Archive: F. John Adams

Portrait of F. John Adams

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 Papers consist of approximately 3 lin. ft. (2 record cartons - one letter size; one legal size; and one large manuscript box).


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


Access to the F. John Adams Papers is granted by the NEC Archivist.  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 Archivist. This collection should be cited as the NECA 19.1. F. John Adams Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Scope & Content

The F. John Adams Papers are organized into the following ten series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Personal Papers
  3. Programs
  4. Subject files
  5. Teaching materials
  6. Photographs
  7. Scrapbooks
  8. Audio/Video materials
  9. Framed items
  10. Musical Scores and Publications

The Correspondence is organized into three sub-series: general correspondence; correspondence to/from Nadia Boulanger; and recommendations. The general correspondence spans the years 1982-2010 and includes mostly job related and performance related correspondence. The Nadia Boulanger correspondence is primarily letters written to Boulanger by F. John Adams. There is a reference letter from Boulanger for F. John Adams and a memorandum from Boulanger to students. These materials span the years 1970-1974. The letters of recommendation for Adams primarily date from 1996-1997.

The Personal Papers series consists of papers written by F. John Adams for music courses he took at Harvard in 1967-1968. A detailed list can be found on the Container list section of this page. The Programs series consists of five miscellaneous concert programs, one of which is a from a concert performed by the NEC Chamber Singers conducted by Adams in November 2000.

The Subject files in the Adams collection mostly relate to Adams’ tenures as conductor of the New Bedford Symphony and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. These materials approximately span the years 1985-2000 and include annual reports, concert reviews, personnel files, programs/drafts, correspondence, student concert review letters etc. Also included but stored separately because of size is a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives congratulating the New Bedford Symphony on its 80th anniversary. There are also a few other subject files including biographical materials, materials relating to the Leverett Song (probably a song Adams composed for the Leverett House at Harvard), and a miscellaneous folder. The biographical materials include a biographical sketch and copies of Adams’ Curriculum Vitae. There is also a certificate of promotion for Adams from 7th grade to 8th grade along with a note from his teacher.

The Teaching Materials series contains one folder of teaching exercises used by Nadia Boulanger as well as three booklets used by Adams entitled “Basic Functional Harmony,” “Solfege, Canadian Rhythm Drillls,” and “Teacher Manual for Melodic Dictation.”  

The Photographs series consists of several photos. There are two photos of Robert Levin, a group photo (possibly the Harvard Glee Club), and three head shots of F. John Adams. There are six digital photos that were printed– one, a solo photo of Adams conducting, and the second of Adams conducting a small vocal ensemble (perhaps the NEC Chamber Singers). The four other digital photos that have been printed are identified as “Lars Jorrens,” “Peter and Kit Jorrens,” “Marc Jorrens and Kassie Vo,”and “The Jorrens Sanctuary in Acton.”  Finally, there is one other photo of F. John Adams with Peter Schweich (taken July 2009).

The Scrapbook contains materials from the summers when Adams studied with Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau Music School. The scrapbook documents Adams’ relationship with Boulanger through several years of correspondence from her. The scrapbook also contains photos, memorabilia, and other correspondence. This scrapbook, originally a leather three-ring binder, has been re-housed, maintaining its original order, for preservation purposes. The Audio/video materials consist of 1 audio cassette tape featuring music by Jeffrey Brody; and 2 VHS tapes labeled “F. John Adams. Demo Tape SECAM” and “F. John Adams. Demo Tape PAL.”

The Framed items include images of Toscanini, Robert Levin, Michael Tilson Thomas and Nadia Boulanger. A more detailed description is given in the container list.

The Musical scores and publications owned by F. John Adams as part of this collection are listed individually in the Container list.


Container List

Box 1
Series 1: Correspondence

Folder 1 - General correspondence
Folder 2 - Correspondence, to/from Nadia Boulanger
Folder 3 - Correspondence, Recommendations

Series 2: Personal Papers

Folder 4 - Papers, “The Cambridge Additional Manuscript 3056”
Folder 5 - Papers, “A Critical Edition of the 13th century motet “Mors a primi patris”
Folder 6 - Papers, “Il nono libro of Luca Marenzio”
Folder 7 - Papers, “Il Nono Libro of Luca Marenzio, part 2”
Folder 8 - Papers, “Solage: A Musical Analysis”
Folder 9 - Papers, “The Structural, Textual, and Melodic Variations, in the Requiem Offertory ‘Domine Jesu Christe’ as it appeared in the eleventh century”

Series 3: Programs

Folder 10 – Programs, General

Series 4: Subject Files

Folder 11 – Subject files, Biographical Materials
Folder 12 – Subject files, Leverett Song (Harvard House?)
Folder 13 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, 1985-1986 Season
Folder 14 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, 1986-1987 Season
Folder 15 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, 1987-1988 Season
Folder 16 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, 1988-1989 Season
Folder 17 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Brochures/flyers
Folder 18 – Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Conductor exchange
Folder 19 - Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Correspondence, General
Folder 20 - Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Moby Dick composition
Folder 21 - Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, News articles
Folder 22 - Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Personnel
Folder 23 - Subject files, New Bedford Symphony, Programs/drafts
Folder 24 – Subject files, Student letters, 2000
Folder 25 – Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Audition Preparation Materials
Folder 26 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Concert Reviews
Folder 27 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Correspondence, General
Folder 28 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Programs/flyers
Folder 29 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Student letters, 1995
Folder 30 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Student letters, 1996
Folder 31 - Subject files, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Student letters, 1996 cont.
Folder 32 - Subject files, Miscellaneous

Series 5: Teaching Materials

Folder 33 – Teaching Materials, Boulanger
Folder 34 – Teaching Materials, Basic Functional Harmony
Folder 35 – Teaching Materials, Solfege, Canadian Rhythm Drills
Folder 36 - Teaching Materials, Teacher Manual for Melodic Dictation

Series 6: Photographs

Folder 37 – Photographs

Series 7: Scrapbooks

Folder 38 – Scrapbook

Series 8: Audio/Video Materials

Box 2

Series 9: Framed Items

  • Portrait of Arturo Toscanini, autographed, 6/18/1953
  • Framed photograph of Robert Levin (autographed) and postcard to Levin; attached to the back of the frame are two letters from Levin from 5/10/2003 and the other undated
  • Inscribed photo of Michael Tilson Thomas after he and Adams worked together preparing Wozzeck for Erich Leinsdorf at Tanglewood in the summer of 1969.
  • Framed photograph with Nadia Boulanger taken at Chateau at Fontainebleau just outside of her apartment in July 1976 immediately after concert John had conducted with the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum as part of its first international tour

Box 3

Series 10: Musical Scores and Publications

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953

Spycket, Jérôme. Nadia Boulanger. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1992. English
translation by M. M. Shriver.

Reproduction of Wynkyn de Worde “The Boke of Hawkynge / and huntynge / and fysshynge” with two accompanying letters.

Manuscript notebook containing unidentified pieces. The first has the text, “Give Ear to My Words, O Lord.”

Bender, Ellen. Letters of Love:  for chorus, soprano solo, horn, and piano. 1994. Reproduced from holograph

Brody, Jeffrey. Concerto for Organ and Orchestra. ©Ashbrook Music, 1995.
Reproduced from holograph.

Brody, Jeffrey. Jabberwocky: Duet for two Tenors and Chamber Orchestra. © Jeffrey Brody, 1984. Reproduced from holograph.

Brody, Jeffrey. The Lion’s Mouth: Scherzo for Orchestra. ©Ashbrook Music, 1996. Reproduced from holograph.

Brody, Jeffrey. Passacaglia für Orchester. ©Ashbrook Music, 1996. Reproduced from holograph.

Brody, Jeffrey. Passacaglia for Organ, Strings, and Timpani. ©Jeffrey Brody, 1994. Reproduced from holograph. Includes letter from Brody to Adams,  9/13/1994

deKerle, Jacobus. Missa Regina Caeli. ed. by F. John Adams. n.d. Reproduced from holograph.

Frazin, Howard. The Voice of Isaac: an Oratorio for Children’s Chorus, Children
Soloists, Baritone Soloist, and Chamber Orchestra
. 2003. Reproduced from holograph.

Hrisanide, Alexandre. C’Etait, Issu stellaire (Stephane Mallarmé). Reproduced from holograph.

Lombardo, Robert. Three Poems for flute, oboe and mixed chorus (1.Wisdom 2.Tribute to Ecclesiastes 3.The Parakeet)  Text by Mimi Goldberg.. October 1961. 2 copies. (Manuscripts).

McWain, Andrew. Fable for orchestra. Fuller Street Music (ASCAP). © Andrew
McWain, 2000.  Reproduced from holograph. Inscribed

Morse, R. G. Up the Street. Words by W. L. W. Field.  n.d. Manuscript

Nobre, Marlos. Ukrinmakrinkrin Op. 17: para soprano, instrumentos de sôpro e piano. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union, 1968. Inscribed

Puccini, Giacomo. Messa di Gloria.  Kyrie. Gloria.  For Tenor, Baritone and Bass Solo Mixed Voices.  Mills Music, 1952.

Puccini, Giacomo. Messa di Gloria. Credo, Sanctus, Agnus.

Sainton, Philip. Moby Dick Orchestral Suite. (Based on the music written for Moby
Dick). n.d. Reproduced from holograph.

Sainton, Philip. Moby Dick Orchestral Suite. (Based on the music written for Moby Dick).

Sirota, Robert. The Tailor of Gloucester. Music and libretto by Robert Sirota from the story by Beatrix Potter. Full Score. ©.Robert Sirota, 1987. Reproduced from holograph.

Stravinsky, Igor. L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). Percussion Part. Edited by Frank Epstein. ©Frank Epstein, 1995. Reproduced from holograph.

Stravinsky, Igor. Symphony of Psalms.  Full score. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1948.  Annotated.
Yong, Yang. Two Seasons for Chorus and Piano. ©Yang Yong, 1994.