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William Klenz papers

Identifier: BUA-0027

Scope and Contents

The William Klenz collection contains both the personal and professional papers of William Klenz, a distinguished music professor, composer, and cellist.

Klenz's musical compositions span various genres, including cello, choral, vocal, piano, organ, sonatas, trios, quartets, and other instrumental pieces. The "Music recordings" series within the collection illuminates Klenz's diverse contributions, showcasing his roles as a composer, conductor, and performer for various recordings.

As a music professor, Klenz conducted extensive research on numerous musicians and authored books such as "Giovanni Maria Bononcini of Modena" and "Elements of Music Theory," both detailed in the "Written works" series. The collection also contains a wealth of information on Klenz's teaching career at Harpur College, with teaching notes, exams, syllabi, course readings, and handouts available in the "Teaching materials" series.

The "Student papers" series materials used by Klenz during includes materials from his student years, offering a glimpse into his academic material and the notes he took as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This series primarily comprises materials from this specific period, providing valuable documentation of Klenz's academic journey during his graduate studies.

In addition to his professional life, the collection includes a small amount of personal material documenting Klenz's early life, military service, and family. The "Personal materials" series also includes personal ephemera.


  • 1758 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1932 - 1989

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use and has no known restrictions.

Biographical Note878

William Klenz was a music professor at Harpur College from 1965-1984, a composer, and cellist. Klenz composed classical music and performed the cello in Europe, South America, and the United States throughout his life. At Harpur College, Klenz was known for making music history accessible to his students, and his classes were popular with non-music majors.

William Klenz was born in La Connor, Skagit County, Washington on May 24, 1915. Klenz received his public school education in the San Francisco Bay area, California, and from 1927-31 attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a scholarship to study violoncello, theory, and chamber music. After studying musical composition with Ernst Bacon from 1931-1932, he entered the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, receiving the Bachelor of Music degree in 1938. From 1938 to 1942, Klenz was awarded a Graduate Assistantship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. During this period, he concertized extensively and appeared with the North Carolina State Symphony. In 1940 he toured South America with the Youth Symphony under the baton of the eminent Leopold Stokowski. He was awarded Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940.

From 1942 to 1946 Klenz served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe where he presented recitals in Cambridge and Paris, and radio appearances at the National Gallery in London. He appeared on the Empire Network of the BCC and Radiodiffusion Francaise. His Te deum (1943), a work for large chorus and six brasses, was performed by the BBC Chorus on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death (1945) and for the end of the European conflict (1945). During 1945-1946, he studied Cello with Anthony Pini at Guildhall School of Music in London. In 1946 he returned to America to study theory and composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale University and chamber music with G. Piatiagorsky. He was appointed Assistant Professor of cello at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1946.

Klenz resumed his graduate studies in music at the University of North Carolina. He was awarded the Master of Arts degree in 1948 from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began pre-doctoral studies in Italian libraries. In 1948, Klenz briefly returned to Europe when he was awarded the Summer Research Grant ACLS to visit Italy. Klenz continued to concertize in America as well as in Italy. In 1949, Klenz appeared in recitals at Yale, Harvard, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and with North Carolina State Symphony. From 1951-52, he attended the American Conservatory (Fontainbleau), and the Conservatoire Nationale (Paris), where he studied violoncello with Paul Bazelaire and took classes from and appeared in performances and on recordings with Nadia Boulanger.

Klenz was appointed as an associate professor in Duke University's Department of Aesthetics, Art, and Music from 1947-1966. In 1955, Klenz left Duke University on sabbatical and resumed his graduate study at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1958, Klenz was awarded the Ph.D. in Musicology from this University. He was named Associate Professor by Duke University in 1960. In 1964, he gave lectures on music history and aesthetics at Harpur College, Binghamton, New York. He was appointed as Associate Professor of Music at SUNY, Binghamton in 1965. He was appointed as Full Professor in 1969. During his time at SUNY, he served as committee member of the Faculty Senate, Junior & Senior personelle committee and Graduate committee.

Klenz's publications include "G.M. Bononcin" Duke University Press, Oct. 1962, and also entries in "Encyclopedia of Music." The unpublished manuscript of William Klenz entitled "The Elements of Music Theory," 1960, was donated to the archives by a former student of Klenz.

Throughout his illustrious career as a performing artist, author, scholar, composer, and especially as a truly dedicated teacher, Professor Klenz never lost sight of the true meaning of music. A passage from a letter he wrote before retiring in 1984 truly reflects his great love of music, his devotion to his students, and his sense of humor: "The vocation itself I cannot leave, the bond is too strong and strengthened by too many ties, the particulars of which are embodied in the students I have been able to help are too strong. I am grateful to my colleagues for their generous designation as Professor Emeritus of Music which will remind me of my purpose and may even serve to keep me out of mischief."

He passed away at Wilson Memorial Hospital, Endicott, New York on February 24, 1988.


51 Linear Feet (51 boxes and 1 roll)

Language of Materials



The William Klenz collection documents the personal and professional life of William Klenz, music professor at Harpur College from 1965-1984, composer, and cellist. The collection includes his musical compositions, writings, teaching materials, correspondence, and concert recordings.


The collection is divided into 7 series.


  1. Musical compositions
  2. Music recordings
  3. Written works
  4. Teaching materials
  5. Personal materials
  6. Student papers
  7. Collected music ephemera

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated in 1988 by 5 members of the Klenz family: William Klenz's 3 sisters (Eleanor M. Garvin, Peggy Klenz, Ellen A. Hedin) and his brother (Carl A. Klenz Sr.), and one illegible signatory.

Related Materials

The papers are part of the larger William Klenz Library and Music Collection, which includes books and sheet music donated by Klenz. These books were catalogued and added to the rare books collection. Duke University also holds some sheet music and manuscripts created by William Klenz.

Processing Information

The collection was received by the archive after Klenz’s death in 1988. It came with an endowed fund, which was to be used for processing the collection, cataloguing books, and creating a monograph. It was processed from 1989-1992. In the early years of the project, the books were the archive’s priority, and they were separated from the papers and slowly catalogued. Some books were moved into the circulating collection, especially periodicals that filled gaps in the collection.

For the papers, duplicate xeroxed scores without marginalia were first discarded. In the 1989-1990 school year, the papers were arranged into series and item-level listed. The microfilm was organized and listed. In 1991-1992, a listing was created for the sheet music and manuscripts that could not be. Phonograph records from the collection were removed and added to the Conole Archive of Recorded Sound. A finding aid was also created, which included a detailed content listing and a biographical note. The processing was completed in 1992. It appears that there were further additions to the collection in later years, creating the 4 “misc.” boxes.

In 2023, Shravani Cherupally worked on the William Klenz collection, implementing several changes. This involved rehousing the collection and selectively removing items deemed irrelevant or unnecessary. Notably, materials that documented music collections at other universities not directly involving Klenz but gathered for research or study purposes were excluded. Additionally, microfilms, magazines, and duplicate copies unrelated to Klenz's direct involvement were identified and set aside. Calendars were also removed. Item descriptions were updated, addressing discrepancies from the original processing, and files were rearranged to ensure proper organization. Furthermore, photographs of the collection were filed in protective covers for preservation.

These changes have been made with the intention of publishing the collection online, making it accessible to the public for research and study purposes.

Guide to the William Klenz papers
Shravani Cherupally (graduate student assistant)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The William Klenz papers were processed with generous funds from the Klenz family.

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA