Louis Thurston Nicholas Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS.0314

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Louis Thurston Nicholas, which cover the years 1894-2006, consist of 208 linear feet of material and are concerned with Nicholas’s personal and professional life. Major series in the papers include Personal and Professional Correspondence; material relating to his activities in the National Association of the Teachers of Singing (NATS); Personal and Biographical papers; his Musical and Academic Career and programs from the George Peabody College Concert Series; The Tennessean—where he served as Music Editor and Critic from 1951-1975; and Louis Nicholas’s biography and accompanying materials Thor Johnson: American Conductor. There are also Church related materials; his collection of programs including those from his European trips, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and other local music venues, and many others; Publications collected by Louis Nicholas; Sheet Music and Songs/ Music and Book Catalogs; Promotional Materials and Press Releases; Photographs, Scrapbooks, and other Memorabilia.

The following describes the Series of the Collection:

THE CORRESPONDENCE series forms a major component of the collection. It includes letters both to and from Nicholas’s wife, Sarah Lacey Nicholas, and correspondence from their three sons Joel, David, and Kevin. Also included in the family correspondence are letters from his father, sisters, and brothers, among many other relatives. Correspondence from friends includes letters from people from all areas and eras of Nicholas’s life, including schools where he taught and attended and the many churches where he was involved, often as music director. Letters as well as Christmas Cards, birth and graduation announcements, thank-you notes, get well cards,( after the Greyhound Bus wreck on Sept. 27, 1959 ), sympathy cards (including condolences after his wife’s death in May 1990 ), and wedding invitations all comprise the personal correspondence.

There is also professional correspondence with music colleagues including pupils of Louis Nicholas and fellow teachers and music critics. Clare Elby and Edyth Walker are two of Nicholas’s teachers whose correspondence may be found in this series. There are letters from many musicians: vocalists, choir members, organists, pianists, harpsichordists, violinists, conductors, and composers. Also in this group are contained many letters requesting information about the study of music, performances, and advice about musical matters.

The records of THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF SINGING (NATS) are extensive, containing organizational records, board minutes, budget information, annual meeting records, annual reports, administrative correspondence, and a substantial amount of correspondence with Nicholas’s colleagues in the organization. Also included are programs from conventions and workshops, membership lists, and the publication Inter Nos (1970-2002).

Louis Nicholas was a charter member of the Association., and President of NATS from 1962-1964. Music programs for NATS can also be found in the Programs Series in Vocal Recitals and other.

THE PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS contain a variety of documentation of Louis Nicholas’s personal and professional life. There are notebooks with highlights from his life and career and important and historic items from his large collection of programs. There is also material on various events where he is honored. Also included in this series are materials from schools of higher education that he attended--Southwestern at Memphis, Teachers College of Columbia and University of Michigan. There are also papers relating to Sarah L. Nicholas and their sons, Joel, David, and Kevin. SCRAPBOOKS, MEMORABILIA, AND OVERSIZE MATERIALS at the end of the Papers also include important Personal and Biographical Materials from the years 1930 to 1985.

ACADEMIC AND MUSICAL CAREER materials cover his tenure at Peabody College, School of Music 1944-1979 over a wide range: Dissertation proposals and monographs submitted; teaching notebooks; faculty communications and committee work; articles on teaching music, bulletins and Peabody publications; American Academy of Teachers of Singing—minutes of meetings; audio-visual materials; and the merger with Vanderbilt among others. The Academic and Musical Career is a varied collection of correspondence with colleagues at Peabody College and Vanderbilt University, notebooks on music and people, records from Nicholas’s years at North Texas State Teachers College and Southwestern at Memphis, and a small number of records of the Music Critics Association.

THE GEORGE PEABODY COLLEGE MUSIC PROGRAMS AND SUMMER CONCERT SERIES consists mainly of correspondence, both outgoing and incoming, making arrangements for performances for the summer concerts with accompanying promotional information and programs from the Series.

The papers comprising the series THE TENNESSEAN—MUSIC EDITOR AND CRITIC document Louis Nicholas’s career as a music critic from 1951-1975. Nicholas’s reviews of performances and books on the subject of music can be found in this series along with his column “Music in Review” “The Music Scene”, “Sampling Records” and “ Concert Reviews.” Incidental writings in this series include announcements, essays and interviews. Correspondence on Nicholas’s reviewing activities may are to be found in this part of the papers. There are also articles and reviews by others. Finally the Scrapbooks which comprise the series at the end of the papers have many newspaper clippings by and about Louis Nicholas.

Louis Nicholas’s biography of THOR JOHNSON: AMERICAN CONDUCTOR is represented by drafts of the book and correspondence about its progress and publication. Also included is research conducted in the writing of the book. In this series there is biographical information about Johnson; some sheet music from Johnson’s collection, a Paige box of Johnson memorabilia including ceremonial robes and photographs; and programs from his concerts conducting the Chicago Little Symphony, the Peninsula Music Festival, the Early Moravian Music Festival, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra (1967-1974) and Nashville Youth Symphony. Thor Johnson lived from June 10, 1913—January 16, 1975.

* Other documents related to Thor Johnson are located in the archives of the Moravian Music Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

CHURCH RELATED MATERIALS include his collection of “Order of Service” and “Visitor” programs from Vine Street Christian Church 1958-2001 as well as other materials relating to VSCC. There are also materials from West End Methodist Church in Nashville (1949-2002) where he served as choir director from 1946-1957; The Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom where he was tenor soloist and music director (1946-1994) and other church programs both in Nashville and elsewhere.

THE COLLECTION OF PROGRAMS in the papers is an extraordinary assemblage covering a lifetime of concerts, recitals, and performances of every kind. Beginning with the programs of student concerts at Peabody College, the collection continues through recitals and concerts at other institutions. Next there are several categories of recitals separated by type: vocal recitals, choral concerts, organ recitals, piano recitals, violin recitals, chamber music, joint recitals, orchestral concerts, band concerts, musicals, and operas. There are several historical program collections, including those for the Chicago Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera. The series begins with programs and other materials from his summer European trips. Other programs include seven boxes of Nashville Symphony Orchestra programs (see THOR JOHNSON series for others); ten boxes of local university concerts and other local venues, and one box of Messiah programs that feature Louis Nicholas as director and performer.

Nine boxes make up the PUBLICATION SERIES (publications collected by L.N.) and include Piano Guild Notes, 1967-1989, Your Musical Cue, Indiana University, 1958-1973, Etude Music Magazine, 1926-1954; newsletters from the Hymn Society of America and others.

There are 32 boxes of SHEET MUSIC AND SONGS, MUSIC AND BOOK CATALOGS. The many pieces of sheet music include a wide range of secular and sacred music with some items individually listed.

There are 51 boxes of PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS AND PRESS RELEASES. Included are new releases, photographs (many individually listed) and news releases from all kinds of artists, performers, groups, and management companies.

Artists and performers, NATS Events, and Peabody College Musical Events make up the three boxes of PHOTOGRAPHS. Although the photos here are arranged by topic, other photos are interspersed throughout the collection in the Promotional Materials and Press Releases.

SCRAPBOOKS* AND MEMORABILIA AND OVERSIZE MATERIALS total 29 flat boxes. They cover the years from 1930-1985 and consist of newspaper clippings, programs, bulletins, announcements, publicity, framed items, and many other types of ephemera regarding the activities of Nicholas and his family. These Scrapbooks are an important part of the Personal and Biographical information on Louis Nicholas.

* Some of the Scrapbooks are gifts from others with old programs and newspaper clippings. ADDENDA include some envelopes.

ADDENDA include some envelopes.

Dates

  • 1894 - 2006

Biographical Note

Louis Thurston Nicholas was born in Trimble, Tennessee on October 2, 1910, the son of Jeff Thurston and Lottie Dunivant Nicholas. He received the A.B. degree at Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College) in 1934, did post-graduate work at the Memphis College of Music from 1934-1938, received the M.Mus. degree at the University of Michigan in 1939, and received a diploma for Specialist in Music Education from Columbia University in 1952. He was married to Sarah Elizabeth Lacey ( Feb. 28, 1908 - May 15, 1990 ) on March 27, 1942, and they had three sons: Joel Edward (Aug. 28, 1943-), David Paul (May 13, 1945-), and Kevin Lacey (Feb. 28, 1947 -). Included in the papers are personal and biographical materials relating to Sarah L. Nicholas and sons Jody, David , and Kevin.

His career as an educator includes positions in Dyer County, 1928-1930, and the Memphis public schools, 1936-1941, and Instructor of Music at North Texas State Teachers College, 1941-1944. In 1944, Nicholas came to George Peabody College for Teachers, where he was a member of the music faculty until 1979. Shortly before his retirement from Peabody College, Mayor Richard Fulton designated April 29, 1979 as “Louis Nicholas Day” in Nashville. He served as the Chairman of the George Peabody College Summer Concert Series for seventeen years. After his retirement Mr. Nicholas taught at Belmont University, Scarritt College, and Trevecca Nazarene College, all in Nashville.

Shortly after moving to Nashville, Louis Nicholas became the choir director of the First Lutheran Church, 1945-1946; he was also choir director of the West End Methodist Church from 1946-1957; choir director of the Vine Street Christian Church, 1958-1969; and tenor soloist, cantor 1946-1977, and music director, 1959-1977, at The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom.

Louis Nicholas was a music critic of note, having held the position of Music Editor and Critic for The Tennessean in Nashville from 1951 to 1975. Among his affiliations and memberships were the National Association of Teachers of Singing, of which he was a charter member, and served as president from 1962 to 1964; the Music Teachers National Association; Music Educators National Conference; the American Institute of Vocal Pedagogy, of which he was a fellow; the American Academy of Teachers of Singing; Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia; and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Mr. Nicholas authored Thor Johnson: American Conductor (1982) and a number of professional journal and magazine articles. He also contributed chapters to Symphony Orchestras of the United States, edited by Carl Craven (1985) and The Choral Director’s Guide by Kenneth L. Neidig and John W. Jennings (1967).

As a vocalist, Mr. Nicholas performed thirty-six programs without repetition, including a series of eight historical lecture recitals covering seven centuries of music and ten countries, and three series of important song cycles. In addition, he made numerous appearances as an oratorio and orchestral soloist. He was known throughout the United States for his vast knowledge of vocal repertoire and led many workshops and seminars in voice. His pupils have been soloists with the Nashville Symphony and other orchestras,members of the Metropolitan Opera and the Radio City Glee Club, and singers with Fred Waring and Robert Shaw.

Louis Nicholas is listed in Who’s Who in Music; Who’s Who in American Education; Who’s Who Directory of American Scholars; Who’s Who in the South and Southwest; International Who’s Who in Music.

“The Papers of Louis Nicholas: A Manuscripts Collection” was on exhibit in Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University from May 21—June 30, 1995.

He served with AUS 1942-1943.

Over 3000 pieces of sheet music and 280 music collections were given by Louis Nicholas to Belmont University School of Music Library.

The Scrapbooks and Memorabilia of Louis Nicholas include highlights from his life and career.

Until January 2003, when he moved to Memphis, Louis Nicholas remained active in the Vine Street Christian Church, where he served as an Honorary Elder. He also continued to teach voice.

Louis Thurston Nicholas died on Wednesday December 28, 2005 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 95. A memorial service for him was held on Saturday January 7, 2006 at the Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville.

He is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville, TN. The program and Eulogy for this service are held in these papers at the end of the Personal and Biographical Series.

Extent

208 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Papers of Louis Thurston Nicholas, which cover the years 1894-2006, consist of 208 linear feet of material and are concerned with Nicholas’s personal and professional life. Major series in the papers include Personal and Professional Correspondence; material relating to his activities in the National Association of the Teachers of Singing (NATS); Personal and Biographical papers; his Musical and Academic Career and programs from the George Peabody College Concert Series; The Tennessean—where he served as Music Editor and Critic from 1951-1975; and Louis Nicholas’s biography and accompanying materials Thor Johnson: American Conductor. There are also Church related materials; his collection of programs including those from his European trips, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and other local music venues, and many others; Publications collected by Louis Nicholas; Sheet Music and Songs/ Music and Book Catalogs; Promotional Materials and Press Releases; Photographs, Scrapbooks, and other Memorabilia.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Title
Finding Aid for the Louis Thurston Nicholas Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Molly Dohrmann
Date
2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


 

About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.