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La Schola was founded in 1894 and opened on 15 October 1896 as a rival to the Paris Conservatoire. Alexandre Guilmant, an organist at the Conservatoire, was the director of the Schola before d'Indy took over. D'Indy set the curriculum, which fostered the study of late Baroque and early Classical works, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony. According to the Oxford Companion to Music, "A solid grounding in technique was encouraged, rather than originality, and the only graduates who could stand comparison with the best Conservatoire students were Magnard, Roussel, Déodat de Séverac, and Pierre de Bréville." The school was originally located in Montparnasse; in 1900 it moved to its present site, a former convent in the Quartier Latin.
In addition to those mentioned above, students, not all full-time, have included: