Top of page

An American in Harris

Share this post:

The following is a guest post by Music Division Archivist Chris Hartten.

Portrait of Harris, Roy Harris Papers, Music Division.

Roy Harris spent a lifetime searching for the American in American music. Born in Chandler, Oklahoma on February 12, 1898, Harris was profoundly influenced by American folksongs and poetry as a young student. He studied with Arthur Farwell and Nadia Boulanger during the 1920s and soon after emerged as one of the foremost innovators of single-movement symphonic composition. Shortly after the premiere of his Symphony 1933 by Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Harris embarked on a productive teaching career that included time at The Juilliard School, UCLA, and the Inter-American University in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

An avid proponent of music education, Roy Harris braved the testy political waters of the 1950s to introduce American audiences to educational practices in the Soviet Union. His defense of American culture through musical composition is clearly visible in his abundant and diverse personal writings. The Music Division is home to the Roy Harris Papers, which includes holograph music manuscripts, writings, photographs, scrapbooks and other personal papers of the composer. Additional Harris music manuscripts, including his renowned Symphony No. 3, Epilogue to Profiles in Courage–JFK, Time Suite, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home, are held in the Music Division’s collections separate from the Harris Papers – these manuscripts are cataloged as ML96.H278 case materials (the ML96 class represents holograph music manuscripts, or manuscripts in the composer’s own hand). You can browse catalog records for these Harris manuscripts by performing a call number browse in the Library’s online catalog.


  1. The Soldiers’ Chorus of The U.S. Army Field Band included his “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” on the CD “Legacy of Nadia Boulanger,” part of the Legacy series of recordings available for free to music educators. Although the CD includes big names like Copland and Pinkham, it was a nice bonus to be able to include something with a military angle.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.