Scope and arrangement
The John J. Becker Papers cover the breadth of his professional career, especially his most active period, from roughly 1920 to 1950. The music series, specifically the Scores sub-series, makes up the largest section of the collection. The scores range from original pencil sketches to final published works and spans Becker’s career. Programs and clippings can help orient the researcher by putting performances in context. Series III: Professional Papers gives a fuller picture of John J. Becker’s career outside of pure composition. The final series, Oversized Materials, simply records Becker’s academic degrees and the posters document some of the many W.P.A. concerts Becker organized. Correspondence may provide a bit of insight into Becker’s personal as well as professional life. There is very little of a personal nature in the collection outside of some of the correspondence. Evelyn Becker, John J. Becker’s widow, retained control over the collection for many years after his death, organizing and annotating many of the papers. For example, Series IV: Interviews and Speeches is almost entirely composed of Evelyn’s thoughts and comments about her late husband’s works.
The John J. Becker papers are arranged in eight series:
- undated16 boxes
This series includes correspondence to and from both John J. Becker and Evelyn Becker. After John’s death in 1961, Evelyn was unrelenting in her quest to keep his memory and music alive and wrote many letters on his behalf.
- Sub-series 1 - General, 1905-1991; undated
- Sub-series 2 - Thematic, 1938-1982; undated
- 1897 - 1969; undated
Music includes lists of Becker’s compositions, notes on his and others’ music, librettos, and scores. Scores is by far the largest sub-series and includes sketches, handwritten manuscripts, and published scores.
- Sub-series 1 - Lists of works and dates, 1956-1969; undated
- Sub-series 2 - Notes, undated
- Sub-series 3 - Librettos, 1927-1939; undated
- Sub-series 4 - Scores, 1897-1960; undated
- 1908 - 1979; undated
This series includes papers relating to all of Becker’s professional roles including that of teacher, composer, committee member, musical director and writer. The Activities sub-series details his various accomplishments.
- Sub-series 1 - Academic Papers, 1908-1952; undated
- Sub-series 2 - Activities, 1909-1961; undated
- Sub-series 3 - American Composers Alliance, 1939-1960; undated
- Sub-series 4 - Catalogs, 1933-1978; undated
- Sub-series 5 - Conferences, 1928-1979; undated
- Sub-series 6 - Photographs, 1933-1958; undated
- Sub-series 7 - W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration), 1935-1942; undated
- Sub-series 8 - Writings, ca. 1927-1976; undated
This series is concerned with public speaking - both the notes prepared before and the transcripts produced later. The notes are entirely Evelyn Becker’s, and the transcripts predominately so.
- Sub-series 1 - Notes, 1973-1980; undated
- Sub-series 2 - Transcripts, 1941-1980
- 1916 - 1978; undated
This series includes papers related specifically to Becker’s music such as appraisals, contracts and invoices, and copyrights, as well as those related to general household finances like stocks, tax returns, and other miscellaneous documents.
- 1911 - 1991; undated
This series includes programs of performances of Becker’s works, as well as those of his contemporaries. The better portion are from the 1930s, which Becker began by teaching at St. Thomas University and later became the State Director of Music for the Federal Music Project (of the W.P.A.). Of special note is a 1958 Carnegie Hall performance that included Becker’s Symphonia Brevis, in which Van Cliburn played piano and Leonard Bernstein conducted.
- 1920 - 1986; undated
This series includes short published articles that are either about, or sometimes by, John J. Becker. The articles by Becker date circa 1926-1929, when he wrote a regular column for the South Bend News-Times. 1936-1941 sees a large increase in the sheer quantity of clippings, as in these years Becker was organizing performances throughout Minnesota for the Federal Music Project (of the W.P.A.).
- 1922 - ca. 1941
This series contains Becker’s diplomas (1922, 1923, and 1928) and posters advertising performances for the Federal Music Project of the W.P.A.