American composer, organist, teacher, Carl McKinley was born in Yarmouth, Maine in October 1895, Carl was the son of Rev. Charles E and Mrs. C. E. McKinley. His childhood was spent in Rockville, CT, where his father was the pastor of the Union Congregational Church. The family moved to Galesburg, Ill., where Rev. McKinley became pastor of a Congregational church.  McKinley earned his B.M. from the Knox Conservatory in Galesburg in 1915.  Two years later, he received his A.B. degree from Harvard in 1917, where he studied with Edward Burlingame Hill and Nadia Boulanger. While he was at Harvard, McKinley won the Francis Boott prize for a motet for mixed voices.

In 1921, McKinley was awarded second place in the H. H. Flagler Prize competition for his orchestral tone poem, The Blue Flower. This prize catapulted his career in composition - the New York Philharmonic premiered The Blue Flower in January 1924. McKinley’s most popular work was Masquerade, an American rhapsody for orchestra, which was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in May 1926.

McKinley was also the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships (1927-1929); he spent the year 1928-1929 working as a stage assistant for the Munich Opera.  Returning to the United States in 1929, McKinley joined the faculty of New England Conservatory, where he taught organ, composition, and the history of music. McKinley remained on the faculty of NEC until the mid-1960s.

Carl McKinley held several other positions during his career. These include: organist for the Center Church in Hartford, CT; accompanist for the Hartford Choral Club; organist for the Strand Theater in Hartford; organist for the Capitol Theater in New York; and organist and choirmaster at Old South Church in Boston.

McKinley died in July 1966.

Physical description

This collection consists of two manuscript boxes containing two scrapbooks, photocopies of the scrapbooks, two volumes, and three additional folders of materials.

Music manuscripts and published music by Carl McKinley can be found by doing an author search for 'McKinley, Carl' in our online catalog.


It is most likely that McKinley himself gave NEC this collection while he was on faculty there. The New Course in Harmony volumes appear to have been owned by Margaret Mason, another long time member of the NEC faculty.


Access to the McKinley is by appointment with the Archivist or the Director of Libraries, New England Conservatory of Music. 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 the: Carl McKinley Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.