The Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles originally opened in 1813 as a singing school under the Napoleonic Empire in Bruxelles, and was subsequently a Royal School of Music, founded in 1826 by William I of the Netherlands, and the school has officially existed in its present form since 1832. As an insitution offering university-level education in music and theatre, the Conservatoire acquired its royal status, amongst other reasons, thanks to the international status of successive directors such as François-Joseph Fétis, François-Auguste Gevaert, Edgar Tinel or Joseph Jongen.
Initially founded to train students for the opera – very in vogue at the time – the singing school established in Brussels in 1813 offered classes in singing and music theory. Thanks to its considerable success, the school rapidly developed and added classes for other instruments, and in 1826, at the instigation of the government of the Netherlands, it became the Royal Music School. The 1830 revolution interrupted the work of the royal school, and the representatives of the City of Brussels were forced to temporarily close the school in 1831, but it reopened in 1832 under the name "Conservatoire royal de Musique de Bruxelles". The committee designated to administer the school named the Mons-born musicologist and teacher François-Joseph Fétis (1833-1871) as the first head of the new institution. He had been a pupil and then teacher and librarian at the Conservatoire de Paris, and his ambition was to raise the young Belgian Conservatoire to the same standing as that of Paris, in particular by putting together an eminent teaching faculty, and by developing an orchestra which would be made up of teachers and students at the Conservatoire and would be dedicated to rediscovering and performing early music.
His successor, François-Auguste Gevaert (1871-1908), had a background as a musicologist and was a great organiser, and further increased the prestige of the Conservatoire: new courses and scholarships were introduced, the current building was constructed, and a musical instruments museum was founded. Under his leadership, the concerts of the Conservatoire were opened up to international and contemporary composers, and acquired an unequalled prestige.
The third director, Edgar Tinel (1908-1912), gave a new impetus to the teaching of theory, and created the opera course, while Léon Du Bois (1912-1925), despite being head during the difficult years during and following the first world war, managed to maintain the high level of education and also established a course in music history. Joseph Jongen (1925-1939) was the head who moulded the course at the Conservatoire into the form that we recognised today. He was succeeded by his brother Léon Jongen (1939-1949) and then Marcel Poot (1949-1966).
In 1966 the institution was divided into two language sections, each with it own director; Camille Schmit (1966-1973) for the francophone section, and Kamiel D'Hooge (1967-1994) for the Dutch-language section, leading to the duplication of the administrative departments alongside the theory and practical courses. Shortly afterwards, the two schools parted ways completely, each acquiring a separate, autonomous status within their own federal state.
In 1988, a jazz department was established.
In 2001, the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles adjusted its work in line with European standards to offer 'licence' degrees in two fields of music and acting.
In 2003, the current director Frédéric de Roos took office.
One year later, in line with the Bologna reforms, the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles started awarding Master degrees. This artistic education at the highest level is supported by being given in combination with a more general university-level education.
Since 2009, the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles has been associated with La Cambre, the national school of visual arts, and l'INSAS, national institution of performing arts, and the three schools together form ARTes, the platform of the three arts colleges of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, each of international standing and located in Brussels, which together offer access to courses of study in all artistic domains.