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Vincent Persichetti papers

Collection Data

Vincent Persichetti, American composer, educator and author, studied the piano with Olga Samaroff and composition with Paul Nordoff at the Philadelphia Conservatory, and conducting with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute. In 1941 he was appointed to teach at the Philadelphia Conservatory, and in 1947 he joined the faculty of the Juilliard School. From 1952 he also served as Editorial Director for Elkan-Vogel. In 1961, Persichetti’s Twentieth Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice was published by W.W. Norton and was immediately viewed as the definitive book on modern compositional techniques. Over the course of his career, he received commissions from the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Louisville Philharmonic Society, the Naumberg Foundation, the Samaroff Foundation, the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the American Guild of Organists, universities and individual performers.
Persichetti, Vincent, 1915-1987 (Creator)
Nordoff, Paul, 1909-1977 (Contributor)
Persichetti, Dorothea (Contributor)
Reich, Steve, 1936- (Contributor)
Reiner, Fritz, 1888-1963 (Contributor)
Samaroff Stokowski, Olga, 1882-1948 (Contributor)
Schickele, Peter (Contributor)
Elkan-Vogel, Inc. (Contributor)
Juilliard School of Music (Contributor)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1901 - 1996
Library locations
Music Division
Shelf locator: JPB 90-77
Music teachers
Composers -- United States -- 20th century
Music publishing -- Pennyslvania -- Philadelphia
Music teachers -- United States -- 20th century
Records and briefs
Biographical/historical: Vincent Persichetti was born in Philadelphia on June 6, 1915 to Martha Catherine Buch and Vincent Roger Persichetti. From the age of two, when he began asking for piano lessons, he showed a strong determination to progress from novice to expert in the musical world. Whether it was as a composer, pianist or double bass musician, he sought out individuals and organizations during his early years (1915-1932) that would advance his musical knowledge and performance skills. In 1921, at the age of six, he was admitted to Combs Conservatory of Music and made his first appearance in a piano recital. In 1922, he added to his lessons by enrolling in theory classes at the Conservatory with Russell King Miller. These additonal studies prepared him for his first radio performance as a pianist in 1925, in his role as a pianist for the Candle Light Trio in 1928, for the Matinee Musical Club Orchestra from 1926-1929, to win the National Federation of Music Clubs’ first prize for original composition in 1930, and to play principal double bass in the All Philadelphia High School Orchestra in 1931. It was during his adult years, however, that Persichetti established lasting professional working relationships. In 1932, he was appointed organist of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church (1932-1948), and in 1933, the same year that he graduated from South Philadelphia High School, he was appointed conductor of the Combs Conservatory Orchestra (1933-1936). Furthermore, one year after earning his Bachelor of Music Degree in Composition from the Combs Conservatory, Persichetti was appointed Head of the Theory and Composition Department at his alma mater (a position he held from 1937-1941). Persichetti then moved on to the position as the Head of Philadelphia Conservatory’s department of Theory and Composition from 1941-1962. Soon after starting this position, Persichetti joined the faculty of Juilliard in 1947 (Head of Composition department from 1963-1973 and in 1970 appointed Director of the school’s Literature and Materials department and remained a member of the faculty until his death). In addition to these responsibilities, Persichetti entered the world of music publishing in his role as Director of Publication for Elkan Vogel Inc (Theodore Presser) in 1952. As Persichetti composed prodigiously for nearly every musical medium, his numerous work related responsibilities did not interrupt his studies, his composing, nor his personal endeavors. In 1938, he studied the standard orchestral literature with Fritz Reiner at Curtis Institute and, subsequently, earned his diploma in conducting (also under the tutelage of Fritz Reiner) from this organization in 1939. In 1941, he married Dorothea Flanagan, a fellow music student. From this marriage, two children were born: a daughter in 1944 named Lauren and a son in 1946 named Garth. During the years of 1941-1945, he studied piano with Samaroff and composition with Nordoff at the Philadelphia Conservatory (MMus 1941, DMus 1945); for a three-week period in 1943, Persichetti studied with Roy Harris in Colorado. In 1954, he coauthored the book William Schuman with Flora Rheta Schreiber and in 1961 independently authored Twentieth Century Harmony. His work ethic and musical excellence garnered him awards and citations from organizations. The following is an abbreviated list: the Juilliard Publication Award in 1943 for his Dance Overture, the 1945 Blue Network Chamber Award for his Second String Quartet, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958, the 1959 Star of Solidarity Medal from the Italian Government for contribution to American culture, the 1964 Edwin Franko Goldman Memorial Citation, the 1966 Symphony League award, 1966 Honorary doctorate from Baldwin Wallace College, 1967 Citation of Honor from the National Catholic Music Educators Association, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968, a 1970 Honorary doctorate from Bucknell University and Combs College, 1973 Orpheus Award from Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, 1973 Cultural Hall of Fame (South Philadelphia High School), a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973, Honorary Doctorates from Peabody Conservatory and Milliken University in 1974, 1975 Brandeis University Creative Arts Award, Citation from the City of Philadelphia, 1978 First Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Excellence in Symphonic Composition (for English Horn Concerto), represented US through ASCAP at the International Composers Meetings in the Soviet Union of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers in 1979, an Honorary member of the American Bandmasters Association in 1979, the 1981 Philadelphia Art Alliance Award for Distinguished Achievement, the 1981 Hazlett Memorial Award, the 1981 American Institute for Italian Culture Presidential Award of Merit, the 1987 College Band Directors National Association Distinguished Service Award, grants from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Endowment for the Arts. Vincent Persichetti, considered by many to be one of the leading American composers of the Twentieth Century, died on August 14, 1987. Some of Mr. Persichetti’s accomplished students included prominent composers Jacob Druckman, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Peter Schickele. Sources: "Persichetti, Vincent." Retrieved from on March1, 2005. Personal Papers—Box 2, folders 4-14 “Vincent Persichetti.” Retrieved from on March 1, 2005. New York Times Obituary.“Vincent Persichetti Dies at 72; Composer of Wide Repertory,” Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1857-Current file): Aug. 15, 1987, p.33. “Composers of Great Band Works” by Dr. Brian Harris. Retrieved from on March 1, 2005.
Content: The papers of Vincent Persichetti (1901-1996 and undated) primarily document his life from the mid 1930's until 1987 and consist of material on his careers as a composer, pianist, music teacher, author and lecturer. Correspondence, music compositions, writings, programs, photographs, and financial records constitute the vast majority of the collection. The few items found within this collection that precede and postdate his life are connected to his private life. For example, information concerning the wills, deeds, births and deaths of relatives (for both the Persichetti and Flanagan families) are within this collection. The researcher can get information on Persichetti’s personal as well as professional life within this collection. Case in point, both the professional circumstances and private feelings engendered by A Lincoln Address, a piece commissioned and rejected by President Nixon’s Second Inaugural Committee, are revealed in the correspondence (Eugene Ormandy, the White House and Elkan Vogel), the versions of the score, and the clippings within the collection. From the items attributed to Dorothea Persichetti, Rudy Shackelford and the numerous student theses included in this collection, varying perspectives of Vincent Persichetti’s life and work will be ascertained. Of special interest is Dorothea Persichetti’s unpublished book on Vincent’s compositions entitled “A Monograph” within this collection (Box 103, folders 15-18; Box 104, folders 1-2). While his connection to Elkan Vogel Inc is represented in the collection with correspondence, some financial records and programs, detailed publishing information on works he published is not to be found in the collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 111 linear feet 206 boxes
Type of Resource
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b16146397
MSS Unit ID: 20325
Archives collections id: archives_collections_20325
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 3d0aa0c0-1a43-0136-23b3-4374a7475230
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