Fonds 10 - John Beckwith fonds

Identity area

Reference code



John Beckwith fonds


  • 1888-2024, 1936-2022 predominant (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

9 m of textual records and other materials

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

John Beckwith (born March 9, 1927 in Victoria, British Columbia) is a composer, pianist, author, and teacher. He moved to Toronto in 1945 to study piano with Alberto Guerrero at the Royal Conservatory. He also studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (1950-1951) and has a Mus.B. (1947) and Mus.M. (1961) from the University of Toronto, where he studied with John Weinzweig, among others. He began lecturing part-time at the University of Toronto in 1952, taught full-time from 1955 to 1990, and was dean of the Faculty of Music from 1970 to 1977. He was also the director for the Institute for Canadian Music at the Faculty of Music and held the Jean A. Chalmers professorship in Canadian music.

His over 160 compositions include four operas, orchestral, chamber, solo and choral works, and he has published critical and scholarly articles in Canadian music studies. He was also a staff (1953-1955) and freelance (1955-1965) script-writer and programmer for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) music series, and a critic and columnist for the Toronto Star (1959-1962, 1963-1965).

Beckwith holds five honorary doctorates from Canadian Universities, and received the Canadian Music Council’s annual medal (1972) and the Composer of the Year citation (1984), the Toronto Arts award for music (1995), and the Diplome d’honneur of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1996). He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1987.

Beckwith passed away in Toronto, Ontario on December 5, 2022.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The John Beckwith fonds is made up of multiple accruals, received from the composer between 1990 and 2020. Additional accruals received from Kathleen McMorrow (A2023-11 and A2024-02). The source of each file or item is identified at the lowest level of description.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created and collected by John Beckwith during his career as a composer, writer, music critic, radio broadcaster, administrator, educator, and performer. Records include sketches, drafts, and manuscripts of his compositions and arrangements, as well as programs, posters, reviews, correspondence, recordings, and other materials from premieres and other performances of his works.

Fonds also includes records relating to Beckwith's work as a radio commentator and script writer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC); music critic for the Toronto Star; professor and dean of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music; and writer of numerous lectures, articles, and books.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Fonds arranged into nine series, according to Beckwith's role, output, and contents: (A) Compositions and arrangements; (B) Libretti, texts, and performance records; (C) Music at Sharon; (D) Other performance records; (E) Radio scripts, music criticism, and program notes; (F) Recordings; (G) Teaching and scholarship; (H) Correspondence; and (I) Biographical ephemera.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Unrestricted access, including display rights and consultation rights. Archival records may be viewed in the Olnick Rare Book Room at the University of Toronto Music Library.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by the artist.

Language of material

  • Multiple Languages

Script of material

Language and script notes

Material predominantly in English. Includes some texts in German, Hungarian, Gaelic, Wendat, Russian, and Ukrainian.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

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Notes area

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Last updated April 2024.


  • English



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