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Joan Baxter collection of sheet music

 Collection 0406-SCPA

Joan Baxter (1927–2008) was an amateur pianist, writer, and collector of sheet music originating from the 1880s to mid 1900s. A native of Rochester, New York, Baxter also lived in Washington, DC and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The contents of this collection include sheet music for voice and piano, clippings and articles, and correspondence with other collectors and music historians.


  • 1882-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1989

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room during SCPA’s operating hours. Please contact the curator for an appointment or if you have questions related to digital access of the materials.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Copyright was not transferred to the University of Maryland with the gift of any copyrighted materials. All rights remain with the creators and rights holders. The University of Maryland Libraries is granted permission for the use in scholarly research by the Libraries’ patrons under fair use in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act.

To inquire about duplication of materials for research or for publication, please contact SCPA’s curator.


11.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The Joan Baxter collection covers the period from 1882 to 2004; the bulk of the materials date from 1920 to 1989. The collection consists of sheet music, correspondence, clippings, periodicals, biographical information on composers relevant to the collection, and potential lesson plans for a class on “Shows and Movie Music.”

Biographical / Historical

Joan Baxter (1927–2008) was an amateur pianist, writer, and collector of sheet music originating from the 1880s to mid 1900s, with a particular interest in the “Tin Pan Alley” era of music (late 19th to early 20th centuries). Attracted by the nostalgic and sentimental value of the music, Baxter began collecting as a teenager and frequented antique shops, flea markets, book and mail sales, and auctions to find music for her collection at affordable prices. She was particularly interested in sheet music with beautiful or otherwise interesting artwork. A native of Rochester, New York, Baxter was an amateur musician from a young age, playing piano for her own enjoyment. She was also an active member of the New York Sheet Music Society, the National Sheet Music Society, and The Sonneck Society for American Music.

Baxter attended Oberlin College, where she studied for a bachelor's degree in Psychology; while there, she participated in the Glee Club and the Musical Union and would play piano in her dormitory. After graduating from Oberlin in 1948, she then spent her career working in personnel management in Washington, DC. She first found employment with the Navy Department, and later worked for the Army at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Federal Communications Commission. While living in Washington, Baxter joined a group that put on shows at military bases, and she would frequently play piano at the Walter Reed coffee hours hosted by the Red Cross. The last four years of her career were spent in Bermuda working once again for the Navy.

Baxter went on to earn an M.A. in business from Webster University in 1982. After her retirement in 1983, she settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and worked as a freelance writer. Her work appeared in several magazines and hobbyist newsletters, most frequently Cobblestone, and she also authored a book: Television Musicals: Plots, Critiques, Casts and Credits for 222 Shows Written for and Presented on Television, 1944-1996 (published in 1997). She died in 2008.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into seven series:

  1. Sheet Music
  2. Sheet Music By Show
  3. “Carolina” Sheet Music
  4. Correspondence
  5. Composer Profiles
  6. Articles and Clippings
  7. “Shows and Movie Music” Lesson Plans

Custodial History

Gift from Jim Baxter in five installments in 2010 and 2012.

Joan Baxter collection of sheet music
Emily Milanak
February 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • April-June 2021: Finding aid uploaded, biographical note expanded, related materials added by Rachel Ruisard

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States