F. John Adams (1945-2011) earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, completing his Ph.D. in 1972. Adams studied conducting with Frederick Prausnitz and Nadia Boulanger, as well as Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas. Adams also studied voice with Mark Pearson. 

At New England Conservatory, F. John Adams taught music theory from 1983 through 2007. Adams was director of choral activities at Harvard University from 1970 to 1978, during which time he prepared choruses for Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Erich Leinsdorf, Mstislav Rostropovich, and William Steinberg. In addition, Adams also taught at Wellesley College.

F. John Adams cofounded and served as music director of the Boston Classical Orchestra from 1980 to 1983, and was assistant conductor of Boston Lyric Opera's Ring Cycle in 1983. Adams served as assistant conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic from 1994 to 1996, and was also artistic director of its youth orchestra program. Adams was Leonard Bernstein's assistant conductor and performed as a guest pianist, harpsichordist, and organist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa and Michael Tilson Thomas. He also held the position of music director of the New Bedford Symphony for 18 years.

Awards include a Tanglewood Fellowship, a medal from Pope Paul VI, an honorary membership in the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard University, and the Harvard Glee Club Medal. In addition, Adams edited motets of Josquin des Prez and Antoine Brumel for G. Schirmer and directed five recordings for the Musical Heritage Society.

Adams passed away on May 24, 2011 at the age of 66.

Physical description

The Adams collection consists of approximately 3 lin. ft. (2 record cartons - one letter size; one legal size; and one large manuscript box).


The F. John Adams collection was given to the NEC Archives by his
brother Carl Adams in 2010.


Access to the F. John Adams Collection is granted by the Archivist or Director of Libraries. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.


With the exception of the musical scores and publications, 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 F. John Adams Collection, New England Conservatory of Music Archives, Boston, MA.