Sydonia Brooks Collection/National Association of Negro Musicians Papers

Dates: 1915-2000
Size: 3 linear feet (4 archival boxes)
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628
Collection Number: 1995/06
Provenance: Donated by Sydonia M. Brooks, 2006
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is:Sydonia Brooks Collection/National Association of Negro Musicians Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Processed by: Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project

Biographical Note

Dr. Sydonia Mae Brooks was a renowned organist and pianist who devoted her life to the promotion of African American music and musicians. Born in Chicago on October 9, 1921, she attended Central College in Chicago and earned a B.A. in Music. Ms. Brooks was hired by the Chicago Public Schools, teaching music for many years at Coleman Elementary School, and later serving as principal at Kipling Elementary School. She continued her studies by earning a Masters in Education and Music from DePaul University, and a doctorate in Extended Music Education from Roosevelt University.

Generations of students learned music in her classes-- some in the Chicago Public Schools, and others as students in the school she operated in her home. She also conducted advanced workshops for practicing musicians in organ and piano. In addition to her teaching, she served as organist and accompanist for Progressive Community Church for 25 years, and later for Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church. At Progressive, she also directed the Youth Choir. In her last decades she was often seen at St. Mark United Methodist Church, where her talented students performed at music events. She was famed for her coordination of multi-institution concerts and gospel programs which featured nationally-known singers. Brooks also played organ for concerts by the Umbrian Glee Club and the U.S. Postal Service Choir

Above all, she was a tireless promoter of excellence by African American musicians. By the early 1950s she was active in the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), as well as in two organizations that were Chicago local affiliates of NANM: the Chicago Music Association and the R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and Allied Arts.

In NANM she made an impact in several leading roles, serving as Youth Director from 1969 to 1989, as NANM’s Director of Branches from 1992 to 1998, and as editor of the Branches Newsletter. She also was a member of the board of both the Chicago Music Association and the R. Nathaniel Dett Club.

A short description of NANM is provided on their website: “Founded in Chicago in 1919, the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. is the country’s oldest organization dedicated to the preservation, encouragement and advocacy of all genres of the music of African Americans. [In NANM,] music teachers and musical performers had the chance to meet and compare notes with their counterparts from other parts of the country; to hear concerts from familiar and unfamiliar musical literature; to become acquainted with the new teaching techniques that were discussed in the workshops; to benefit from exposure to high standards of musicianship; to discuss mutual problems and strategize solutions; and to enhance the status of the private music studios by allowing prize students to compete for scholarships… In short, by providing a critical mass of African-American musicians at its annual conventions and sustaining a
network of communication throughout the year, NANM offered opportunities for growth as well as for fraternization with fellow musicians.”

Founded in 1922, Chicago's R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and Allied Arts is one of the oldest active branches of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM). The Dett Club has had a number of NANM luminaries in its roster, including John E. Webb, Sydonia M. Brooks, Ruth Allen Fouché, and Ona B. Campbell. The Dett Club maintains an active concert and event schedule during the year, hosting a Black History Program, a summertime Garden Party, and an annual Scholarship Contest.

Dr. Sydonia Brooks was married to Hampton Institute graduate and World War II veteran Charles C. Brooks. After a long illness, she died in Chicago on January 5, 2008.

Sources

Scope and Content Note

Dr. Sydonia Brooks’ papers primarily consist of organizational materials from the organizations in which she worked for much of her life-- National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) and the R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and Allied Arts. The rare photographs in the collection were given to Dr. Brooks by her friend and fellow Dett Club member, Sylvester Johnson. Also included is one program from a piano recital for Brooks’ students, held in her home. This small collection has been arranged into three series: National Organization of Negro Musicians (NANM) Organization Materials; R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and Allied Arts Organization Materials; and Photographs.

Series 1: National Organization of Negro Musicians (NANM) Organization Materials (1970- 1998)

This series is divided into two subseries. The first includes NANM Constitutions as revised, followed by Newsletters documenting the work of NANM branches throughout the United States. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

The second subseries consists of a collection of NANM Convention programs from 1970 through 1996. Some of these contain notes and enclosures added by Dr. Brooks. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series 2: R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and Allied Arts Organization Materials (1992-2001)

This small series primarily consists of programs and newsletters from the R. Nathaniel Dett Club. One program featuring Dr. Sydonia Brooks’ piano students is also included. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Photographs

Sylvester Johnson, a long-time member of the R. Nathaniel Dett Club, gave these photographs to Dr. Sydonia Brooks. The photos document activities of the club, and include portraits of some of its members. The photographs were numbered by Dr. Brooks before they were donated; this arrangement has been retained.

Related Materials

Related materials at Chicago Public Library include:

Container List

Series 1: National Organization of Negro Musicians (NANM) Organization Materials

Subseries 1: Constitution and Branches Newsletters

Box 1 Folder 1 NANM Organization, Constitution, 1984 revision and 1991 revision
Box 1 Folder 2 NANM Organization, “How to Become a Branch of NANM,” 1976
Box 1 Folder 3 NANM Organization, Branches Newsletters, 1994
Box 1 Folder 4 NANM Organization, Branches Newsletters, 1995
Box 1 Folder 5 NANM Organization, Branches Newsletters, 1996
Box 1 Folder 6 NANM Organization, Branches Newsletters, 1997
Box 1 Folder 7 NANM Organization, Branches Newsletters, 1998

Subseries 2: NANM Convention Programs

Box 2 Folder 1 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Cleveland, Ohio, 1970
Box 2 Folder 2 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Chicago, Illinois, 1971
Box 2 Folder 3 NANM Organization, Convention Program, New York City, NY, 1972
Box 2 Folder 4 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Atlanta, Georgia, 1973
Box 2 Folder 5 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Detroit, Michigan, 1975
Box 2 Folder 6 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1977
Box 2 Folder 7 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Denver, Colorado, 1978
Box 2 Folder 8 NANM Organization, Convention Program, St. Louis, Missouri, 1979
Box 2 Folder 9 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Birmingham, Alabama, 1980
Box 2 Folder 10 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Los Angles, California, 1981
Box 2 Folder 11 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Chicago, Illinois, 1982
Box 2 Folder 12 NANM Organization, Convention Program, New York City, New York, 1983
Box 2 Folder 13 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1984
Box 2 Folder 14 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Southfield, Michigan, 1985
Box 2 Folder 15 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Chicago, Illinois, 1986
Box 2 Folder 16 NANM Organization, Convention Program, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1987
Box 2 Folder 17 NANM Organization, Convention Program, San Diego, California, 1988
Box 2 Folder 18 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Atlanta, Georgia, 1989
Box 2 Folder 19 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Norfolk, Virginia, 1990
Box 3 Folder 1 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Chicago, Illinois, 1991
Box 3 Folder 2 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1992
Box 3 Folder 3 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Oakland, California, 1993
Box 3 Folder 4 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Dallas, Texas, 1994
Box 3 Folder 5 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Newark, New Jersey, 1995
Box 3 Folder 6 NANM Organization, Convention Program, Dearborn, Michigan, 1996
Box 3 Folder 7 NANM Organization, Southern Regional Report to1996 Convention, August 3, 1996

Series 2: R. Nathaniel Dett Club organization materials

Box 3 Folder 8 R. Nathaniel Dett Club, 70th Anniversary Program, St. Mark U.M. Church, May 24, 1992
Box 3 Folder 9 R. Nathaniel Dett Club, Gospel Music Workshop with Dolores Eggleston, St. Mark U.M. Church, 1997
Box 3 Folder 10 R. Nathaniel Dett Club, “Catch the Spirit” Newsletter, September 1998
Box 3 Folder 11 R. Nathaniel Dett Club, Newsletter, April 2000
Box 3 Folder 12 R. Nathaniel Dett Club, Newsletter, 2001
Box 3 Folder 13 Brooks Music Studio, “Students in Piano Recital”, July 1998

Series 3: Photographs

Box 4 Photo 1 Tribute to John E. Webb, President of the R. Nathaniel Dett Club. Group includes Claude Burnaugh, Fletcher Watts, Sylvester Johnson, Elmer Simpson, Joseph Drew, John E. Webb, and Martin (no first name given), 1950s
Box 4 Photo 2 Portrait of John E. Webb, inscribed to Sylvester Johnson, undated. Photo by Stewart Art Studio
Box 4 Photo 3 Sylvester Johnson, Alice King, DeQuence Nelson, John E. Webb, Fred Williams, undated
Box 4 Photo 4 John E. Webb, Kathryn Watts, Sylvester Johnson, undated
Box 4 Photo 5 John E. Webb, Ethel Gavin Stewart, with Leontyne Price, after concert, 1958
Box 4 Photo 6 Sylvester Johnson, DeQuence Nelson, John E. Webb, Alice King, Morris T. Dalton, undated
Box 4 Photo 7 Photograph withdrawn from collection
Box 4 Photo 8 R. Nathaniel Dett Club ladies at end of a club meeting, undated
Box 4 Photo 9 R. Nathaniel Dett Club ladies at end of a club meeting at the home of Sylvester Johnson, undated
Box 4 Photo 10 R. Nathaniel Dett Club members at African-themed garden party, an annual club event. Sylvester Johnson is seated, far left, undated
Box 4 Photo 11 Portrait of Prudence Wilson, inscribed to Sylvester Johnson, 1930s. Photo by R.D. Jones, Chicago
Box 4 Photo 12 Portrait of Dr. Ruth Allen Fouché, inscribed to Sylvester Johnson, undated. Photo by Maurice Seymour, Chicago
Box 4 Photo 13 Portrait of Ethel Gavin Stewart, inscribed “to Sylvester with love,” March 1957
Box 4 Photo 14 R. Nathaniel Dett Club members at end of club meeting at home of Sylvester Johnson, undated
Box 4 Photo 15 Portrait of Yussuf Ali, inscribed to Sylvester Johnson, undated. Photo by Frederick, Chicago
Box 4 Photo 16 Portrait of Bert Williams, circa 1915. Photo by Victor Georg, Chicago
Box 4 Photo 17 R. Nathaniel Dett club members: Mayo (last name unknown), Fred Williams, Ethel Gavin Stewart, Leon Kirkpatrick, Mimi Williams, undated
Box 4 Photo 18 Portrait of “Dick,” inscribed to Sylvester Johnson, undated. Photo by Root Studio, Chicago
Box 4 Photo 19 Portrait of Earl Brooks as young man, undated
Box 4 Photo 20 Sylvester Johnson and friends, undated
Box 4 Photo 21 Portrait photo of Helen White, soprano, and Lewis White, bass, inscribed by “the singing Whites,” undated. Photo by Stewart Art Studio
Box 4 Photo 22 Florence Stitch, organist, undated
Box 4 Photo 23 Group photo of the Eureka Jubilee Singers, with Esther Gaskin Williams, Dessie Brooks, Albert Yarborough, Albert Williams and DeQuence Nelson, July 1, 1957. Inscribed to Sylvester Johnson
Box 4 Photo 24 Group photo of Sylvester Johnson, DeQuence Nelson, Madeline Sobrian, Jackson D. Smith, Sr., undated
Box 4 Photo 25 Portrait photo of vaudeville-era African American singing group. Sylvester Johnson is seated in front row at far left, 1920s
Box 4 Photo 26 Portrait of Shelby Nichols, bass-baritone, in performance costume, 1950s
Box 4 Photo 27 Portrait of Grace W. Tompkins, inscribed “with love,” 1962
Box 4 Photo 28 Ruth Powell-Turner receiving a floral bouquet, undated
Box 4 Photo 29 Sylvester Johnson and friend in Johnson’s home, undated
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