The Elder Conservatorium is prominently situated in the centre of North Terrace in Adelaide, South Australia. It is named in honour of Sir Thomas Elder, the Scottish-Australian pastoralist and benefactor who granted the Elder Professorship of Music, Australia’s first professorship of music, in 1884 and provided funds in his will for the construction of Elder Hall in 1898.
Its origins can be traced back to the foundation of the Adelaide College of Music in 1883. This was the first music school in Australia to introduce professional music education following the European model, as several of the early staff had studied in Leipzig.
In 1886, the first Elder Professor of Music, Joshua Ives, established the Australian public music examinations system, The Australian Music Examinations Board.
In 2005 the Elder Conservatorium received a 2005 Classical Music Award from the Australasian Performing Rights Association for "outstanding contribution by an organisation," the only Australian music academy to have won such an award, in recognition of its music program for the 2004 Adelaide Festival of Arts. In 2007 and 2009 the Elder Conservatorium hosted the National Music Camp, Australia's largest musical event. The Australian String Quartet is ensemble-in-residence at the Conservatorium.
The towering walls of Bonython Hall to the right of Elder Conservatorium, used for music performances, music examinations and public events, is opposite Pulteney Street, the only one of Adelaide's north-south thoroughfares which does not continue north through the parklands. Folklore has it that the Bonython family's donation to build the hall was made on the condition that it had to be built opposite Pulteney Street to block any future path through the Adelaide parklands and to prevent the establishment of any major thoroughfare.
On a sunny afternoon, people sit on the grass square alongside North Terrace and listen to the classical music being performed in these magnificent buildings.