Page 4 - The Organist's Companion | March 2020
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Peter Christian Lutkin


(1858–1931)





merican organist, choral conductor and
composer, Peter Christian Lutkin, was founder
of the music department at Northwestern
AUniversity in Chicago, Illinois, serving as
Dean of the School of Music for 43 years (1895-1928). Of
Danish descent, Lutkin was born on March 27, 1858 in
Thompsonville, Wisconsin. His parents, Peter Christian
and Hannah Susanna Define (Olivarius) Lutkin were from
Denmark and had emigrated to the United States in 1844.
They had moved to Racine, Wisconsin (1859) then Chicago
(1863) when Lutkin was five years old.
Lutkin attended Chicago public schools and at age thirteen
experienced the death of both parents. There is no record
of anyone who may have been his guardian after the
death of his parents. Nevertheless, Lutkin’s interest in
music obviously continued to play a central role in his
development. Prior to his parents’ death, Lutkin was
already a gifted musician, being chorister and organist at
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chicago; by
age fourteen, he had become chief organist. His formal
training started at age thirteen ((1871) studying organ with
Clarence Eddy; Regina Watson instructed piano, and he
received theory taught by Frederick Grant Gleason.
Lutkin became a piano instructor at the Conservatory of Peter Christian Lutkin
Music at Northwestern University when he was twenty-
one and went to Berlin, Germany
St. James (1881) for further piano study study piano and composition with Moritz Moskowsky and
Episcopal Church with Oscar Ralf, August Haupt Theodore Leschetitzky in Vienna.
for organ, and composition When Lutkin returned to Chicago, he initially became
instruction from Waldemar choirmaster and organist at St. Clement’s Protestant
Bargiel. His Berlin venture Episcopal and subsequently in those positions at St.
was followed by admission James Episcopal Church. Shortly after being director of
to the Royal School of Art the Theory Department of the American Conservatory
in 1882, becoming the of Music (1888), he was called back to Northwestern
only foreigner University (1891). At the behest of Cornelia Grant Lunt,
admitted there, the daughter of Northwestern’s founder, Orrington Lunt,
then moving Lutkin launched a restoration of the Music Conservatory.
on to Paris, Apparently, the Music Conservatory was going to be
France to discontinued, and Cornelia Lunt recommended Lutkin as
the one most capable of reestablishing a prominent music
conservatory at Northwestern University.
Lutkin’s efforts resulted in the conservatory becoming
a department in the College of Liberal Arts (1892). “Its
courses were modeled after German conservatories; all
students were required to take the same theory studies
so that they could attain a comprehensive knowledge
of music.” By 1895 Lutkin was appointed Dean of a
separate School of Music that had been formed. In 1928
he became Dean Emeritus. Lutkin’s impressive career at

(continued on outside back cover)

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