Using the Archives Contact Us Search Site Index -
College Archives
Published Resources
Teaching Resources
Records Management
Outside Links
About the Archives
library links
RG 10 - Conservatory of Music
Scope and Content

The records of the Conservatory of Music span the years 1841 to 1999, the earliest records consisting of printed catalogs and concert programs. Few records of evidential value have survived to illuminate the period from 1867, when the Conservatory became a division of the College, to 1928, the date of the earliest surviving correspondence of a Conservatory Director (Frank Holcomb Shaw). The bulk of the collection, concentrated in the period 1930 to 1990, unevenly documents the administrative and educational activities of the Conservatory faculty and students. Surprisingly absent from the files--of one of the College's main divisions--are such basic administrative records as file copies of annual reports of the directors and deans to the President of the college, executive correspondence, annotated Board of Trustees documents, and course materials for the ten instructional divisions. Sound recordings, consisting of some 4,040 tapes (10.5" x .25") of live performances, are currently stored in the basement of Warner Concert Hall. They are maintained by the Conservatory's Audio Services department.

Administrative files for Conservatory directors prior to Frank Holcomb Shaw (1924-49) include the minutes (1908-92) of Conservatory Faculty Council meetings; minutes (1914-92) of Conservatory faculty meetings; and five financial ledgers (1876-1933). Minutes of the Conservatory Faculty Council mainly report on personnel actions such as appointments, reappointments, tenure decisions, and terminations. There are few reports to the Board of Trustees and little record of Board of Trustees meetings at which issues of importance to the Conservatory were raised.

Administrative correspondence exists for Conservatory Directors Frank Holcomb Shaw, David Ritchie Robertson (1911-61), James Stanley Ballinger (b. 1925); Deans Norman Lloyd (1909-80), Robert Fountain (b. 1917), Emil Danenberg (1917-82), and David Boe (b. 1936); and Assistant Directors John Cecil Kennedy (b. 1904) and Paul Oscar Steg (b. 1919). The bulk of this correspondence (1928-58) is located in Series III, Correspondence, Subseries 1. These files, arranged alphabetically by name and subject, were segregated in 1992 from a larger group of correspondence containing inactive faculty files and correspondence with students. This administrative or "general" correspondence consists primarily of brittle file copies of letters and memoranda concerning colleagues at other institutions, professional meetings, guest performers and lecturers, gifts and donations, and instrument and equipment manufacturers. Files also contain an abundance of requests for faculty evaluations of submitted compositions, referrals to local music teachers, and offers to sell musical instruments, music libraries, and sound archives to the Conservatory. Correspondence of David Ritchie Robertson is also housed in Series IX, Subseries 4, Salzburg Program Files, together with correspondence of Assistant Director Paul Oscar Steg. Administrative correspondence of Director Ballinger and Deans Lloyd, Fountain, Danenberg and Boe, consisting primarily of file copies of interoffice memoranda, is housed in Series III, Subseries 2, Interoffice Memoranda of the Deans.

This correspondence covers such topics as curriculum changes, admissions and enrollment procedures, class scheduling, faculty committee assignments, student recital schedules, audition procedures, and classroom availability.

Correspondence (1928-90) of the Conservatory Deans, Directors, and Assistant Directors, with students and former students of the Conservatory is housed in Series III, Subseries 3, Student Correspondence. Although this material is of a purely routine nature, pertaining mainly to students experiencing academic difficulties, seeking letters of reference, or transferring to other institutions, it does illuminate a style of academic administration characteristic of the period prior to the 1960s, when high-level administrators were more personally involved with students. Notable in letters of reference is the consistent correlation of the academic potential of women students with their appearance. Psychiatric disorders, "personality defects," speech impairments, blindness, and other human flaws and handicaps are cited as hindrances to the successful musical career. With the exception of veterans of World War II seeking readmission, most older students are discouraged from resuming study.

The Conservatory's instructional divisions are not as well documented as its special academic programs, such as the American Soviet Youth Orchestra or the short-lived Salzburg Program, which are described below. Records of the instructional divisions, housed in Series VIII, Subseries 1 through 3, date mainly from the period 1963 to 1984 and therefore do not exactly reflect the ten divisions which now carry out music instruction: the Division of Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion, Historical Performance, Keyboard Studies, Music Theory, Musicology, Music Education, Strings, Vocal Studies, Conducting and Ensembles, and Contemporary Music. Administrative files for the departments of brass, electronic music, organ, piano, strings, Technology in Music and Related Arts, voice, and wind are very thin overall. The bulk of Applied Studies records consists of student requests (1973-91) to change studios. Outside of Applied Studies, the record is equally sparse; little documentation exists for the divisions of composition, ethnomusicology, or music history. Disproportionately well documented is the division of Music Education and its consortium program (1975-90) in Music Therapy. Files include minutes of music education faculty meetings, former student files, state evaluation files, proposals for the Music Therapy specialization and related course syllabi, budget records, minutes, and correspondence. Individual student files for graduates of the Music Education program between 1974 and 1980 are housed in Series X, Subseries 3. Minutes of the Conservatory Educational Policy Committee (1958-95), housed in Series VII, Committee Files, chronicle the development of the conservatory curriculum as a whole and its several degree programs. Proposals for new degree programs are located in Series V, Admissions, Enrollment, and Degree Program Files.

As noted above, a number of special musical programs and initiatives sponsored by the Conservatory of Music are well documented by files housed in Series IX, Special Program Files. A full record is present of the Salzburg Program, the compulsory third-year of study at the "Mozarteum" in Salzburg (1958-1964), and the more recent American Soviet Youth Orchestra (1987-91) program. The Salzburg files include records created or received in Oberlin and records created in Austria, maintained by the Director of the program. Records consist of the administrative correspondence of Mozarteum Director Eberhard Preussner(1899-1964) and various officials at the U.S. Consulate in Salzburg; correspondence of the Oberlin Directors and Assistant Directors Robert Deahl (b. 1928), Emmy K. Miller (b. 1904), and Paul Steg (b. 1919); travel and orientation information; student evaluations of the program, and photographs, which are housed in Series XVII. Some material is in German.

Files of the American Soviet Youth Orchestra (1987-91, n.d.) document every aspect of the venture: hiring the Oberlin office personnel and outside marketing consultants; recruiting national council members, identifying potential donors, and fund-raising; negotiating with the Soviets; auditioning student performers; making travel arrangements for both orchestra members and their cargo; settling on repertoire, establishing concert venues, and contracting guest artists; and recording income and expenditures. Some material is in Russian. Other programs documented in this series include the Baroque Performance Institute (1972-85, 1989), the Contemporary Music Ensemble (1950-70), the Oberlin Summer Youth Orchestra (1987-88), the Oberlin Black Ensemble (1973-75), and the Teachers Performance Institute (1966-69, 1973).

Several special programs are documented by minutes of standing and ad hoc committees, housed in Series VII, Committee Files. Especially well documented is the Artist Recitals Series Committee. Files (1912-84) include minutes, correspondence, contracts with performers, and publicity. An alphabetical index (1896-1988) to performers, which includes the month, day, and year of the artist's Oberlin recital, is housed in Series XIV, Conservatory Publications and Concert Programs. Other committees formed to coordinate musical events include the ad hoc committee on the Bach Commemoration (1985), the Centennial Program committee (1965-66), the Contemporary Music Festival Committee (1966-68), and the New Directions committee (1970-79).

Files pertaining to the construction of the present Conservatory buildings and the purchase, installation, and maintenance of the instruments they house are located in Series XI, Buildings, Grounds, and Musical Equipment Files. Included is correspondence with architectural firms Bolt Baranek and Newman (Cambridge, MA), Christopher Jaffe (Norwalk, CT), Dober and Associates (Belmont, MA), Douglass Orr (New Haven, CT), and Minoru Yamasaki & Associates (Birmingham, MI). In addition, there are architectural drawings of buildings and organs. Included are the floor plans for the Robertson Practice Building (1960), the Central Unit (1963), the Teaching Unit (1963), and the Conservatory Library (1958, 1981-82) by Minoru Yamasaki and Associates. There are drawings of the Brombaugh organ in Fairchild Chapel (1980), the 44-stop Flentrop organ for Warner Concert Hall (1961, 1968, 1970-71), the earlier Holtkamp organ (1949), and several Moller practice organs (1958, 1961). Files also contain correspondence relating to the purchase, transport, installation, and dedication of the Conservatory organs; and contracts with organ builders such as Casavant Freres Ltd., Flentrop, and Brombaugh.

Inactive faculty files (1935-95), housed in Series VI, Personnel Records, document the hiring, promotion, and terminations of former Conservatory faculty. Files often include curriculum vitae and letters of reference, as well as publicity for concerts, performances, or publications. The 1971 search for the dean which culminated in the selection of Emil C. Danenberg (1917-82) is documented in correspondence and candidate files. Also present are the voluminous legal records pertaining to the litigation between Oberlin College and voice Professor Doris Mayes (b. 1933).

Records of individual students (1956-83), housed in Series X, Student Files, are comprised of three subseries, each representing a separate accession. Files contain transcripts, correspondence, results of performance auditions, student recital programs, and student recital evaluations. Student applications to the Conservatory for the years 1905-56 are housed in Record Group 25, Office of Admissions. Statistics on admissions and enrollment (1957-82) are housed in Series V. Photographs, housed in Series XV, include a series taken of Salzburg program participants and the city of Salzburg. Photographs also depict various ensembles and classes at the Conservatory, as well as visiting musicians, vocalists, conductors, chamber music groups, and orchestras. Individuals represented include Herbert von Karajan, George Szell, Aaron Copland, Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniel Barenboim, Victoria De Los Angeles, Shirley Verret, Janet Baker, Marilyn Horne, Gerard Souzay, Carlos Salzedo, Emil Gilels, Andre Watts, and Radu Lupu. The Department of Special Collections in the Oberlin College Library holds three named collections of autographed artists' photographs. An in-house catalog (1987) of the Best, Shaw, Morrison, and other collections supplies an alphabetical listing of the artists and the date of the photograph or letter.

The remainder of the collection includes files relating to grants, funds, and fellowships available to Conservatory faculty and students; files relating to national music organizations; and institutional honors and awards received by the Conservatory since 1930. Series XVI, Recordings, contains two promotional recordings, including one LP featuring Robert Hill on the Bentside Spinet (1979), one reel [1972] of Andre Watts at the piano, and a cassette tape (1984) of a conversation between David Boe and Gunther Schuller regarding long range planning for the Conservatory.

Printed versions appear in the Annual Report of the President, which was published by Oberlin College until 1969.

Series Descriptions

>>Series Descriptions


The records of the Conservatory of Music were transferred to the Archives from the Conservatory, from the Oberlin College Library, and from Walter Aschaffenberg in twenty-five accessions between 1967 and 2001. See attached listing of accession numbers.

Related Materials

For student applications (1905-56) to the Conservatory of Music, see the records of the Admissions Office (RG 25). Records pertaining to fundraising for new conservatory buildings are located in records of the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs (RG 26). Additional materials relating to the Salzburg Program are located in the Records of the Office of Communications (RG 18), Subgroup I, Series 7 and the papers of Arthur L. Williams (30/60). See also the administrative correspondence of Oberlin College presidents (RG 2) under each administration.

Personal papers of Conservatory faculty in the Oberlin College Archives include those of Karl W. Gehrkens (RG 30/18) and Arthur L. Williams (30/60). Ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore was a Conservatory student; her papers are housed in (RG 30/156).

The Oberlin College Library Department of Special Collections holds a catalog of Conservatory Director Frank H. Shaw's collection of signed artists' photographs.

Oberlin College Seal -