Music Department records
Collection Scope and Content
Materials in this collection include programs, news clippings, photographs, itineraries, scrapbooks, correspondence, posters, meeting minutes, by-laws, articles, newsletters, and an LP album. They range in date from 1989-2004, and were transferred to the University Archives by the Chair of the Department of Music. Note: Not all series are processed. Ask staff for assistance.
- Creation: 1898-2005
- George Washington University. Dept. of Music (Organization)
Restrictions on Access
The unprocessed boxes UP0001-UP0006 have personnel records that are closed for 75 years from date of creation. Series 12, Box 1, folders 48-54 are closed for 50 years from date of record creation. They contain personnel files, as well as information about faculty hiring. Series 13 contains restricted student files, and are closed for 100 years from date of creation. Access to student records is governed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. Please see staff for assistance.
Box UP0007 contains uncataloged theses, dissertations and independent research projects.
Restrictions on Use
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
Historical or Biographical Note
A formal Department of Music did not come into existence until 1964, although The George Washington University's musical tradition is deep. The Bachelor of Arts degree in music provides a broad base for understanding the role of music, both as a individual art form and in its social context, and ensures that students have basic skills in music. This degree lays strong foundation for the further pursuit of any aspect of music in graduate school. The B.A. program is one in which the future scholar, composer, theorist, and knowledgeable music lover is nurtured and trained. The Department also offers a Minor in Music, minor in Jazz Studies.
The department has a number of ensemble groups, the oldest of which are the Glee Club and Troubadours, which began in the early 1900's. Dr. Robert Howe "Doc" Harmon began directing the Men's Glee Club in the 1920's, then took the baton of the Women's Glee Club, and eventually created the combined men's and women's choruses over his forty year career. Throughout those years, his choral groups appeared at many major Washington events, including White House parties, Cherry Blossom Festivals, summer concerts on the Potomac, and Christmas tree-lightings.
Outside of Washington, they appeared at the "Singer Bowl" of the 1964 New York World's Fair, and many conventions and festivals throughout the eastern United States. Upon his retirement in 1964, the Department of Music was created, with George Steiner being its first chair. For more information on the history of the department, see the book titled "Through The Years: The History Of The GWU Choral Program" written in 1998.
Alumni formed the Harmon Choral Associates in 1986, under the direction of David Bates, class of 1946, and faculty member Cathy Pickar, which raised money to support the program. It continued until 2001.
The earliest record of choral activity at the University is found in the 1898 yearbook, The Columbiad. The Women's Glee Club, singing in the old University Hall, performed "Selection from the Geisha" and "Kentucky Babe." During those early years there were undoubtedly many impromptu vocal gatherings but the earliest record of a Men's Glee Club appears in 1899, when C.W. Whitemore was its director. By 1914, the Women's Glee Club was presenting chapel exercises and singing at Pan Hellenic parties. The Men's Glee Club, under the tutelage of Professor Swett, presented concerts and organized a mandolin section.
Dr. Robert Howe "Doc" Harmon soon was directing the Men's Glee Club, then took the baton of the Women's Glee Club, and eventually created the combined men's and women's choruses over his forty year career. Throughout those years, his choral groups appeared at many major Washington events, including White House parties, Cherry Blossom Festivals, summer concerts on the Potomac, and Christmas tree-lightings. Outside of Washington, they appeared at the "Singer Bowl" of the 1964 New York World's Fair, and many conventions and festivals throughout the eastern United States.
Troubadours, these days, are a select group of vocalists chosen from the ranks of the University Singers, but originally they were musical comedy performers. The troupe, organized in 1927, required members to have a prominent part in the cast for one year, or serve two years in minor roles, as staff members or as orchestra or chorus members. Many of the musical comedies were presented around town. This first Troubadours organization ceased activities in the 1930s. In the summer of 1950, Dr. Harmon and Professor Vincent J. DeAngelis formed the Traveling Troubadours, at the request of the chief of Personnel Services of the Military Air Transport Service, for the purpose of entertaining U.S. military personnel on our remote overseas bases. Members were selected from the ranks of the Glee Club on the basis of vocal ability, and the group varied in size from twenty to thirty voices. The Traveling Troubadours gave hundreds of shows in places like Thule (Greenland), Tokyo, North Africa and the Azores. They entertained a handful of GIs in a small-unheated airplane hangar at Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, and they sang for a capacity audience in the Great Opera House in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. In 1960, they headlined for six weeks at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Dr. Harmon retired as director in 1964. That same year the University Music Department began under the leadership of George Steiner. After Dr. Harmon's retirement Jules Zabawa was appointed director. He served until 1969 when Dale W. Krider replaced him. In 1970 Stephen J. Prussing became director and served until 1978.
In 1978, Professor Catherine J. Pickar became director of the Glee Club, which changed its name to the University Singers in 1981. The current Troubadours were reorganized under Director Catherine J. Pickar in 1981, with help from Melissa Maxman, her student assistant. This time, the group was based on the tradition of informal a cappella singing which originated at the British universities and continues at most northeastern U.S. universities, as well as some southern and west coast institutions. The members themselves arrange the group numbers between twelve and fifteen voices and most of its repertoire. Like the Traveling Troubadours of the 1950s the current Troubadours have served as ambassadors for the George Washington University by appearing at numerous events in the city of Washington and traveled under the auspices of the United States Information Service to Portugal in 1984 and Ireland in 1985. The next year the Troubadours toured France. In the spring of 1988, they made a trip to the west coast for the University, presenting concerts for alumni, parents and prospective students. Subsequent trips included Bermuda, California, Italy and New England in 1993. On March 22, 1986, Glee Club, University Singers and Troubadours alumni from places as distant as California, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas gathered at The George Washington University to honor the memory of Dr. Robert Howe Harmon, director of GW's vocal ensembles from 1924 to 1964. The occasion was such a success that choral alumni organized the Harmon Choral Associates, launched the Harmon Fund and the Harmon Choral Prize Fund. A second Harmon Choral Reunion was held in 1990 and the third in 1994.
N.B. This history note was written in 2005
19.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Collection includes programs, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, posters, meeting minutes, by-laws.
Organized into six series: Musical organizations and performances, American songs, Choral programs, Office of Choral Activities, and two series titled Departmental files.
Materials acquired through transfers from the Music Department.
- Guide to the Music Department records, 1898-2004
- University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English