orchestras, including New England Conservatory of Music, Longy School of Music, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Today Thayer Conservatory’s multi-cultural faculty are committed to providing expert instruction and outstanding performance opportunities for their students. In 2018 Atlantic Union College closed its doors for the last time, and the Youth Ensemble of New England, a non-profit organization started 51 years ago by Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse in her home in Sterling, Massachusetts, began leasing the Thayer Mansion and running the school. In the past few years art and drama have also been added to the curriculum at Thayer.
Our mission extends beyond this place as we seek to enrich our community through music and the arts. We believe that perseverance, diligence and dedication learned from studying music also leads to accomplishment and service in many other areas of life.