Skip to main content
Use the right side menu to identify relevant boxes and place requests.

Irving Lowens papers

 Collection 0097-SCPA

Irving Lowens (1916-1983) was a music critic, musicologist, librarian, and educator based in the Washington, D.C. area. Among his many roles, he was the Chief Music Critic of The Washington Star newspaper (1960-1978), Assistant Head of the Music Division at the Library of Congress (1961-1966), and Dean of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University (1978-1981). As a scholar, he specialized in early American music, particularly hymnals, and he authored bibliographies, books, and scholarly articles on the subject. The Irving Lowens Papers consists of both personal and professional papers covers. The collection covers the period from 1885 to 1995; the bulk of the materials date from 1952 to 1983. Documents include correspondence and subject files; published music criticism, writings, and compositions; collected articles and newspaper clippings; employment and professional service materials; performance programs; music festival and travel materials; and research materials.


  • 1885-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1952-1983

Use and Access to Collection

There following files are restricted: Series 1.4, Box 4; Series 1.5, Boxes 4-10. For questions regarding access, please consult the curator. All other files are open. 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.


128.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Irving Lowens papers cover the period from 1885 to 1995; the bulk of the materials date from 1952 to 1983. The collection consists of both the personal and professional papers of music critic and musicologist Irving Lowens. Documents include correspondence and subject files, published music criticism and other writings and music compositions by Lowens, collected articles and newspaper clippings, employment and professional service materials, performance programs, music festival and travel materials, and research materials. The collection reflects Lowens' work as a music critic, musicologist, teacher, and librarian, in both the Washington, D.C. area and internationally.


Irving Lowens (1916-1983) was a music critic, musicologist, librarian, and educator based in the Washington, D.C. area. He is notable for his role as Chief Music Critic of the Washington Star newspaper (1960-1978), his tenure as Assistant Head of the Music Division at the Library of Congress (1961-1966), his tenure as Dean of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University (1978-1981), and his authorship of numerous songsters and bibliographies on early American music.

Born in New York City, Lowens completed high school at age thirteen. After traveling in Europe and acquiring foreign-language skills, he returned to the United States and studied music education, music criticism, and composition at the College of the City of New York and at Teachers College, Columbia University, earning a B.S. in Music and Music Education from Teachers College in 1939. In 1957, Lowens earned his M.A. in American Civilization from the University of Maryland, focusing his research on early American music. Soon after, he began doctoral studies in musicology at the University, passing his qualifying exams but never finishing the degree.

After completing his undergraduate education in New York, Lowens worked for the publisher G. Schirmer, providing editorial, research, and production assistance on the journal Musical Quarterly. He went on to serve as reviewer for the journal Musicology. During World War II he served domestically as an air traffic controller in the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and continued in this position at the National Airport after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1947. In 1953, Lowens began to write music reviews for the Washington Star newspaper. In the mid-1950s, he resigned from the CAA to pursue a full-time career in music criticism and research.

In 1959, Lowens joined the Music Division at the Library of Congress, where he was appointed the library's first Sound Recordings Reference Librarian. In 1961, he was promoted to Assistant Head of the Music Division's Reference Section, a position he held until 1966. Meanwhile, he continued to write for the Star, and he became its Chief Music Critic in 1960. He left the Library of Congress in 1966 to join the staff of the Star full-time, and remained its Chief Music Critic until 1978. Lowens was highly regarded as a critic and as a champion of classical music. In 1972 and again in 1977, he was awarded the Deems Taylor Award by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in recognition of his work.

Lowens had a long-standing interest in academia and held several educational appointments throughout his career. He held visiting teaching positions at Dunbarton College, University of Southern California (as part of a Music Critics Exchange Program), Berkshire Music Center, Aspen School of Music, University of Maryland, and CUNY's Brooklyn College (1975-1976). He joined the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in 1977, and in 1978 became its Dean. He retired from Peabody with Emeritus status in 1981.

Lowens was also active in numerous professional and scholarly organizations. He was President of the Music Library Association (1965-1966), served on the Executive Board of the American Musicological Society (1964-1965), and was Vice President of the Inter-American Association of Music Critics (1973-1983). He was a founding member of the Music Critics Association in 1956, served as the Association's President (1971-1975), and was Chairmain of the Board of the American Musical Digest, a short-lived scholarly journal published by the MCA (1969-1971). Lowens was the founder and first President of the American Sonneck Society (later the Society for American Music) from 1975-1981, and he helped launch the Society's first official journal, American Music, in 1983. Lowens also served on several awards committees, including the Pulitizer Prize Committee and the Kennedy Center's Friedheim Awards Committee.

While pursuing his career as a critic and a teacher, Lowens was also completing research on American tunebooks, of which he had an extensive personal collection. His scholarly publications include Music and Musicians in Early America (1964), A Bibliography of American Songsters Published Before 1821 (1976), Kentucky Harmony (1976), Music in America and American Music (1978), and Haydn in America (1979). For many years, he collaborated on bibliographical research with Allen P. Britton and Richard Crawford. Lowens also authored numerous journal articles and gave many scholarly presentations throughout his life.

Irving Lowens died in Baltimore on November 14, 1983, and is survived by his wife, the musicologist Margery Morgan Lowens. Irving Lowens's work is commemorated thorugh the Society for American Music's Irving Lowens Awards, presented yearly to the authors of the best book and the best article on American music.


This collection is organized into ten series:

  1. Personal
  2. Correspondence and subject files
  3. Music criticism, Washington Star, by Lowens
  4. Music criticism and clippings, not by Lowens
  5. Compositions and writings, Lowens
  6. Employment and professional service
  7. Programs and tickets
  8. Festivals and travel
  9. Research materials
  10. Audio recordings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Margery Morgan Lowens in several installments, beginning in December 1986.

Related Material

Special Collections:

Irving Lowens Tune Book Collection, Moravian Music Foundation Archives. (Information:

Allen P. Britton Papers, MENC Historical Center, Special Collections in Performing Arts, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland (Information:

American Musicological Foundation Records, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania. (Finding aid:

Music Library Association Archives, Special Collections in Performing Arts, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland. (Finding aid:

Other Materials:

Holly, Janice E. Irving Lowens and the Washington Star: The Vision, the Demise. Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, 2007. (

Society for American Music, Irving Lowens Book Award. (

Society for American Music, Irving Lowens Article Award (

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.


Publications by Irving Lowens (Available at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland):
Irving Lowens also authored numerous forwards and introductions, edited many works, and collaborated with other authors. Many of the published works to which Lowens contributed are available at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. Please check the library catalog to locate these materials (
  • Lowens, Irving. A Bibliography of Songsters Printed in America Before 1821. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1976. (Call number: Reference ML128.S3 L7)
  • Lowens, Irving. Haydn in America. Detroit, MI: College Music Society, 1979. (Call number: Reference ML410.H4 L7)
  • Lowens, Irving. Music in America and American Music: Two Views of the Scene, with a Bibliography of the Published Writings of Irving Lowens. New York: City University of New York, 1978.
  • Lowens, Irving. Music and Musicians in Early America. New York: W.W. Norton, 1964. (Call number: Paged Collections ML200 .L7)
Irving Lowens papers
Laura E. Drake, Bonnie Jo Dopp, Kristian Twombly, Cassandra N. Berman, and Wendy Bargstadt
May 2012
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

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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