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Joshua Ives (1854–1931)

by Doreen Bridges

This article was published:

Joshua Ives (1854-1931), musician and university professor, was born on 2 May 1854 at Hyde, Cheshire, England, sixth son of John Ives, furniture broker, and his wife Hannah, née Goddard. He was educated in Manchester at the Commercial School and Owens College and studied music with (Sir) Frederick Bridge and Henry Hiles. From 1878 he was organist and choirmaster at Anderston Parish Church, Glasgow, where he married Janet Boyd on 3 December 1879. That year he began lecturing on music at the Glasgow Athenaeum; he was a successful and efficient teacher. From 1882 he studied music at Queens' College, Cambridge (Mus.Bac., 1884). He was soon appointed foundation professor of music at the University of Adelaide and arrived there in March 1885.

The chair of music, Australia's first, had been financed by public subscription and Ives's salary (£500) made him one of the lowest paid of the seven Adelaide professors. The university therefore persuaded the Adelaide City Council to appoint him city organist, a position he held in 1885-90 at £200. The university council, at Ives's request, also made an exception and allowed him to receive students' fees to a limit of £250 a year because of the temporary nature of the chair, and his contention that he had been promised a higher salary. As Ives had persuaded the council to make matriculation concessions for those enrolling in music, there were plenty of students, most of whom were women. By 1890 there were more undergraduates in music than in any other department. Yet during the sixteen-year period of Ives's tenure of the chair there were only seven graduates in music, and most of these had received outside tuition. In 1891 press comment suggested that he was spending an inordinate amount of time daily at the Stock Exchange.

In 1886 the council had agreed to Ives's proposal that the university institute local public examinations in music, similar to those conducted in England. Held from 1887 in Adelaide and in country centres, these were the first Australian university public examinations in the subject: it was a step which led to an Australia-wide system.

Following Sir Thomas Elder's bequest for a school of music in 1897, and Ives's investigation of music teaching in England and Europe that year, council approved Ives's plan for a 'Conservatoire' within the university, obtained temporary premises, engaged staff and appointed him director of its Elder Conservatorium for three years from January 1898, at an additional salary of £200. A new building, with the Elder Hall, was opened in September 1900 at a ceremony which included compositions by Ives for the occasion. He was a prolific composer, especially of songs and works for the organ.

In 1898-1900 the university council received a stream of protests, mainly from music teachers, about the conduct of the conservatorium, Ives's competence as an examiner, and his bias in favour of conservatorium candidates. Ives alleged that the complaints were due to 'a jealousy and ill-feeling towards the Elder Conservatorium'. The council upheld his position and affirmed its confidence in him, and in return Ives offered to resign as examiner. He also intimated his intention not to apply for reappointment as director of the conservatorium after the expiry of his term. The council immediately took steps to replace him, whereupon he applied for a salary increase. A petition from conservatorium staff 'praying for the reappointment of Professor Ives as Director' was rejected, and in December 1900 the council informed him that his engagement as professor would not be renewed after December 1901.

Despite Ives's accusations of injustice, council was adamant. It stated that there were no charges against Ives, that the non-renewal of his appointment did not constitute dismissal, that it desired to make a change and would allow him to resign.

Late in 1901 a disagreement between Ives and the university's external examiners (who reported that none of the six candidates for the third year B.Mus. examination was fit to pass) was the subject of a parliamentary paper. Ives dramatically addressed the audience after the official party's departure at the conclusion of the annual commemoration proceedings. After this outburst in which he vilified the chancellor and vice-chancellor and defended himself, Ives left Adelaide. He settled in Melbourne where he taught music in Collins Street until 1920 and then at Brighton. He also became a small property-owner and engaged in moneylending.

Ives died at Kew on 16 June 1931, leaving the bulk of his estate of £2985 to a daughter and his 'dear partner' Sarah Howard. He was buried in Fawkner cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1901 (139)
  • University of Adelaide, Calendar, 1886-1902
  • Table Talk, 18 July, 26 Dec 1901
  • Observer (Adelaide), 21 Dec 1901
  • D. M. Bridges, The Role of Universities in the Development of Music Education in Australia 1885-1970 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney, 1970)
  • S. Way letter book (PRG 30/5/9, State Records of South Australia)
  • Council minute books, vols 3-7, and letters (University of Adelaide Archives).

Citation details

Doreen Bridges, 'Ives, Joshua (1854–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 May, 1854
Hyde, Cheshire, England


16 June, 1931 (aged 77)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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