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Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers


Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers
Gehrkens, Karl Wilson
Collection number:
0.25 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
Special Collections in Performing Arts
Special Collections in Performing Arts, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. Contact the curator:

Karl Wilson Gehrkens (1882-1975) was an American music educator. From 1907 to 1942 he taught at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in the area of Public School Music, later to become Music Education. He coined the phrase "Music for every child-every child for music," which became the official slogan of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), later known as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). From 1922 to 23 he served as MENC President and he was President of Music Teachers National Association from 1934 to 35. This collection contains several of Karl Gehrkens writings including "Music for Every Child." It also contains personal and professional correspondence concerning some of his articles in addition to other correspondence and personal documents, mainly from 1952 to 1965. In April 1952 at Oberlin College, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, the Music Education Library, originally started by Gehrkens in 1917, was rededicated as The Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library. Articles, writings and correspondence pertaining to this event are part of this collection.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


There are no restricted files in this collection.

Preferred citation:

Karl Wilson Gehrkens papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Publication rights:

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Please make an appointment with the curator: Vincent J. Novara Tel: 301.405.9220, Email:


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Karl Wilson Gehrkens was born in Lake Erie, Ohio on April 19, 1882. From 1900 to 1905, he studied psychology and education at Oberlin College, in addition to organ and theory at the Conservatory of music. In 1905, he received an A.B. degree and in 1912 an A.M. in psychology. He began teaching Public School Music at Oberlin in 1907. By 1917, he was a Professor of School Music, a position which he maintained until his retirement in 1942. While teaching at Oberlin, he was responsible for the expansion of the Public School Music program from a six-month curriculum to the now standard four-year Music Education degree. On April 19th, 1952, Oberlin rededicated the Music Education library started by Gerhkens during his tenure as the Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library.

Gehrkens was editor of School Music from 1925 to 34. In 1930, he served as music editor for the 2nd edition of Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language. He also published many articles and books, including Music Notation and Technology (1914) and Essentials in Conducting (1919).

Contributing to his important role in music education, Gehrkens served as president of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), later known as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), in 1923 and served on the executive committee from 1930-34. In 1934/35 he was also president of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).

Karl Gerhkens was married to Ruth Grey Bedford in 1905 and had two daughters. He retired in 1942, on February 28, 1975 Karl Gehrkens passed away in Bellaire, Michigan. Ruth preceded Karl in death in 1964.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Karl W. Gehrkens Collection covers the period from 1922 to 1977, with the bulk of its materials pertaining to the period from 1952 to 1965. The collection consists of personal and professional correspondence, writings, and materials relating to the Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library at Oberlin College.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information


Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Liz Prince, November 2007-February 2008, and Nicole Horstman, November 2012.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Nicole Horstman, May 2013.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into four series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Personal, 1964 and undated (1 folder)

This series contains personal materials of Karl W. Gehrkens, including an obituary for his wife, Ruth Bedford Gehrkens and an ad for Christmas at the Gehrkens Home.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Christmas at the Gehrkens Home, undated series 1box 1folder 1
Merry Christmas- Four Stages in One Lifetime, undated series 1box 1folder 2
Mrs. Karl Gehrkens Obituary, 1964 series 1box 1folder 3

Series 2: Writings, 1936-1963 (4 folders)

This series contains four music education articles and six philosophical essays written by Gehrkens.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
"Music for Every Child, 1936 series 2box 1folder 4
"Graduate Study in Music Education", 1940 series 2box 1folder 5
"Five Decades in Music Education", undated series 2box 1folder 6

Series 3: Correspondence, 1957-1977 (4 folders)

This series contains correspondence concerning music education writings as well as correspondence with Bonnie Kowall and Vanett Lawler. Also included are conversations and letters concerning the location of his papers and his health.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Concerning Writings, 1957-1961 series 3box 1folder 7
With Bonnie Kowall, 1963-1965 series 3box 1folder 8
With Vanett Lawler, 1956-1960 series 3box 1folder 9
Other, 1922-1977 (bulk 1971-1977) series 3box 1folder 10

Series 4: The Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library, 1922-1953 (3 folders)

This series contains materials pertaining to the 70th birthday celebration and dedication of The Karl W. Gehrkens Music Education Library at Oberlin College on April 19, 1952. There are articles and writings about Gehrkens as well as the history of the library. Notification and schedules of the event, as well as a letter from Gehrkens, are also included

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Articles, 1922-1952 (bulk 1950-1952) series 4box 1folder 11
Writings series 4box 1folder 12
Correspondence series 4box 1folder 13

Related Material

The Karl Wilson Gehrkens Papers are part of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Historical Center, formerly known as the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) Historical Center.

Gehrkens, Karl Wilson. Papers. 1900-1975; Oberlin College

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For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.