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Special Collections 1998.78

Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections
Sibley Music Library
Eastman School of Music
University of Rochester

Processed by Tomoko Shibuya, summer 2000
With additions by David Peter Coppen, winter 2018
Revised by Gail E. Lowther, summer 2019







Shelf location: M3A 4,1 : 5,5
Physical extent: 34 linear feet

Biographical Sketch

[Leroy] Burrill Phillips (b. November 9, 1907; d. June 22, 1988) was an American composer, pianist, and music educator. Phillips was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1907. In 1928, he enrolled in the Denver College of Music, where he studied composition with Edwin Stringham. During this time, he also worked as a staff pianist for a Denver radio station. On September 17, 1928, he married Alberta C. Mayfield, who would later write many of his librettos. In 1931, Phillips transferred to the Eastman School of Music, where he majored in composition under Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. He earned the Bachelor of Music degree in 1932 and the Master of Music degree in 1933.

Following completion of his studies, Phillips was appointed to the faculty of the Eastman School, where he taught theory and composition until 1949. Thereafter, Phillips served on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign until his retirement in 1964. He later held visiting professorships at Eastman (1965-66), the Juilliard School (1968-69), and Cornell University (1972-73). Phillips spent the 1960-61 academic year abroad as Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Barcelona. His students include Jan Bach, Jack Beeson, Herbert Bielawa, William Flanagan, Lee Hoiby, Ben Johnston, H. Owen Reed, Daria Semegen, Steven Stucky, David Ward-Steinman, and Rayburn Wright.

Phillips received two Guggenheim Fellowships (1942-43 and 1972-73) and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1944). He received numerous commissions, including ones from the League of Composers (1944), the Koussevitzky Foundation (1946), the Fromm Foundation (1956), and the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation (1958). His major works include four ballets; two operas (Don’t We All, 1947; The Unforgiven, 1981); several orchestral compositions, including concertos for bassoon (Concert Piece, 1940), tenor saxophone (Yellowstone, Yates, and Yosemite, 1972), and a Triple Concerto for clarinet, viola, piano, and orchestra (1952); various choral works; four piano sonatas; two string quartets; and numerous instrumental compositions for chamber ensembles.

He died in Berkeley, California, on June 22, 1988, of complications after a heart attack.


The collection materials were presented by the composer as a gift to the Sibley Music Library in several installments between the fall of 1982 and the summer of 1989. In addition, a smaller number of the composer’s manuscripts were given to the Sibley Music Library through the offices of Anthony Carter in the summer of 1989.

Later, in the winter of 2018, a cache of documents and manuscripts were acquired from bookseller Nick Aretakis, ABAA (Manteca, CA). These newly acquired documents were collated with Series 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and formed the basis for a newly created Series 11. The newly collated documents have been identified in the finding aid by the indication Provenance: Aretakis.

Scope and content

The Burrill Phillips Collection contains materials generated by the composer throughout his career, including his student years. Manuscripts, imprints, recordings, correspondence, clippings, and ephemera are included.


No restrictions have been placed on access to the materials in this collection, save those imposed by the provisions of the United States Copyright Law and its revisions. The written permission of Mrs. Ann Basart, daughter of the late composer, must be obtained before copies of the manuscripts will be issued.


The Burrill Phillips Collection is one of numerous collections of professional papers of Eastman School of Music graduates and faculty members. The Sibley Music Library holds the papers of composers Samuel Adler, Wayne Barlow (BM, 1934; MM, 1935; PhD, 1937), Warren Benson, Sydney Hodkinson (BM, 1957; MM, 1958), and Bernard Rogers, each of whom served on the ESM Composition Faculty. Additionally, the library houses the papers of several ESM composer alumni, including the collections of Gardner Read (BM, 1936; MM, 1937), Homer Todd Keller (BM, 1937; MM, 1938), Alexander Courage (BM, 1941), Gordon Binkerd (MM, 1941), William Bergsma (BA, 1942; MM, 1943), John LaMontaine (BM, 1942), and Will Gay Bottje (DMA, 1955).


Series 1: Musical manuscripts

The manuscripts series of the Burrill Phillips Collection contains final copies, drafts, and sketches of solo, chamber, large-ensemble, and stage works, subdivided as follows:

Sub-series A: Stage works

This sub-series is comprised of operas, ballets, and incidental music. Some sketches and untitled works for stage are included in this sub-series (for additional sketches and drafts of operas, see sub-series F).

 Sub-series B: Large ensemble works

This sub-series includes works for band and orchestra.

Sub-series C: Vocal works

This sub-series includes both solo and ensemble works for voice.

Sub-series D: Instrumental chamber work

This sub-series includes chamber music as well as sonatas for solo instruments with accompaniment.

Sub-series E: Keyboard works

This sub-series consists primarily of keyboard works, including compositions for children.

Sub-series F: Sketches, worksheets and notebooks

 This sub-series contains both known and unidentified sketches and drafts from the entire spectrum of Phillips’ career. Included are juvenilia, sketches and drafts, loose sketches, notebooks, and incomplete or untitled works. (Note: Several sketches and drafts of operas are filed in Sub-series A).

Series 2: Published music

This series contains imprints of Phillips’ compositions, arranged alphabetically by title.

Series 3: Non-music manuscripts

This series comprises notes on prose, poetry, texts, lectures and other non-musical topics; authors include both Burrill and Alberta Phillips.

Series 4: Correspondence

Sub-series A: Correspondence on compositions

The correspondence in this sub-series relates to the composition, production, performance, and publication of specific musical works. These items are foldered by the title of each composition, and the respective compositions are arranged alphabetically by title.

Sub-series B: General correspondence

This sub-series contains a variety of professional and personal correspondence, including correspondence with specific publishers and organizations; family and personal correspondence; and postcards and telegrams; as well as general correspondence, which has been organized chronologically.

The distinction between the folders in this sub-series is apparently artificial only; for example, correspondence with publishing agents is not limited to the folders labeled with specific publishers (i.e., Box 31, Folders 39-48), and additional letters from Phillips’s publishers can be found within the chronological series of correspondence (i.e., Box 32, Folders 6-10). Furthermore, correspondence acquired as part of the Aretakis acquisition is foldered separately. It is important to note that, as a result of preserving the original organization, correspondence relating to specific compositions, commissions, and/or performances may be found in both Sub-series A and Sub-series B.

 Series 5: Miscellaneous papers

This series includes a variety of documents related to Phillips’s professional activities, including the composer’s writings and lecture notes, publisher’s contracts and other financial documents, biographical material and works lists, journals, and assorted other materials.

Series 6: Newspaper clippings

This series contains articles and reviews regarding the composer and his works.

Series 7: Programs

This series includes concert, recital, theatrical, and festival programs.

Series 8: Photographs

This series includes miscellaneous personal photographs.

Series 9: Recordings

This series contains recordings of Phillips’ compositions. Formats include reel-to-reel tapes, audiocassettes, and phonograph discs.

Series 10: Presentation scores

This series consists of music manuscripts and imprints given to Phillips by his composition colleagues and students.

Series 11: Scrapbooks

During the 1920s-1940s, Phillips compiled two scrapbooks devoted to his professional endeavors. The majority of documents in these scrapbooks are newspaper clippings and concert programs, but they also contain some photographs and correspondence, as well as various other personal items.

Series 12: Oversized

This series has been created for the ease of filing and is comprised of documents that require special housing consideration on grounds of their oversized dimensions. The oversized materials have been divided into two sub-series according to material type:

Sub-series A: Oversized music manuscripts
 Sub-series B: Oversized documents