Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Alice M. Ditson Fund Records, 1940-2009

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1738
Bib ID 11263262 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Alice M. Ditson Fund
Title Alice M. Ditson Fund Records, 1940-2009
Physical Description 42.2 linear feet (35 document boxes and 22 record cartons)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Folders with sensitive personal information are restricted.



This collection is arranged in eight series. Records for 1940-1999 were primarily maintained in one chronological set: these can be found in Series V: Chronological Records. After 1999, files for Meeting Minutes (Series II) and the Ditson Conductor's Award (Series IV) are arranged as separate sets of records. The other series (Series I, III, and VI) contain various general files and subject files, and Series VII contains comprehensive overviews on allocations and the Ditson Fund itself.


Scope and Content

The Alice M. Ditson Fund was established at Columbia University in 1940 and is still active in its primary function of providing financial support to composers, performances, and recordings of contemporary American music. The fund also gives out the annual Ditson Conductor's Award, established in 1945, which honors conductors who have a distinguished record of championing American music. The collection includes files regarding the selection of this prize across several decades, as well as financial records, meeting minutes, applicant files, and subject files for the general Fund since its creation.

The strength of the collection is the documentation of the Fund's activities through general operating and financial records and meeting minutes.

The collection also documents the activities of the Ditson Conductor's Award for the years 1948 to 2008, including correspondence, clippings, photos, and financial records related to the selection process.

Researchers looking at early administrative records of the Fund should look at additional records held by the Columbia University Archives. In particular, there are administrative records held in files related to Douglas Moore and Jack Beeson in the Office of the President (Central Files) records that would be of interest for 1940-1967. Additional material is filed in the Historical Subject Files.

  • Series I: General and Financial Records, 1972-1973, 1981-2007

    This series includes one document from 1972-1973; financial records only from 1981 through 2000; and financial as well as general operating records and related files from 2001 through 2007.

    See Series V for additional general and financial records from 1940-1999.

  • Series II: Meeting Minutes, 1999-2009

    There are minutes, notes, and other documents for approximately biannual meetings from 1999 through 2009. At these meetings, the Fund committee would consider candidates who had applied for Ditson funds during the previous six months. The meeting minutes are accompanied by applicant files for each applicant being considered at that particular meeting. Many applicants applied for—and were sometimes granted—funds in multiple award periods.

    See Series V for meeting minutes from 1940-1999.

  • Series III: Subject Files, 1940-2007

    Subject files include index cards summarizing multi-year applicants; two folders of various writings by board president Jack Beeson; biographies of prospective committee members; documents related to the 2008 Ditson Festival of American Music; copies of historical and founding documents; and a file on a 2003 court case over property involving Martha Graham (The Martha Graham School and Dance Foundation, Inc. and Ronald A. Protas v. Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, Inc.).

  • Series IV: Ditson Conductor's Award, 1989-2008

    This series includes correspondence, clippings, and notes related to the process of nominating and selecting conductors for the annual Ditson Conductor's Award. Also included are photos from the 2006 award ceremony.

    See Series V for files relating to the Conductor's award from 1948-1995.

  • Series V: Chronological Records, 1940-1999

    This series includes minutes, notes, and other documents for approximately biannual meetings of the Ditson Advisory Committee from 1940 through 1999. At these meetings, the Fund committee would consider candidates who had applied for Ditson funds during the previous six months. The series also contains applicant files for both successful and unsuccessful applicants being considered at each meeting, and these files include programs, clippings, correspondence, and financial records. This series is divided into six subseries, which organize the records chronologically by decade.

    Oversized folders from this series can be found in Box 57.

  • Series VI: Miscellaneous, 1920-2000

    This majority of this series consists of general files that span multiple decades, including documents relating to the Opera at Columbia program, the American Recording Society, Group for Contemporary Music, National Public Radio, and other foundations. This series also contains several files from Ditson secretary Kristen Sorteberg, which include copies of guidelines for submission to the Ditson Fund as well as general financial information from the 1990s. Finally, the series features a photograph of Mrs. Alice M. Ditson, the namesake of the fund, dating to circa 1920.

  • Series VII: Overview, 1940-1989

    This series contains several booklets that detail every individual funding allocation granted by the Ditson Fund from 1940-1999. This overview is presented in two spiral-bound books labeled "Administration and Allocation," as well as on loose-leaf paper in folders labeled "Ditson Fund Allocations."

  • Series VII: Digitized Audio Recordings, 1944-1986

    This series consists of links to audio materials originally recorded under the auspices of The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University that were digitized in 2006. The individual records in the Digital Libraries Collection website contain more detailed description.

    Included in this collection are important works commissioned by the Ditson Fund during its early years, by Samuel Barber, Jack Beeson, Walter Piston, and Wallingford Riegger, among others. From 1945 to 1952, the Fund sponsored the week-long Columbia Festival of Contemporary American Music. Along with significant orchestral concerts, the Festival mounted productions of commissioned operas, including Norman Lockwood's Scarecrow and Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All. These and other operas premiered by the Ditson-supported Columbia Opera Workshop are to be found here. In addition to a rich collection of live-performance recordings, the Archive includes many of the master recordings released through the American Recording Society, another of the diverse activities in support of American music sponsored by the Ditson Fund.

  • Series IX: Archived Web Site, 2018-present

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Folders with sensitive personal information are restricted.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Alice M. Ditson Fund records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Audio materials originally recorded under the auspices of The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University were digitized in 2006. They are linked in series VIII below, and are also available onsite in the music library. CLIO records for individual recordings can be found with the search string "Ditson Fund Recordings Archive". The original physical recording media are managed by RBML as the "Ditson Music Deposit", and may only be accessed by PRD. For more information about the recordings, see https://library.columbia.edu/locations/music/ditson.html.

Office of the President (Central Files), Columbia University Archives.

Historical Subject Files, Columbia University Archives.

Jack Beeson Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.


Accruals are expected

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Records processed by Emily Clark (GSAS) in 2015 (Series I-IV: Boxes 1-34). Additional records (Series V-VII: Boxes 35-57) were processed by Emily Hawk (GSAS) in 2019.

Finding aid written by Emily Clark (GSAS) in 2015, and updated by Emily Hawk (GSAS) in 2019.

Revision Description

2015-02-25 File created.

2015-03-04 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-02-20 XML document updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2020-04-04 Links to digitized audio added. kws

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Alice M. Ditson Fund Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beeson, Jack, 1921-2010 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Composers -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Music -- United States -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The Ditson Fund was established at Columbia University in 1940, with a bequest of $400,000 from Alice M. Ditson, the widow of music publisher Oliver Ditson. Mrs. Ditson's will stipulated that income from the bequest be used for non-academic fellowships, public concerts, and publications in support of music. The initial Advisory Committee appointed by Mrs. Ditson directed her intentions toward contemporary music. The Ditson Fund has continued this focus, with emphasis on funding of performances and recordings of music by emerging American composers. In 1945, the Ditson Conductor's Award was established, and is the oldest continuing award honoring conductors for distinguished contributions to American music. The Conductor's Award honors conductors who have a distinguished record of performing and championing contemporary American music. The Ditson Fund has awarded over 2,000 grants since its founding in 1940.

The Fund maintains two separate grant programs: Organizational Support, and Recording Projects. The Organizational Support program supports performing organizations, institutions, summer festivals and conferences whose artistic excellence encourages and improves public knowledge and appreciation of works by younger and relatively unknown living American composers of classical concert music. The Recording Projects program aims to document and provide wider exposure for the music of younger and relatively unknown living American composers.