American composer, teacher, conductor, and organist. Born on November 13, 1854 in Lowell, MA, George Whitefield Chadwick spent his childhood years in the nearby town of Lawrence, MA. His earliest introduction to music came in the form of organ lessons from his older brother Fitz Henry. By the time he was 15, Chadwick was already active as an organist. For a short period of time, Chadwick worked as a clerk at his father’s insurance business before enrolling at New England Conservatory in 1872. While at NEC, Chadwick studied organ with George E. Whiting, piano with Carlo Petersilea, and theory with Stephen A. Emery. He also received organ instruction during this period from Dudley Buck and Eugene Thayer. In 1876, Chadwick accepted a faculty position at Olivet College in Michigan. During this time, Chadwick presented a paper at the founding meeting of the Music Teachers National Association and also first exhibited an interest in composition.
After serving as an instructor and administrator at Olivet College, Chadwick traveled to Germany, where he studied with Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn at Leipzig’s Royal Conservatory, and subsequently with Josef Rheinberger at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich. During the period between Leipzig and Munich, Chadwick traveled around Europe with a group of artists who called themselves the “Duveneck Boys”. This group was named for its leader, Frank Duveneck, who was well known for his portrait works in the style of Velasquez.
Chadwick returned to America in the spring of 1880 and settled in Boston, where he began teaching privately. Among his students were Horatio Parker, Sidney Homer, and Arthur Whiting. During this time, Chadwick’s works were being frequently performed by notable Boston ensembles including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Handel and Haydn Society and the Harvard Musical Association. Chadwick also frequently composed for local choral organizations. From 1883 to 1893, Chadwick also served as church organist at the South Congregational Church in Boston, of which Edward Everett Hale was the pastor. In addition, from 1880 to 1899 he conducted the musical festivals at Springfield, Mass., and from 1897 to 1901 those at Worcester, Mass.
In 1892, Chadwick was commissioned to compose an ode for the opening ceremonies of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Two years later, Chadwick’s third symphony was awarded a prize by the National Conservatory of Music, during the directorship of Dvorák. In 1897 Yale University conferred on him the honorary degree of A.M., and his Ecce Jam Noctis, for men's voices, was sung on that occasion. In 1905, Chadwick visited Germany where he conducted several of his own compositions at a concert of the Concordia in Leipzig.
In addition to his success as a composer, Chadwick also continued his teaching career by returning to New England Conservatory, this time as a faculty member. He began teaching there in 1882, and, in 1897, he became Director of the Conservatory, a position he held until 1930. Chadwick was the moving force that brought New England Conservatory to its present location on Huntington Ave., where its renowned concert venue, Jordan Hall, was erected.
As Director, Chadwick transformed NEC’s curriculum, modeling it on the conservatories in Europe. His innovations included an opera workshop, a student repertory orchestra, and courses in orchestration and harmony based on the study of actual music rather than abstract principles. Much of Chadwick's own teaching was devoted to his advanced composition students, among them Horatio Parker, who became a lifelong friend, Frederick Converse, Edward Burlingame Hill, Daniel Gregory Mason, Arthur Farwell, Arthur Shepherd and William Grant Still. Chadwick’s textbook Harmony: a Course of Study (1897) became a standard music theory text and went through fifty editions.
During the last decade of his life, Chadwick’s compositional output declined, most likely due to periods of ill health. However, he still functioned as an able administrator at the Conservatory, and remained active in Boston social circles. He died on April 4, 1931 at his home on Marlborough St. in Boston. He was survived by his wife of almost forty-three years, Ida May (Brooks), and their two sons, Theodore and Noel, as well as four grandchildren.
Chadwick was considered one of the leading figures of the Second New England School of composers, along with Horatio Parker, Amy Beach, and Edward MacDowell. Chadwick’s compositional output spans nearly every genre including opera, chamber music, choral works, songs, and perhaps most notably, orchestral music. While Chadwick’s compositions reflect the influence of the German romantic tradition and Chadwick’s teachers Carl Reinecke, Salomon Jadassohn, and Josef Rheinberger, his music also demonstrates his affinity for thematic traits that are distinctly American. In a tribute to Chadwick which appeared in the New York Times after his death, music critic Olin Downes wrote, “No other American composer of this or any previous generation produced as much important music in as many different forms as George Whitefield Chadwick…With him a whole epoch of American music culminated.”
Some of Chadwick’s major works include: Stage works : The Quiet Lodging (1892), Tabasco (1894), Judith (1901), Everywoman (1911), The Padrone (1915), and Love’s Sacrifice (1916) ; Orchestral works: Symphonies I, II (1886), III (1894), Rip Van Winkle, Thalia, Melpomene, Symphonic Sketches, Suite Symphonique, Aphrodite, Tam O’Shanter; Choral works: Dedication Ode, Ode for the Opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, Phoenix Expirans, Noel, Ecce jam noctis, Jubilate ; Chamber music: five string quartets, numerous duets, songs with keyboard accompaniment, and pieces for organ.
Steven Ledbetter, “George Whitefield Chadwick”, Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 4 February 2008), <www.grovemusic.com>
“In Memoriam Mr. Chadwick,” New England Conservatory of Music Bulletin (Volume XIII, no. 4), May 1931.
“NEC Celebrates Chadwick”, New England Conservatory Concert Program (November 15, 2004), New England Conservatory Archives.
“George Whitefield Chadwick,” Wikipedia (Accessed 4 February 2008),
The Chadwick collection consists of thirty-nine document cases, five drop front storage boxes, two scrapbooks, and eighteen volumes of memoirs/diaries. The document cases contain: professional, personal, and family correspondence; newspaper clippings; programs; reports; speeches/tributes and other miscellany. The drop front storage boxes contain photographs, daybooks, desk calendars, Ida May Chadwick’ s travel diaries, account ledgers and other personal artifacts.
All of Chadwick's music manuscripts are individually cataloged and can be found by searching our online catalog.
This collection includes the materials created by, and belonging to George W. Chadwick, Director of New England Conservatory from 1897-1930. While, the Conservatory possessed some materials from Chadwick’s tenure, the majority of this collection was donated to NEC by Mrs. Theodore Chadwick II in 2001, after it was discovered in a storage room in Cambridge, MA. Some of the items stored with the family correspondence series were not originally part of the collection. These include family photos, copies of newspaper clippings, the Chadwick medal and the silver bowl. These materials were donated to the Conservatory Archives in 2001 by Jane Hyde, wife of Chadwick's grandson, George, on behalf of Chadwick's descendants.
Access to the Chadwick Collection is granted by the Archivist or Director of Libraries. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.
All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Director of Libraries. This collection should be cited as: George W. Chadwick Collection in the Archives at the New England Conservatory, Boston.