Harriett Dolores Johnson (1906–1987) was an American composer and music critic for the New York Post during the twentieth century. This collection contains Johnson’s compositions, recordings, photographs, articles, reviews, correspondence, and travel information throughout her career.
Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Please contact SCPA's curator to make an appointment: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 301.405.9220.
Restrictions: One file containing Ms. Johnson’s will is restricted until 2044.
25.00 Linear Feet
The Harriett Johnson Papers covers the period from 1907 to 1992; the bulk of the materials date from 1950 to 1986. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers including lectures, contracts, correspondence, programs, compositions, journals, datebooks, recordings, clippings, and articles related to Johnson's work as a music critic for the New York, as well as a composer, primarily of pieces for children.
Harriett Dolores Johnson (1906–1987), born in Minneapolis, was a musician, composer, music critic, and published author. Additionally, Johnson worked as a lecturer at a number of institutions, including the Round Top Summer Festival. Although also a broadcaster, she participated in a number of interviews, including on the show "Musically Speaking," hosted by Mildred Kayden, which is included in this collection. As a critic, she spent 43 years working for the New York Post, starting in 1943 and rising to Chief Critic and Editor by 1959. She continued in this capacity until a few months before her death. Johnson's reviews focused mainly on vocal music, especially opera performances. She served as president of the Music Critic's Circle, which disbanded in 1965. In 1944, she published the book Your Career in Music with E.P. Dutton and Co. Her lecture "Why is the Music of Western Civilization a Miracle?" was published in 1982 by the University of Georgia in conjunction with their Ferdinand Phinizy Lectures series.
Johnson graduated in 1929 from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors of Music in piano, voice, and composition. She studied piano with Carlyle Scott and composition with Donald Ferguson. Later, she enrolled in Juilliard Graduate School’s composition program (studying with Rubin Goldmark) from the 1929/30 academic year through 1932/33 academic year. Johnson completed her graduate work in May 1933 with "advice" (an invitation to maintain contact with the school and apply to her teacher for advisory hearings and other guidance). During her time at Juilliard she studied piano with Olga Samaroff. Johnson also served as Samaroff's assistant for "Layman's music courses" at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, subsequently leading the course at NY's Town Hall. Earlier, for summer 1932, Johnson won the "Juilliard Fellowship" to conduct research into the psychology of music at the University of Oregon. Johnson was a member of Sigma Alpha Iota (then an honorary music sorority), as well as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
While active as a critic, she also composed a variety of music. Johnson was especially interested in composing works for children. Some of her compositions include operettas Pet of the Met and Chuggy and the Blue Caboose, as well as various preludes, suites, and sonatas. Johnson collaborated with playwright William Inge to provide music for his plays. Johnson also collaborated with playwright Jerome Chodorov in the creation of the musical Janine.
In a professional capacity, as well as with friends, Johnson spent a portion of her life travelling across Europe attending performances. Harriett Johnson was first married to Hubert Neibelung, operatic tenor, who performed recitals of her compositions. Later, Johnson was married to Herbert Norville, a marriage which ended in divorce but produced a son, Craig Norville.
This collection is organized into seven series:
Gift of Donna K. Anderson, Professor Emeritus, SUNY Cortland, received in 2019.