Percy Goetschius Biography

Percy Goetschius (August 30, 1853 – October 29, 1943) won international fame in the teaching of the theory of composition.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Goetschius was the piano pupil of Robert E. H. Gehring, a prominent teacher of that era. Goetschius was the organist of the Second Presbyterian Church from 1868–1870 and of the First Presbyterian from 1870–1873, and pianist of Mr. Benson's Paterson Choral Society. He went to Stuttgart, Württemberg, in 1873 to study theory in the conservatory, and soon advanced to become a professor. The King conferred upon him the title of royal professor. He composed much, and reviewed performances for the press. In 1892 he took a position in the New England Conservatory, Boston, and four years later opened a studio in that city. In 1905 he went to the staff of the Institute of Musical Art (Juilliard School) in New York City, headed by Dr. Frank Damrosch. Goetschius's notable students include Bernard Rogers, Howard Hanson, Arthur Shepherd, and Lillian Fuchs. In 1917, he was elected an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men in music, by the Fraternity's Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory.

Goetschius published nine textbooks on theory.

While Goetschius’ books are rarely used today as texts, they do contain many original theoretical ideas which have been passed from teacher to student and are widely accepted today.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest "My family name is (or should be) pronounced get'she-us. The family hails from Switzerland (1714), where the name was Götschi. One of my ancestors, middle of the 18th century, an earnest Latin scholar, affixed the Latin terminal us." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)