The UCLA Music Library provides access to one of the largest academic music collections in North America and is the largest and oldest major music library on the West Coast of the United States. With access to over 400,000 physical items, the resources for music research, performance, and study span all genres of music from ancient times to today. The Music Library is one of the most used UCLA Library spaces and collections, with over 100,000 visitors and over 35,000 items checked out each year. It supports music study and performance at UCLA, the Herb Alpert School of Music, and throughout Southern California.
Always inventive, it has a long history of forward-thinking services and projects, producing concerts and music programs for over 70 years and publishing music literature for over 45 years. The Hugo and Christine Davise Fund for Contemporary Music is administered by the UCLA Music Library to support contemporary music in a wide variety of ways including sponsoring conferences, exhibitions, concerts, residencies, composition competitions, and commissions new works. The Library offers an audiovisual maker’s space, Studio A, and publishes the Contemporary Score Edition, with printed scores and parts and digital, open access scores. It is the first open access edition of new music published by a library.
The Music Library appreciates support in any amount. Your contribution will help sustain our more than seventy five years of service to the UCLA and Southern California music communities. Please see Giving to the Music Library for more information.
History of the Music Library
The UCLA Music Library began in 1942 in the Powell Library basement with a collection of scores from the recently decommissioned Federal Music Project. Professor Gustave O. Arlt led the effort to secure the collection for UCLA. Leon Strashun studied violin under Tchaikovsky and was a music copying manager for the Federal Music Project before joining UCLA as Curator of the Music Library where he worked until retirement in 1946.
The same year, the Music Library pursued, and eventually received, a memorial collection of music by Jerome Kern from his wife, Eva. In 1947, Ruth Doxsee joined UCLA as Music Librarian. After the death of noted music educator and composer Fannie Charles Dillon in 1947, the Library received her manuscripts and papers. Dillon taught John Cage when he was young and was herself a student of Rubin Goldmark. Special collections of music, now part of Library Special Collections in the Charles E. Young Research Library (YRL), include significant holdings in film music, music industry, and émigré and women composers.
In 1949, the Music Library began its first efforts in public programming by hosting record concerts. The following year, the Music Library collection expanded to include all other music materials in the UCLA Library collections: music scores, books and recordings. In 1954, 10,000 items were borrowed and 23,000 people visited the Library.
A New Building, 1956-1963
The library relocated to its present location in Schoenberg Music Building in 1956 with a collection of 36,000 items. Designed by Welton Becket Architects, the new building was the first modern structure at UCLA and a striking departure from the previous historic-inspired designs for campus. The modern architecture was quite notable at the time, as evidenced by this description of the reading room published in The UCLA Librarian, "Great floor-to-ceiling windows on the north side provide an abundance of natural light during the day, making the Library one of the easiest [spaces] on the eyes on the campus."
The new Library included two floors of shelves, a reading room, a seminar room and 10 listening rooms for groups and individuals. The collections and services were already remarkable: "It is noted as one of the finest in the West for orchestral, vocal, and instrumental scores, with an active program of service to community groups" (The UCLA Librarian, v.9 no. 13). By 1957, there were over 70,000 visitors a year.
Archives and Dedications, 1964-1980
In 1964, the Music Library acquired the Meredith Wilson Library, Stanley Ring Collection. This vast collection includes the sheet music from Stanley Ring’s music store in Hollywood. Acting Head Librarian, Marsha Berman completed the first renovation, which increased the listening stations to 41, in 1967.
Also in 1967, Albert Goldberg reported in the LA Times that the Library had opened the Ernst Toch Archive with a celebration and concert conducted by Mehli Mehta. Toch was a leading avant-garde composer in Germany and won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1956. Daniel Cariaga reported in the LA Times about the Music Library’s 1979 dedication of the Eric Zeisl Archive. Zeisl, an Austrian émigré, composed concert and film music.
In 1981, David Morton, faculty member and Honorary Curator of the Music Library’s Archive of Popular American Music, announced a large acquisition of 25,000 pieces of music with the assistance of the Roth Family Foundation.
That same year, Bernard Holland reported in the New York Times that the Stravinsky Archive would likely be purchased by the Music Library for a sum of $1.5 to $1.8 million dollars and that it would be held in a newly completed annex to the Library. The Archive eventually went to the Paul Sacher Foundation for $5.25 million, the first major acquisition of what is now known as the Paul Sacher Stiftung.
In 1982, Music Librarian Stephen Fry presented on building collections of music by women at the International Congress of Women in Music and the Library reignited a concerted effort to collect music by women composers. By 1984 the Music Library collection had grown to almost 100,000 items. In 1985, Stephen Fry and Jeannie Pool published The Story of the All-Women’s Orchestras in California, 1893-1955. In 1986, the Music Library completed a second major renovation, which included modernization of the listening stations.
Contemporary Visions, 2012-Today
In 2012, Music Librarian David Gilbert organized a premier concert with support from the Music Library’s Davise Fund for Contemporary Music. The concert was in collaboration with LA-staple, Piano Spheres. Concerts followed in 2014 with Jacaranda and the Lyris Quartet, in 2015 with Wild Up, in 2016 with Gloria Cheng and composers Bruce Broughton, Don Davis, Randy Newman, and John Williams, and in 2017 with Gloria Cheng and John Adams. The Christine and Hugo Davise Fund for Contemporary Music is administered by the UCLA Music Library to support contemporary music in a wide variety of ways including sponsoring conferences, exhibitions, concerts, residencies, composition competitions, and commissioning new works.
In 2018, Music Librarian Matthew Vest led the effort to open Studio A and start publishing the Contemporary Score Edition. It is a hybrid edition, with printed scores and parts and digital open access scores and is the first open access edition of new music published by a library.
Following the UCLA Medal presentation ceremony for Wadada Leo Smith in 2019, a performance by the RedKoral Quartet included the premiere of movement 5 from Smith’s String Quartet No. 11, entitled “UCLA Music Library.” “No other string quartet music sounds like this,” music critic Mark Swed wrote in the LA Times for a feature story on Smith’s residency. “There is a gripping, centered power of near electromagnetic energy. But beyond the center, when the quartet plays in unison or in thick chordal passages, is a freer energy on the fringes, almost like the sun with its corona. Smith also says that it’s not where the music is going that is important, but its potential to reveal unexpected possibilities.”
In celebration of the UCLA Centennial in 2019, the Library programmed the Powell Library carillon to play original works by Bruin musicians. In 2020, the Library held an Original Music Competition, which allowed UCLA students an opportunity to participate in Ringing the Way by submitting new music to be performed on the carillon.
In 2020, the Music Library announced an open access partnership with Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra to empower living composers around the world by making their work more accessible and reducing barriers for applicants to Kaleidoscope’s 2020 Call for Scores. The partnership allowed applicants to elect to have the UCLA Library publish their submitted compositions open access for future performance and study in conjunction with OpenUCLA, a Centennial Celebration initiative. Composers from 86 countries submitted more than 5,500 musical compositions to be published open access in the Contemporary Music Score Collection. The collection represents the largest open-access publishing effort for contemporary music compositions.
Today, the UCLA Music Library provides access to over 400,000 items, comprising one of the largest academic music collections in North America and the largest and oldest significant music library on the West Coast. The Music Library manages Avalon and Digital Audio Reserves, which provide UCLA faculty, staff, and students access to streaming digital audio and video. With over 100,000 visitors and over 35,000 items checked out each year, the Music Library one of the most used UCLA Library spaces and collections.
Current and former UCLA music librarians, staff and interns:
Estelle Arakawa, Rhio Barnhart, Allison Benedetti, Umberto Belfiore, Marsha Berman, Christopher Brennan, Peter Brown, Vic Cardell, Starr Carlson, Portia Chambliss, Jill Cogen, Stephen Davison, Joy Doan, Cheryl Dooley, Ruth Doxsee, Timothy Edwards, Bob Freel, Frederick Freeman, Stephen Fry, Holly Gardinier, Frank Garvey, David Gilbert, Kathy Pearson Glennan, Ella Good, Ingrid Fingal Goodrich, Leslie Greer, Armen Guzelimian, Bill Handley, Kurt Hanselman, Callie Holmes, Laura Horwitz, Richard Hudson, Lilia Jamaica, Cathy Jordan Leverkus, Henry Lim, Hermann Loew, Diana Lyons, Joan Flintoff LoPear, Kirsten Maegaard, Audrée Covington Malkin, Renee McBride, Karen Miller, Jerry Nagle, Tina Nance, Jean Nichols, Maryruth Orr, Don Philips, Julie Poe, Kathy Williams Ridenour, Bridget Risemberg, Janet Rocklin, Betty Roleder, Darwin Scott, Gordon Stone, Leon Strashun, Gordon Theil, Shirley Thompson, Ruth Tucker, Andre Valdry, Hermine Vermeij, Matthew Vest, Jane Voyles, Doug Wadle, and Ken Yapkowitz.
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History written by Matthew Vest in spring 2020.