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Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers

 Collection 0149-SCPA

Karl Wilson Gehrkens (1882-1975) was an American music educator. From 1907 to 1942 he taught at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in the area of Public School Music, later to become Music Education. He coined the phrase "Music for every child-every child for music," which became the official slogan of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), later known as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). From 1922 to 23 he served as MENC President and he was President of Music Teachers National Association from 1934 to 35. This collection contains several of Karl Gehrkens writings including "Music for Every Child." It also contains personal and professional correspondence concerning some of his articles in addition to other correspondence and personal documents, mainly from 1952 to 1965. In April 1952 at Oberlin College, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, the Music Education Library, originally started by Gehrkens in 1917, was rededicated as The Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library. Articles, writings and correspondence pertaining to this event are part of this collection.


  • 1922-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1952-1965

Use and Access to Collection

There are no restricted files in this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

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 make an appointment with the curator via Tel: 301.405.9220 or Email:


0.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Karl W. Gehrkens papers covers the period from 1922 to 1977, with the bulk of its materials pertaining to the period from 1952 to 1965. The collection consists of personal and professional correspondence, writings, and materials relating to the Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library at Oberlin College.


Karl Wilson Gehrkens was born in Lake Erie, Ohio on April 19, 1882. From 1900 to 1905, he studied psychology and education at Oberlin College, in addition to organ and theory at the Conservatory of music. In 1905, he received an A.B. degree and in 1912 an A.M. in psychology. He began teaching Public School Music at Oberlin in 1907. By 1917, he was a Professor of School Music, a position which he maintained until his retirement in 1942. While teaching at Oberlin, he was responsible for the expansion of the Public School Music program from a six-month curriculum to the now standard four-year Music Education degree. On April 19th, 1952, Oberlin rededicated the Music Education library started by Gerhkens during his tenure as the Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library.

Gehrkens was editor of School Music from 1925 to 34. In 1930, he served as music editor for the 2nd edition of Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language. He also published many articles and books, including Music Notation and Technology (1914) and Essentials in Conducting (1919).

Contributing to his important role in music education, Gehrkens served as president of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), later known as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), in 1923 and served on the executive committee from 1930-34. In 1934/35 he was also president of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).

Karl Gerhkens was married to Ruth Grey Bedford in 1905 and had two daughters. He retired in 1942, on February 28, 1975 Karl Gehrkens passed away in Bellaire, Michigan. Ruth preceded Karl in death in 1964.


This collection is organized into four series.

  1. Personal
  2. Writings
  3. Correspondence
  4. The Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Transferred to SCPA as part of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Historical Center, formerly known as the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) Historical Center.

Related Material

The Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers are part of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Historical Center, formerly known as the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) Historical Center.

Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. Papers. 1900-1975; Oberlin College

The following resources are available at UMD:

  1. Correspondence with between Gehrkens and Rose Marie Grentzer, as well as information relating to the redesign and dedication of the Oberlin library, can be found in the Rose Marie Grentzer Papers.
  2. Dykema, Peter W., and Karl Wilson Gehrkens. The Teaching and Administration of High School Music. Boston: C.C. Birchard and Co, 1941. (Call no. MT1.D9 T3)
  3. Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. Essentials in Conducting. Boston: Oliver Ditson Co, 1919. (Call no. MT85 .G34)
  4. Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. The Fine Art of Teaching … An Address Delivered Before the National Conference of Music Supervisors at St. Joseph, Mo., April, 1921. New York: Hinds, Hayden andamp; Eldredge, (Call no. MT1 .G3)
  5. Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. Handbook of Musical Terms. Boston: Oliver Ditson Co, 1927. (Call no. ML108 .G3)
  6. Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. An Introduction to School Music Teaching. Boston: C.C. Birchard andamp; Co, 1919. (Call no. MT930 .G34)
Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers
Processed by Liz Prince, November 2007-February 2008, and Nicole Horstman, November 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