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Pillsbury Foundation School records

 Collection 0184-SCPA

The Pillsbury Foundation School was established in 1937 by the Pillsbury Foundation for the Advancement of Music Education. The goal of the school was to study the music-making of young children, and is the only known long-term study of spontaneous musical expression among preschool children. The Pillsbury Foundation School records include daily observation notes taken by Directors Gladys Moorhead (1893–1976) and Donald Pond (1906–1983), annual enrollment, attendance, and student reports, recordings, photographs, and scrapbooks. The records include material from the Pillsbury Foundation School, which operated from 1937 to 1948, as well as daily observation notes from Gladys Moorhead's Children's Studio School, which operated from 1950 to 1957.


  • 1936-1979
  • Majority of material found within 1936-1956

Conditions Governing Access

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:, Tel: 301.405.9220.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restricted files in this collection.


6.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The Pillsbury Foundation School records cover the period from 1936 to 1979; the bulk of the materials date from 1936 to 1956. The records consist of personal and professional papers including daily notes, correspondence, publications and unpublished writings, mailing lists, pamphlets, reports, audio recordings, photographs, a scrapbook, and a recording log related to the Pillsbury Foundation School’s daily operation and administration, as well as Gladys Moorhead’s subsequent Children Studio School (1950–1957).

Historical Note

The Pillsbury Foundation for Advancement of Music Education was created in 1934 through an endowment by San Francisco lawyer Evans Searle Pillsbury (1840–1934) upon his death, and was intended to found a school for music and literature for young students at the Pillsbury family estate near Santa Barbara, CA. Determining that the endowment was inadequate for such a venture, the trustees turned to famed conductor Leopold Stokowski (1882–1977), who was a part-time Santa Barbara resident and an acquaintance of trustee Florence Fernald, for his advice on the use of the arts endowment. Stokowski suggested studying the natural music-making of young children, which he felt was unnecessarily stifled in Western society. The Foundation’s trustees approved Stokowski’s suggestion and decided to establish a nursery school for the purpose of undertaking such a study, and Stokowski recommended Gladys Evelyn Moorhead (1893–1976), a prominent Los Angeles educator, as Director of the School and Harry Donald Pond (1906–1983), an English composer and researcher at the experimental Dalton School in New York City, as Music Director.

The Pillsbury Foundation School was established in February 1937 in a former kindergarten school building at 1611 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara, CA, by the Pillsbury Foundation, and still stands as the only known study of spontaneous expressions of music-making of preschool children over an extended period of observation (1937–1945). The school included considerable outdoor play space and equipment, a collection of Oriental musical instruments loaned by Henry Eichheim (1870–1942), a composer and resident of Santa Barbara, and a phonograph with a selection of recordings, all for the children’s unrestricted use. Enrollment varied, with the students numbering between twelve and twenty-seven and ranging in age from one and a half to eight and a half years. School days occurred under the supervision of both directors but with minimal routine, leaving the children to pursue their own creative pursuits, indoors or out. The teachers facilitated a constant flow of activity and sometimes participated in it, but always they observed the children and noted their observations on five-by-eight cards. The School operated under the Pillsbury Foundation’s auspices until June 1948, and Moorhead was the Director for the entire period except for the school year 1938–1939, when she fulfilled an obligation to the Los Angeles City Schools and Florence Stewart served as Acting Director. Donald Pond remained Music Director until 1944, after which the position was filled by Geraldine Browning, Florence Sandvik, Donald Wright, and briefly by Robert Heger-Goetzl.

In 1948, the school building was sold and the Pillsbury School did not relocate, as student tuitions had never met the costs of maintaining the school and the search for a new building was too expensive. Moorhead, who had maintained all the files associated with the School, continued to use them for research and writing about the School on behalf of the Foundation after its closure. She operated her own independent Children Studio School from 1950 to 1957, which she modeled after the Pillsbury School. There, Moorhead continued the practice of daily noting her observations on five-by-eight cards and these cards were added to her previous collection. Her professional writing and correspondence also became a mixture of her experiences in the two schools, and they are included along with the documents of both schools as part of the Pillsbury Foundation School records. The Pillsbury Foundation continued to operate after the closure of the School as a provider of scholarships for young musicians, and eventually dissolved in 1979.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into two series:

  1. Pillsbury Foundation School
  2. Pillsbury Foundation School, Related Papers

Custodial History

Materials were assembled by the Pillsbury Foundation Board, notably Donald Pond and Shirley Shelley, and donated to the MENC Historical Center in the summer of 1978.

Related Material

Danner, Peter. “Pond, (Harry) Donald.” Grove Music Online. February 24, 2010. Last accessed July 17, 2020.

Kierstead, Judith. “The Pillsbury Foundation School (1937-1948) and Beyond.” The Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education 15.3 (1994): 183–219.

Kierstead, Judith Kerschner. “The Pillsbury Foundation School and Beyond,” Masters thesis, University of Maryland, College Park, 1991.

Moorhead, Gladys Evelyn, and Donald Pond. Music of Young Children. Pillsbury Foundation Studies. Santa Barbara, CA: Pillsbury Foundation for Advancement of Music Education, 1978.

Pillsbury Foundation – Spontaneous Music of Young Children, Parts 1-6. Universal Records, ca. 1948. LPs. Call Number: MENC 37, Special Collections in Performing Arts recordings collection.

Pillsbury Foundation School. Santa Barbara, CA: Pillsbury Foundation School, 1938.

Pillsbury Foundation School, 1937-1944, and undated. Donald Pond Collection. Series 4. University of Maryland. Special Collections for the Performing Arts.

Pond, Donald. “A Composer's Study of Young Children's Innate Musicality.” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 68 (1981): 1–12.

Pond, Donald. “The Young Child's Playful World of Sound.” Music Educators Journal 66.7 (1980): 39–41.

Wilson, Bruce. “Implications of the Pillsbury Foundation School of Santa Barbara in Perspective.” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 68 (1981): 13–25.

Wilson, Bruce Dunbar, Shirley J. Shelley, Donald Pond, and Eastern Music Educators Conference. The Pillsbury Foundation School Revisited. Second ed. College Park: Departments of Music, Early Childhood-Elementary Education, and Secondary Education, University of Maryland, 1979. [Booklet that accompanied two presentations at the Music Educators National Conference, Eastern Division Biennial Meeting, Atlantic City, New Jersey, February 11, 1979].

Pillsbury School Foundation records
Bruce D. Wilson; updated May 2003 by Jeanne Su; June 2018 by Vincent Novara; July 2020 by Rachel Ruisard
1981 through 2020
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

  • 2014-01-24: EAD markup validated using Oxygen software by Amanda May, January 2014.
  • 2015-05-05: EAD markup validated using Oxygen software by John Davis, May 2015
  • 2016-01-11: EAD markup validated using Oxygen software by John Davis, January 2016
  • 2020-07-24: Inventory uploaded to finding aid; series/subseries added; scope and contents, historical note, and related materials composed by Rachel Ruisard, July 2020

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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