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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 977: T-410

Papers of Victoria Glaser, 1900-2004


Musical compositions, concert programs, writings, correspondence, teaching materials, and audiotapes of composer and music teacher Victoria Glaser.


  • Creation: 1900-2004
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1970

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Victoria Glaser is held by Victoria Glaser during her lifetime. Upon her death, copyright descends to her niece, Kristin Glaser. Upon the death of Kristin Glaser, or sooner if negotiated in writing with Kristin Glaser, all right, title and interest, including copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof, in and to the work, transfers and is assigned to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


9.67 linear feet ((13 file boxes, 3 folio boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 2 photograph folders, 8 audiotapes)
.11 Megabytes (1 file)

The collection primarily documents Glaser's career as a composer and as a music instructor. Personal material includes Glaser's diaries; artwork, including holiday card designs; and Radcliffe College coursework. A diary belonging to Glaser's mother is also included. Professional material includes manuscript drafts; sheet music; teaching materials, including exams; and audiotapes of Glaser's music. Electronic records were received on 2 3.5" disks. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager and one document was converted to PDF/A for preservation and delivery.

The bulk of the folder headings were created by the archivist; Glaser's headings, when used, appear in quotation marks, as do the titles of musical compositions. Some of Glaser's music is included in the Radcliffe College composers' scores collection (SC 141) at the Schlesinger Library and The New England Conservatory of Music hold a collection of Glaser's papers which overlaps with this one: see Victoria Glaser Collection).

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1900-1996 (#1.1-5.4, 14FB.1-14FB.5, 17F+B.1-17F+B.2, OD.1, SD.1), includes drawings by Glaser; diaries she kept in the early 1940s; and articles about her and about concerts in which she or her students performed. The series also contains Radcliffe College coursework, including Glaser's honor's thesis and notes and music related to her doctoral studies. Also included is Glaser's correspondence with family and friends. Correspondents include her brother Kurt and partner Gordon Lawson. Of note are obituaries and other items related to the deaths of Glaser's family members, including the donation of Dorothy Merrylees Glaser's body to the Harvard Medical School, and correspondence regarding Glaser's childhood performances with the University Players Guild. The series also includes a diary kept by Dorothy Merrylees Glaser, a school yearbook edited by Otto Glaser and signed by his classmates, and a list of "approved foods" that Glaser was allowed after experiencing health issues. Of particular note are lists of Glaser's musical compositions and her "personal chronology," in which she observes, "Where there was a need or a commission I wrote." The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1929-2004 (#5.5-13.8, 14FB.6-16FB.5, 17F+B.3-17F+B.7), documents Glaser's career as a teacher, composer, and author, and includes correspondence with music and book publishers; royalty statements and purchase agreements for Glaser's compositions; and programs for concerts at which Glaser's music was performed. The series also includes manuscript drafts for books on music education, a play (which Glaser describes as written by a "'wasp' liberal"), and Glaser's autobiography, "The West Concord Five and Ten." Other manuscripts include essays on Mozart and Josquin. Also included are curricula, exams, correspondence, and notes related to Glaser's work at the Dana Hall School, New England Conservatory of Music, and other institutions. Of particular note is the material on the Dana Hall School's glee club, which includes sketches of appropriate and inappropriate concert garb. The series also includes the musical "Sea with New Eyes," about life in a 19th century fishing village, and "Birthday Fugue," based on the classic "Happy Birthday to You" tune. Fully orchestrated versions of the music for "Birthday Fugue" are included, as well as a version for piano alone. Published and unpublished (handwritten) sheet music for a number of other pieces by Glaser is also included. (Glaser signed one piece of music with the pseudonym "Victor Jewel." A few pieces are signed "C. Von Glaser" or "C. Glaser," and may have been composed by her brother Kurt, who wrote under the name Comstock Glaser until the mid 1940s.) The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, AUDIOVISUAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1931-1998 (#PD.1-PD.2, T-410.1-T-410.8), includes photographs of Glaser and her mother Dorothy Merrylees Glaser. The series also includes recordings of her music, including the Boston Pop's performances of "Birthday Fugue" and a concert entitled "In Honor of Cats," which featured her piece "Xiao de Miaow." The series is arranged with photographs appearing first, followed by a chronological listing of audiotapes.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Music educator, arranger, and composer Victoria Merrylees Glaser was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1918, the daughter of Amherst College professor Otto Charles and Dorothy Gibbs Merrylees Glaser. She had an older brother, Comstock, who later adopted the name Kurt. Glaser was interested in music from a young age, studying the piano, flute, and voice, and composing her first piece of music at the age of ten or eleven. In the early 1930s, she played children's roles in theater productions by the University Players Guild in Falmouth, Massachusetts; Henry Fonda, Margaret Sullivan, and Joshua Logan were all members of the group at the time. Glaser noted later, in her "personal chronology," that her experiences with the University Players Guild influenced her approach to teaching, observing, "I am comfortable with large groups of people and enjoy the creative stress of relating to students and igniting their interest in artistic skills." She studied music at Radcliffe College, earning her bachelor's degree in 1940; she received her master's degree in music from Harvard University in 1943, and worked towards a PhD in music, completing the first draft of her thesis, before deciding against completing her degree. While at Radcliffe, she studied with Nadia Boulanger and Walter Piston. She was a member of the Radcliffe Choral Society and performed with Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra; she also appeared in Henry Purcell's operas King Arthur and Dido and Aeneas.

From 1943 to 1946, Glaser taught at Wellesley College, and in 1945 she joined the faculty of the Dana Hall School, where she served as chair of the music theory department and director of the glee club, chorus, and choir. She remained at Dana Hall until 1958, when she joined the New England Conservatory, teaching sight-singing, harmony, counterpoint, and composition until her retirement from the Conservatory in 1983. Glaser was involved in the development of the Conservatory's preparatory division in the 1950s and served as chair of the music theory department of the adult extension and preparatory divisions from 1965 to 1975. She taught music theory and counterpoint at the Longy School of Music from 1972 to 1993.

In 1942, her first choral arrangement was accepted for publication by the E.C. Schirmer Company and many of her choral arrangements and original musical compositions were also published. Her composition "Birthday Fugue" was performed by the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, in 1965 and 1967, and "Three Suburban Carols" was featured at the dedication of a new wing of the Boston Public Library in 1972; several of her other works, including Xiao de Miaow (featuring a recording of a cat's meow) were performed by Glaser or her students at concerts in the greater Boston area. In addition to her work as a teacher and composer, Glaser wrote the textbook Training for Musicianship (1971) and compiled a collection of anthems, The Third Concord Anthem Book (1954). (This volume continues a series begun by Dr. Archibald T. Davison.)

For most of her adult life, she resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a house that was designed by architect Eleanor Raymond, with input from Glaser's mother. Glaser's long-term partner, Gordon Lawson, died in 2006. Glaser died in 2008, of complications from renal failure.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1900-1996 (#1.1-5.4, 14FB.1-14FB.5, 17F+B.1-17F+B.2, OD.1, SD.1)
  2. Series II. Professional, 1929-2004 (#5.5-13.8, 14FB.6-16FB.5, 17F+B.3-17F+B.7)
  3. Series III. Audiovisual and photographs, ca.1931-1998 (#PD.1-PD.2, T-410.1-T-410.8)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M59, 2007-M92

The papers of Victoria Glaser were given to the Schlesinger Library by Victoria Glaser between April and May 2007.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see the Radcliffe College composers' scores collection (SC 141.)

There is related material at the New England Conservatory of Music; see the Victoria Glaser Collection.


Donor: Victoria Glaser

Accession number: 2007-M92

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and offered to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University:

  1. Third Concord Anthem Book: Thirty Anthems for the Use of Mixed Voice Choirs in Protestant Churches. Compiled, and with English translations by Victoria Glaser; edited by Henry Clough-Leighter. Boston: E.C. Schirmer Music Co., 1955

Processing Information

Processed: July 2019

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.

Glaser, Victoria. Papers of Victoria Glaser, 1900-2004: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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