Skip to main content

John Davison Papers: Additions, 1939-1999 HC.Coll.839.1

Identifier: HC.MC-839.1

Scope and Contents

These additions to the John Davison collection expand the documentation of his life, both in the personal sphere and in the professional sphere, as a composer and Professor of Music at Haverford College. The collection includes drafts and publications of a selection of his compositions. There are recordings, reviews, and programs from performances of some of Davison's work. Also included are correspondence and personal materials collected by Davison. The collection is divided into two series: "John Davison Materials" and "Materials by Others."

The first series, "John Davison Materials," is divided into four sub-series: "Scores," "Recordings and Electronic Media," "Publications about Music," and "Personal Materials."

The "Scores" sub-series is comprised of drafts, manuscripts, and publications of approximately 45 compositions.

The "Recordings and Electronic Media" sub-series includes recordings of some of John Davison's compositions, as well as copies of computer files of his music. These are in the following formats: records, cassettes, compact discs (CDs), floppy disks, and one zip disk.

The "Publications about Music" sub-series includes concert programs and reviews of John Davison's work, ordered chronologically 1939-2000. Materials from the Contemporary Music Project and from the Robert Burns Project, which John Davison completed with John Ashmead and Shoshona Shay are included. In addition, there is a Catalogue of Works compiled by John Davison for his own compositions.

The "Personal Materials" subseries is comprised of items created and collected by Davison, and include school materials, essays and speeches, awards, and correspondence. His school materials include his diploma from the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music. His essays and speeches include memoria for Alfred Swan, William Reese, and John Ashmead; descriptions and hopes for the Haverford Music Department; and essays written for courses at the Eastman School of Music. His collected correspondence is ordered chronologically, and spans 1948-1999, and includes both personal and professional correspondence.

The second series, "Materials by Others," includes items produced by friends, family, and colleagues, and collected by John Davison. Within the series are nine sub-series: "Music," "Writings," "Vince Roark," "Guy Davenport," "Student Compositions," "Recordings," "Family," "Photographs," and "Miscellaneous Publications."

The sub-series "Music" contains music composed by colleagues of John Davison's, as well as a number of works by Orlando Gibbons. "Writings" includes essays and poetry by friends and colleagues of John Davison's. Vince Roark's work consists of writings and drawings of geometric sculptures. Guy Davenport's work consists of essays, poetry, and drawings. More of both Roark's and Davenport's work may be found in the "Correspondence" sub-series.

The sub-series "Student Compositions" consists of recordings on reel-to-reel tapes of concerts of student compositions, 1972-1979. The "Recordings" sub-series includes an LP recording of the Haverford Glee Club from 1959, as well as other records.

The "Family" sub-series includes genealogical trees created by John Davison and a collection of writings by Walter S. and Eloise Hollett Davison, John Davison's parents.

The "Photographs" sub-series contains photographs of John Davison's family members before his birth, of his friends and colleagues, and of John Davison himself from birth to adulthood. These include a scrapbook he put together as a young boy, and formal portraits of him as a professor at Haverford College.


  • Creation: 1939-1999


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

Standard Federal Copyright Law applies (U.S. Title 17)

Biographical / Historical

Born May 31, 1930, in Istanbul, Turkey, to American parents, John Davison moved to the United States soon after his birth. He was raised in Auburn, NY, and New York City and “showed an early interest in music, studying piano and theory,” (Catherine Nardiello, Pianist). He was educated at Juilliard School’s lower school; Haverford College, graduating in 1951; Harvard University, earning his master’s degree; and the Eastman School of Music, earning his doctorate in creative composition. Among his teachers were Alfred Swan, Randall Thompson, Walter Piston, Bernard Rogers, Howard Hanson, Alan Hovhaness, and Robert Palmer (Haverford website).

In 1959, after obtaining his doctorate, Davison began teaching at Haverford College as the Ruth Marshall Magill Professor of Music. He continued to teach at Haverford until his death in 1999, and saved his students’ compositions throughout this period.

A prolific composer, “Davison's idiom is rooted in the great Western classic-romantic tradition with Baroque, Renaissance, jazz, modernist, and folk elements mixing in at times,” (Dram). He wrote for trumpet, trombone, piano, horn, and violin, in addition to less traditional instruments such as koto, cimbalom and bagpipe. His “compositions are published and recorded [and] have won awards and received numerous performances,” (Catherine Nardiello, Pianist). Among orchestras playing his compositions have been the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, the Susquehanna Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra. The Chestnut Brass Company recorded his Brass Quintet on their CD "Pastime with Good Company," and Albany Records issued an all-Davison CD (Haverford website).

In addition to his composing and teaching, Davison also co-authored a book about the songs of Robert Burns with John Ashmead. Davison also kept a sketchbook, where he drew figures occasionally used for concert programs and posters.


Catherine Nardiello, Pianist. Record (Box 118).

DRAM. “Music of John Davison.” (accessed October 1, 2009).

Haverford College Music Faculty Website, “In Memoriam” (accessed December 9th, 2009).


38 Linear Feet (61 boxes)




John Davison was a prolific composer who taught music at Haverford College from 1959 until his death in 1999. Several of his compositions were performed and recorded by orchestras throughout the United States. Within this collection are drafts of many of his compositions, including Robert Burns: Poems and Songs, an anthology which he completed with John Ashmead. Also included are audio recordings of a couple dozen of his and students' pieces. This collection is an addition to the John Davison Papers, HC.Coll.839.

Physical Location

This material is stored off-site. All requests for materials from this collection must be made at least one week in advance. Contact to arrange access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift fo Elizabeth Davison.

John Davision Papers: Additions donated to Special Collection, Haverford College, in year


"JD" will always stand for "John Davison"

John Davison Papers: Additions, 1939-1999
Elizabeth Peters
April, 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US