Fonds 10 - John Beckwith fonds

Identity area

Reference code



John Beckwith fonds


  • 1936-2018 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

4 m of textual records and other materials (38 boxes)

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. The source of each file or item is identified at the file and item level.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created by John Beckwith during his career, predominantly relating to his compositions. Materials include sketches, drafts, final copies, texts, performance records, and related correspondence for most of his works, as well as programs and press notices, and other personal and professional documents. Records include correspondence with other musicians, both personal and professional; materials created through his work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; lecture notes from his time at the University of Toronto and other presentations; and documents pertaining to his various awards and honours.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Fonds arranged by file and/or item type and contents in six series: Compositions (A); Librettos, texts, performance records (B); Other activities (C); Other correspondence (D); Biographical (E); and Recordings (F). Within each series, records are identified by file.

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

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

To borrow scores and parts, and listen online to archival recordings, visit the Canadian Music Centre.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Previously titled "Archives Collection 10: John Beckwith." Reference code (10) removed from the title of the collection July 30, 2019.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

Dates of creation revision deletion

Revised and updated July 2019.


  • English



Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places