|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|
|Provenance:||Donated by Sydonia M. Brooks, 2006|
|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|
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.
- Calloway, Earl. “St. Mark United Methodist Remembers Dr. Sydonia Brooks,” Chicago Defender, January 11, 2008.
- Floyd, Samuel A. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
- “Gospel Program at Progressive Sunday Night,” Chicago Defender, March 16, 1963
- McBrier, Vivian Flagg. R. Nathaniel Dett: His Life and Works (1882-1943). Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1977.
- McGinty, Doris Evans. A Documentary History of the National Association of Negro Musicians. Chicago: Columbia College Center for Black Music Research, 2004.
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 at Chicago Public Library include:
- Coalition to Save the ‘Met’ Archives
- Capt. Walter Dyett Papers
- Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church Papers
- Etta Moten Barnett Papers
- Theodore Charles Stone Papers
- Charles Walton Papers
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|