James Aliferis

Portrait of Aliferis

James Aliferis was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As a child, he studied piano and violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Aliferis received both his Bachelor’s degree (B.S., 1936) and Master’s degree (M.A., 1939) from Western Reserve University. At Western Reserve, Aliferis studied theory, counterpoint and fugue with Melville Smith, and composition and music history with Arthur Shepherd. In 1939, he received a Ranney Fellowship for further study in Europe. Along with classmates Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss, Aliferis was a student in Serge Koussevitzky’s first conducting class at the Berkshire Music Center in 1941. In 1943, Aliferis earned his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa. In addition to studying composition there with Philip Greely Clapp, he also focused on music psychology with Carl E. Seashore and Arnold Small. During WWII Aliferis served as conductor of the Special Services Symphony Orchestra.

Prior to coming to NEC, Dr. Aliferis spent twelve years (1946-1958) on the faculty of the University of Minnesota where he taught graduate composition, conducted the University Chorus and Chamber Singers, and served as permanent guest conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra, under the direction of Dimitri Mitropoulos, premiered Aliferis’s Symphony No. 1. During this same period, Aliferis served as Paul Hindemith’s assistant at Tanglewood and conductor of the International Society of Contemporary Music. As an educator, Aliferis was known for the development of the first nationally standardized achievement tests in music. He also contributed articles dealing with music achievement to several national journals. Aliferis served as NEC’s president from 1958-1962. His two primary goals as President were to improve the caliber of the Conservatory’s performing ensembles and to increase service to the community.Later in the 1960s, Aliferis held the position of Director of Choral Music for the city of Philadelphia. He also led his own performing ensemble, the James Aliferis Singers. Dr. Aliferis died of cancer at his home in West Chester, PA on May 22, 1992 at the age of 78.
- biographical information taken from New England Conservatory Bulletin and Alumni Newsletter, v. 33 no. 1 (Autumn 1958), pp 1-2; Obituary, The American Organist, v. 26 no. 9, September 1992, p. 53

Physical description

.20 lin. ft. – 1 document case. These records are all paper files.


This collection includes the materials created by, and belonging to James Aliferis, who served as President of New England Conservatory from 1958-1962. The materials in this collection have been stored at NEC since Aliferis’s tenure. 


Access to the Aliferis Papers is granted by the Archivist. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are limited 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: NECA 1.6. James Aliferis Papers, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Scope & Content

The James Aliferis Papers are organized into four series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Bequests  
  3. Annual/Departmental Reports
  4. External Files

The Correspondence of President Aliferis has been arranged into five categories: General, Faculty, Trustees, Administrative, Selected. The Trustees’ Correspondence consists of written exchanges between President Aliferis and Sherwin Badger, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, as well as memoranda from Sherwin Badger to others regarding the Aliferis presidency. The General correspondence primarily deals with facility issues, mainly concerning the performance spaces at NEC, specifically the issue of building an orchestra pit in Jordan Hall. The Administrative correspondence primarily consists of inter-office memoranda, correspondence with the Alumni Association, and various informational documents. Highlights of the Aliferis Selected Correspondence include exchanges with renowned composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, and Leo Tourjee, nephew of Conservatory founder, Eben Tourjée. Leo Tourjee’s letters concern the publication of his book entitled For God and Music – the Life Story of Eben Tourjee, the Father of the American Conservatory. Leo Tourjee’s correspondence also documents his efforts to have his uncle inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The materials relating to Bequests in the Aliferis collection primarily deal with the establishment of the Walter Naumburg Scholarship and the Walter Naumburg Professorship. Included are copies of Executive Committee Minutes of meetings during which these topics were discussed and the Financial Report from FY 1961.

The third series consists of Annual Reports written by Aliferis during the years 1958-1960. Also included are Departmental Reports that were sent to President Aliferis from the Music History/Humanities Department, Preparatory Department, Undergraduate Division, Graduate Division, Special Student Division, Summer School, Placement Office, Dormitory, Library and Development Office, as well as a listing of the activities of major faculty members.

Aliferis’s External files contain correspondence with the Boston Globe, WBZ, and materials relating to NEC’s involvement with the WGBH Educational Foundation. Included with the Boston Globe correspondence is an article Aliferis submitted featuring recollections of his recent trip to Europe. Finally, the External files contain correspondence and minutes from the Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition.


Container List

Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1 – Folder 1
Correspondence, General
Box 1 – Folder 2
Correspondence, Faculty
Box 1 – Folder 3
Correspondence, Trustees (Sherwin Badger)
Box 1 – Folder 4
Correspondence, Administrative
Box 1 – Folder 5
Correspondence, Selected, Nadia Boulanger
Box 1 – Folder 6
Correspondence, Selected, Leo Eben Tourjee

Series 2: Bequests

Box 1 – Folder 7
Series 3: Departmental/Annual Reports

Box 1 – Folder 8
President’s Annual Reports, 1958/1959, 1960
Box 1 – Folder 9
Department Reports to the President
Series 4:  External files
Box 1 – Folder 10
Boston Globe
Box 1 – Folder 11
Box 1 – Folder 11
Box 1 – Folder 12
Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition