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

Prepared by Katherine L. Axtell (Fall 2002);
Mathew Colbert (Spring 2007);
and Daphne Tan (Fall 2008)
Revised by Gail E. Lowther (Spring 2024)






Shelf location: C4A 5,1 — C4A 8,5
Physical extent: 87 linear feet

Biographical Sketch

Over the course of his career as a composer, Gardner Read (b. Evanston, IL, 2 January 1913; d. Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, 10 November 2005) produced over 250 works for a wide variety of genres and instrumentations, including four symphonies, an opera, an oratorio, and incidental music for several plays.  Read’s works have been performed and recorded by some of the foremost artists and ensembles of his day.  In addition to his compositional career, Read served as a professor of composition at a number of reputable institutions, most notably Boston University (1948-78).  In conjunction with his pedagogical endeavors, Read completed eight books, among which the subjects of musical notation and orchestration figured prominently.  Read credited Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Copland, and Hanson as the principal influences on his compositional development.

Gardner Read’s intensive musical studies began his freshman year at Evanston Township High School, the first high school in the United States to institute a music major. His public school music concentration was complemented with private studies at Northwestern University.  A 1932 residency at the National Music Camp (Interlochen, Michigan) brought Read into contact with the composer and conductor Howard Hanson; partly as a result of this meeting, Read chose to continue his training at the Eastman School of Music.  During his years at Eastman, Read studied composition with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson; he earned the Bachelor of Music degree in 1936 and the Master of Music degree in 1937.  He spent part of 1939 in Europe, where he studied with Ildebrando Pizzetti and met Jean Sibelius.  In 1941, Gardner Read undertook his final period of formal compositional training, studying with Aaron Copland while on fellowship at Tanglewood.

Read’s career as a pedagogue extends back at least to the summer of 1940, when he was appointed to teach composition at the National Music Camp. Also during his appointment that summer, Read met Margaret Vail Payne (b. Terre Haute, IN, 14 July 1909; d. Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, 28 January 2003), whom he married later that year on September 17, 1940. Through the 1940s, he held a succession of short-term positions at Midwestern institutions:  head of the Theory and Composition departments of the St. Louis Institute of Music (1941-43); chair of Composition at the Kansas City Conservatory (1943-45); and head of Theory and Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music (1945-48).  This series culminated in his appointment in 1948 as Professor of Composition and Composer-in-Residence at Boston University, a position he retained until his appointment to the rank of Professor Emeritus in 1978.

Gardner Read has been duly honored for his music and for his teaching.  In 1937, his Symphony No. 1 was awarded the top prize in the American Composer’s Contest and was consequently premiered by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Sir John Barbirolli.  Six years later, in 1943, Read’s Symphony No. 2 was similarly honored as the prizewinning work in the Paderewski Fund Competition, this time with a premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Serge Koussevitzky.  In 1957, and again in 1964, Gardner Read represented the United States Information Service at music festivals in Mexico.  Doane College conferred an honorary Doctor of Music degree upon Gardner Read in 1962.  And in 1982, Read received the prestigious Eastman School of Music Alumni Achievement Award from his alma mater.  More significantly, a long list of musical luminaries have performed and recorded Gardner Read’s compositions:  the conductors Howard Hanson, Leonard Bernstein, Serge Koussevitzky (Boston Symphony), Erich Kunzel (Cincinnati Symphony), Lorin Maazel (Cincinnati Symphony), Fritz Reiner (Cleveland Orchestra); the violist William Primrose; the organists David Craighead and Leonard Raver; and the harpsichordist Barbara Harbach.

For further information on the life and works of Gardner Read, see Mary Ann Dodd and Jayson Rod Engquist, Gardner Read:  A Bio-Bibliography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996).


The Gardner Read Collection was established in October 1982 as a gift to the Sibley Music Library by Gardner Read.  Since making the initial shipment of materials, Read continued to augment the collection through nearly annual deposits.  Following Gardner Read’s passing, his working library, mostly comprised of books, published scores and ephemera, arrived at the Sibley Music Library through the efforts of his estate.

Scope and Contents

The Gardner Read Collection comprises the personal and professional papers of the composer and pedagogue Gardner Read (1913-2005).  A significant number of Read’s approximately 250 compositions are represented here in manuscript form and/or manuscript reproduction.  Many are also preserved on audio recordings, primarily in LP or reel-to-reel format.  Read’s extensive literary output, including eight books treating topics of orchestration, musical notation, and the compositional process, constitutes another prominent segment of the Gardner Read Collection.  Correspondence, concert programs, diaries, photographs, and other items document Read’s private life and his professional activities outside of composition.  Also included in the collection is a portion of Read’s personal library, which features presentation copies of scores and literature as well as items from his study collection.

Restrictions and use

Gardner Read placed no restrictions upon the use of the materials of the Gardner Read Collection; reproduction of the contents will, however, be provided to patrons only in accordance with the provisions of United States Copyright Law.


The Gardner Read Collection is one of a growing body of collections documenting the careers of individual Eastman School of Music alumni, particularly those who specialized in composition.  Like his fellow alumni Homer Keller, Malcolm Seagrave, and Gordon Binkerd (all of whose papers the Sibley Music Library possesses), Gardner Read rose to prominence as an American composer following the completion of his training at the Eastman School.  Read’s extensive prose output, however, distinguishes him from these and other colleagues.


The Gardner Read Collection has been organized into five major series, namely music manuscripts and imprints, recordings, literary works, personal papers, and library. These series are further subdivided as described below.

Series 1: Compositions
This body of materials preserves drafts, fair and final copies, manuscript reproductions, and publishers’ imprints of works composed by Gardner Read throughout the entire scope of his lengthy compositional career. Works for large ensemble are generally represented by performance part sets as well as by full scores. The materials have been arranged into three sub-series according to material type (i.e., manuscripts and imprints; transcriptions; sketches). Whenever possible, the letter codes assigned to Gardner Read’s compositions by Mary Ann Dodd and Jayson Rod Engquist in their book, Gardner Read: A Bio-Bibliography, precede the citation of each item. The letter codes used are as follows: W# (Work), WT# (Work Transcription), or WS# (Work Sketch). Within each sub-series, the materials are arranged by opus number with unnumbered or unidentified items filed at the end of the respective sub-series.

sub-series A: Manuscripts and Imprints
sub-series B: Transcriptions
sub-series C: Sketches and Fragments

Series 2: Recordings
This series comprises Gardner Read’s library of recordings of his own compositions. Each material type has been assigned to a sub-series, as indicated below. Read’s original numbering has been preserved where present.

sub-series A: Instantaneous Discs
sub-series B: Reel-to-Reel Tapes
sub-series C: Audiocassette Tapes
sub-series D: Digital Audio Tapes (DATs)
sub-series E: Compact Discs (CDs)
sub-series F: VHS Videocassette Tapes

Series 3: Scholarly Publications

The manuscripts of Gardner Read’s extensive writings are preserved within this series.  Each individual work has been assigned to its own sub-series.  Within each sub-series, the majority of the individual items have been described using Read’s own nomenclature. The letter codes assigned to Gardner Read’s literary writings by Mary Ann Dodd and Jayson Rod Engquist in their book, Gardner Read: A Bio-Bibliography, precede the citation of each item. All letter codes used in this series begin with the letters LW, an abbreviation for Literary Writings.

sub-series A:  Twentieth Century Notation [LW10]
sub-series B:  Contemporary Instrumental Techniques [LW3]
sub-series C:  Twentieth Century Microtonal Notation [LW7]
sub-series D:  Genesis of an Opera [LW12]
sub-series E:  Pictographic Score Notation [LW9]
sub-series F:  Modern Rhythmic Notation [LW4]
sub-series G:  Psychology of Polymeters
sub-series H:  Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices [LW1]
sub-series I:  Orchestral Combinations [LW11]
sub-series J:  Source Book of Proposed Music Notation Reforms [LW6]
sub-series K:  Style and Orchestration [LW5]
sub-series L:  sub-series L: Music Notation
sub-series M: Compendium of Modern Instrumental Techniques
sub-series N: Twentieth-Century Music Notation

This sub-series consists of material for an uncompleted book project.

sub-series O: Other Writings

This sub-series includes materials for selected lectures by Gardner Read, and manuscript for music reviews published in Notes, the quarterly journal of the Music Library Association.

Series 4: Papers

sub-series A: Correspondence

sub-sub-series 1: Personal Correspondence

Correspondence is foldered alphabetically per sender surname.

sub-sub-series 2: Professional Correspondence

The folders of this grouping contain correspondence and other documents pertaining to Read’s compositions, scholarly publications, radio broadcasts, and other matters. The items are organized by individual sender where possible, and by corporation/institution in the cases where multiple individuals contributed to the correspondence.  Following Read’s arrangement, some folders are devoted neither to individuals nor to groups, but to documentation pertaining to one particular work, e.g., 20th Century Notation.  Contracts and royalty statements are frequently included in these folders, although some of these documents are housed in Series 1 or Series 2 alongside the associated manuscript(s).

sub-series B: Publicity

sub-sub-series 1: Curriculum vitae and Catalogues of Compositions

Includes materials prepared by Gardner Read, as well as some professionally-produced promotional literature for Read’s compositions and textbooks.

sub-sub-series 2: Pressbooks and press clippings

Gardner Read maintained a number of scrapbooks devoted to his various endeavors. The majority of documents in these scrapbooks are press materials regarding the performances and recordings of Read’s compositions, his radio program “Our American Music”, reviews of Read’s publications and various other articles pertaining to the composer.

This sub-sub-series also includes loose press clippings that document Read’s publications and performances as well as some human-interest articles that feature Read.

sub-sub-series 3: Concert Programs

This is a collection of programs from performances including works by Gardner Read, 1937-2004.

sub-series C: Radio Broadcasts

From 1953-60, Gardner Read hosted a radio show, “Our American Music,” on Boston-area stations.  Budget proposals and programming lists are preserved here.  Recordings of selected broadcasts can be found in Series 1, sub-series B (recordings). Pressbooks holding materials pertaining to the radio show can be found Series 3, sub-series B, sub-sub-series 2: Pressbooks and press clippings.

sub-series D: Professional Involvement

This sub-series consists of ephemera documenting some of Gardner Read’s professional activities. Items in this sub-series include a door plaque, various teaching materials, conference programs, and annual reports issued by the Edward MacDowell Association (1936–1954).

sub-series E: Gardner Read Bio-Bibliography Addenda

Consists of manuscript addenda to Gardner Read: A Bio-Bibliography by Mary Ann Dodd and Jayson Rod Engquist.

sub-series F: Pre-compositional Materials for Villon, Op. 122

This sub-series includes written notes and other pre-compositional materials for Villon, Op. 122, namely manuscript composition notes, libretti, synopses of the action, and a typescript draft of the script of The Other Heart (as prepared for publication).

sub-series G: Ephemera

Items in this sub-series include a collection of posters announcing performances of Read works or lectures by the composer; personal and household diaries maintained by Gardner and Vail Read; award citations issued to Gardner Read; and miscellaneous personal mementos.

sub-series H: Photographs and Iconography

The photographs present include personal photographs of Gardner Read with friends, colleagues, and family; professional portraits of Gardner Read; and autographed photographs of various colleagues and friends of Gardner and Vail Read. In addition, there are three photographic negative plate blocks with portraits of Gardner Read and a hand drawn portrait of Gardner Read in pencil.

Series 5: Library

sub-series A: Presentation copies: Scores

This sub-series contains presentation copies of published scores, publication covers and flyleaves, and manuscript reproductions inscribed to Gardner Read by composer friends, colleagues, and pupils. This sub-series contains scores from composers such as: Lukas Foss, Alan Hovhaness, Halsey Stevens, Paul Whear and others.

sub-series B: Presentation copies: Literature

This sub-series contains presentation copies of published books and journal articles, the majority of which pertain to music, that are inscribed to Gardner Read by the authors.

 sub-series C: Study collection: Scores

This sub-series contains scores acquired by Gardner Read for the purposes of analysis and/or performance.

sub-series D: Study collection: Literature

This sub-series contains books, language dictionaries and travel guides acquired by or given to Gardner and Vail Read.

sub-series E: Recordings

This sub-series contains four audio recordings of works by other composers as well as a VHS copy of the WBEZ Boston TV special Oddesey, a celebration of Gardner Read marking his 50th birthday.

N.B. The scores, books, articles, and recordings in Series 5 are housed in storage containers appropriate to the items’ respective dimensions. Due to the varying dimensions of the materials, there is a discrepancy between the alphabetical sequence (i.e., by composer or author surname) and the numeric box order.

Series 6: Oversize

This sub-group 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 four series according to material type:

sub-series A: Manuscripts and Imprints

Following the organization of Series 1, these materials have been arranged by opus number. Similarly, the citation of each item is preceded, whenever possible, with the letter codes assigned to Gardner Read’s compositions by Mary Ann Dodd and Jayson Rod Engquist in their book, Gardner Read: A Bio-Bibliography.

sub-series B: Ephemera
sub-series C: Presentation Copies: Scores
sub-series D: Study Collection: Scores

N.B. The manuscripts, posters and awards, scores, and books in Series 6 are housed in storage containers appropriate to their respective dimensions. Due to the varying dimensions of the materials, there is a discrepancy between the numerical or alphabetical sequence within each sub-series and the numeric box order.