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Philip James papers

 Collection 0032-MMC-LAB
Philip James (1890-1975) was an American music educator, conductor, and composer of over 300 choral and orchestral music works. In 1922 James co-founded and became the first conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. In 1923 James began a long teaching career at New York University, serving as head of the music department from 1934-1956. His students at NYU included Milton Babbitt, Bernard Herrmann, and Marvin David Levy.

From 1929 to 1936, James was conductor of the Bamberger Little Symphony, broadcast weekly over radio station WOR in New York. In 1932 he won a $5,000 prize from NBC for his satirical composition Station WGZBX, which subsequently received performances by many major orchestras. Other prize-winning compositions from the 1930s include his Bret Harte Overture, Suite for String Orchestra, and Song of the Night. The collection documents his career in music broadcasting.


  • 1929-1960
  • Majority of material found within 1929-1936

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


2.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Philip James papers span the years 1929 to 1960 although the bulk of the material dates from 1929 to 1936. The collection contains correspondence, a catalog of Mr. James' Musical Works, two bound books of program notes from the Bamberger Little Symphony Orchestra radio programs, and 10 volumes of printed sheets of piano-conductors used by Philip James in his Bamberger Little Symphony Orchestra broadcasts.


Philip James (1890-1975), American composer of choral and orchestral music, was born on May 17, 1890 in Jersey City, N.J., to a Welsh father and German mother. At an early age, he began piano, violin, and theory lessons, and served as choirboy in several New Jersey churches. He was deeply involved in the liturgy and music of the Episcopal Church and composed his first hymn at the age of ten. From 1904 to 1909 he studied organ with J. Warren Andrews and in 1907 began advanced harmony and counterpoint lessons with Homer Norris. After studying in Europe, he held positions as organist and choirmaster in many well-known New York City churches.

In World War I he served in the Army and was bandmaster at the American Expeditionary Forces Ban. Following the war he completed his music education and co-founded the New Jersey Orchestra, serving as its first conductor. He also became an instructor in 1923 in the newly formed music department at New York University. He was affiliated with New York University for 32 years, first as full professor, then from 1934 to 1955 as chairman of the department, and professor emeritus from 1955 to 1975.

In 1929 James became the regular conductor of the Bamberger Little Symphony over radio station WOR. He conducted the weekly broadcasts for nine years. In 1932 he won first prize of $5,000 in a National Broadcasting Company competition for original symphonic for American musicians with his satirical suite, "Station WGZBX."

During his lifetime he composed over 300 works, including a musical setting for tenor and male voices of the Vachel Lindsay poem, "Gen. William Booth Enters Into Heaven."

His honors include election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters; honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Music, London; and an honorary Doctor of Music degree from New York College of Music. He was president of the Society for Publication of American Music in 1946.

He married his first wife, Millicent Eady James, in 1916. She died in 1945 and he married Helga Boyer in 1952. They had two children, Vivian and Philip. Philip James suffered a heart attack in 1960 which, from then on, severely restricted his professional and social engagements, although he still actively composed music. He died on November 1, 1975, at his home in Southampton, Long Island. He was 85 years old.


The collection is divided into two series:
  1. Series 1: Music of Philip James
  2. Series 2: Correspondence

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Philip James papers were donated to the Library by Helga James in January of 1985.
Guide to the Philip James papers
Processed by Karen Fishman, June 1996.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2009-05-04: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King.
  • 2010-07-10: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2010-08-12: Tagged with relevant subject headings- Chuck Howell.
  • 2017-10-31: Finding aid reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2018-12-20: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2021-07-23: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742