Eben Tourjee Photo PortraitEben Tourjée, American music educator, choral conductor and organist, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island on June 1, 1834.  He studied academic subjects at East Greenwich Seminary and music at Providence. About 1854 Tourjée opened at Fall River, Massachusetts, a music school of about 500 students which was based on the conservatory or class system of instruction, perhaps the first of its type in the United States. In 1855 he moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where he was an organist and private music teacher.

In 1861 Tourjée became music director of the East Greenwich Seminary, and during 1863 he studied music for a short time in Germany. From 1867 Tourjée lived in Boston. In this year he and Robert Goldbeck established the New England Conservatory of Music, which remains one of the leading conservatories in the United States.

Tourjée helped to organize the mammoth choruses for the 1869 and 1872 peace jubilees in Boston. Through his initiative the first national conference of music teachers met at Boston in 1869, as the National Music Congress. When the Music Teachers National Association was organized in 1876 he served as its first president. An active Methodist and YMCA leader, he also led in church music development, compiling sacred music collections and encouraging congregational singing. Nason credited him with originating in 1851 the praise-meeting, a service combining scripture and song which Benson regarded as contributing to the prominence of gospel hymnody in American revivalism. Tourjée directed a choir of about 2000 singers during the 1877 Moody and Sankey revival in Boston.

On the establishment of Boston University in 1873 Tourjée became dean of its college of music. An honorary doctorate had been conferred upon him by Wesleyan University in 1869. Tourjée died in Boston on April 12, 1891.
-biographical information taken from New Grove online

Physical description

Two clamshell boxes; one containing nine file folders, the second containing one folder and 2 artifacts.


This collection was not originally a distinct collection. Because there is little information about Tourjée, but much interest, the NEC Archives has assimilated these materials into one collection over the years. The published articles about Tourjée were assembled by NEC librarians. Newspaper articles have been photocopied for the purpose of preservation. A note on one of the envelopes used to store these materials suggests that there is a possibility that the original materials in this collection…correspondence, memorial programs, European tour pamphlets etc. might at one time have been from a scrapbook that has since fallen apart. Inventorying and cataloging of some materials in this collection was previously done by former NEC Director of Libraries, Geraldine Ostrove, and Patrick Maxfield, current Head of Technical Services.

There are some items for which we do know their specific origins. The piece of correspondence from Tourjée to Miss Mary Evans was mailed to the NEC archives by Ruth Kowalewski in January 2002. The letter had been donated to St Mark’s Episcopal Church Thrift Shop in Hallstead, PA. The thrift shop had closed and Ms. Kowalewski thought the letter might be of value to NEC.

Secondly, the excerpt from the 1881 European tour prospectus was donated to the NEC archives by Mrs. Louis C. Elson in 1925.

The last four items listed in Folder 5(under Container List) were donat4d by David Reffkin in November 2010. The items are accompanied by his descriptive letter.

The last item in Folder 6(under Container List) was donated by Marian Vafiades in October 2010. Her donation letter accompanies the article.

The ambrotype photograph of the Tourjée family was purchased by the Conservatory in July 1997 from antique photograph dealer, Greg French. The family record of Ebenezer Tourjée was acquired along with the ambrotype.

The listing and articles from the Boston Globe were printed by library staff in November 2006.

The materials from the Rhode Island Hall of Fame ceremony were given to the Archives by Don Jones from NEC's Office of Institutional Advancement in January 2007.


Access to the Tourjée collection is granted by the Archivist/Records Manager or the Director of Libraries. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no access restrictions on 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: Eben Tourjee Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.