Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Princeton University. Dept. of Music.
Department of Music Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
21 boxes, 2 items, and 1 websites
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-21


Since 1935 Princeton University's Department of Music has offered courses in composition, music history, and related areas to students at the graduate and undergraduate level. The records of the Department of Music document the department's wide range of activities including teaching, research, curriculum development, and the planning of music-related programs on campus.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Department of Music records document the department's wide range of activities including undergraduate and graduate education, music research, and music-related programming on campus. The records contain correspondence, examinations, course materials, and several posters advertising department-sponsored concerts and lectures.

Please see series descriptions in contents list for additional information about individual series.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton University. Dept. of Music.

Since 1935 Princeton University's Department of Music has offered courses in composition, music history, and related areas to students at the graduate and undergraduate level. Though the music curriculum has traditionally centered upon music history and composition, developments in the 1990s resulted in the addition of a certificate program in musical performance to complement these areas.

The origins of music education at Princeton can be traced to the early 20th century, when chapel music, the University Orchestra, and other student musical groups provided students with an informal introduction to performance and composition. All of these activities were overseen by different individuals and classes and lectures on music were offered only sporadically. It was not until 1934 that a strong push was made by faculty for the formal organization of a Department of Music. The oft-cited rationale for such an initiative was the maintenance of a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum (Yale in comparison had established its own School of Music in 1894); however limited funding for new departments forestalled the immediate realization of the idea.

In the spring of 1935 Roy Dickinson Welch, chair of the Department of Music at Smith College, came to Princeton as a visiting professor to teach two elective courses and to investigate the potential for a full program in music. The student response to Welch's courses was overwhelming and the next year he was appointed the first director of the Program in Music, a special section established under the Department of Art and Archaeology. By 1940, undergraduate elections in the program had leapt from 35 to 380 students.

The progress made by the Program in Music during its first five years of existence was impressive enough to warrant a special issue of the Bulletin of the Department of Art and Archaeology of Princeton University in June of 1940 entitled "The Crisis in Music." The titular article was a plea by Welch for increased funding, improved facilities, and the upgrade of the music section to departmental status. He fervently argued that the program was so dire for resources that it would be better for it to be scaled back dramatically than to carry on indeterminately in such a constrained manner. A request for gifts in support of the Music section by President Harold Dodds soon followed.

Welch's petitions were finally answered in 1945, when he was made the inaugural chair of the Department of Music by action of the Board of Trustees. This new status was accompanied by the addition of several faculty, most notably Oliver Strunk and Arthur Mendel, the latter of whom took over as chairman following Welch's death in 1951. Ph.D. programs in music history and composition were instituted in 1950 and 1961, respectively, and the department moved from its crowded makeshift quarters in Clio Hall to the newly built Woolworth Center for Musical Studies in 1963.

Arthur Mendel served as chairman until 1967, bringing recognition to the department through his studies of the work of Bach. He was succeeded by a string scholars and composers, including Kenneth Levy, Peter Westergaard and Scott Burnham. The Department of Music's curriculum, though consistently maintaining its dual emphasis upon history and composition, began to experiment with music technology and performance classes in the late 1960s.

Throughout the department's history and particularly during its infancy, it was bolstered by the support of the Friends of Music at Princeton, a group founded by Roy Dickinson Welch in 1950 to raise funds for the Department of Music's wide swath of activities outside of classroom teaching. At various times gifts made by the Friends of Music have underwritten to some degree the University Orchestra, the Glee Club, the University Band, concerts, guest lectures by music scholars, and a record library. In 1997 a gift from William H. Scheide '36, an original Friends member, enabled the construction of the Arthur Mendel Music Library. The addition to the Woolworth Center placed most of the University Library's music collections under one roof and at arm's length from the department for the first time.

Collection History


The records of the Department of Music were transferred to the University Archives in several accessions between 1961 and 2006. The largest single accession, accounting for nearly half of the records, took place in March, 1978 .


Additional transfers of records are expected from the Department of Music indefinitely.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with Mudd Library guidelines. Nothing was separated from the records during 2007 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Daniel Brennan with assistance from Joshua Muketha '10 in July 2007. Finding aid written by Daniel Brennan in August 2007.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Materials older than 30 years that do not pertain to student academic performance or faculty personnel matters are open. Restrictions beyond thirty years are noted in the relevant series and folder descriptions.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Department of Music Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-21

Find More

Related Materials

The Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections holds the William Oliver Strunk Collection, containing his personal correspondence (C1081). Additional archival materials documenting the history of the Department of Music can be found in the Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), held at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Yearly editions of the University's General Catalogue also contain listings of the courses offered by the department each year. The library also holds a small collection of University Concerts Records (AC205), which document some of the programming done by the Friends of Music at Princeton.

Other Finding Aids

Full text searching of the Department of Music archived website is available through the Archive-It interface.


Alexander Leitch's A Princeton Companion, the January 30, 1948 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and the June 1940 issue of the Bulletin of the Department of Art and Archaeology of Princeton University were consulted in preparation of the historical note.

Subject Terms:
Music -- Study and teaching (Graduate) -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
Music -- Study and teaching -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
Musical Analysis -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
Musicology -- Study and teaching -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
Universities and colleges -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- Departments.
Genre Terms:
Web sites.
Princeton University. Dept. of Music.
Mendel, Arthur, 1905-1979
Strunk, W. Oliver (William Oliver), 1901-1980
Welch, Roy Dickinson, 1885-1951
Westergaard, Peter