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Papers of Nicholas Gerren

Call Number: RH MS 409


Nicholas L. Gerren, a Kansas City, Kansas native, was the first African American member of the symphony orchestra at the University of Kansas. As a professional musician and professor of music, he became a leader in music education, as well as an advocate for civic and arts programs. This collection consists of material relating to his personal and professional development, including education records.


  • Creation: 1929 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Nicholas Gerren

Nicholas L’Ouverture Gerren was born in Kansas City, Kansas on March 10, 1912, to Nicholas Charles and Lucy Anetta (Moore) Gerren. Gerren graduated from Sumner High School and entered the University of Kansas [KU] in 1930, where he became the first African American to play for the University’s symphony orchestra. Gerren was awarded bachelor’s degrees in music in 1935 and music education in 1947, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees in music education in 1948 and 1953, all from the University of Kansas. Gerren’s graduate work was largely influenced by E. Thayer Gaston, KU professor and founder of the University’s graduate music therapy program, the first of its kind in the nation.

In 1935, Gerren won a post-baccalaureate scholarship to study violin in the Soviet Union at the Moscow Conservatory of Music, where he also performed with the Moscow Radio Theatre Symphony Orchestra. Gerren returned to the United States in 1937, teaching music for the Kansas City, Kansas, School District and Prairie View State College, Prairie View, Texas, until he was called into the service of the United States Army in 1942. He married Cora Madeline Haith on June 7, 1944 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1946, Gerren launched a distinguished career in music education, teaching and conducting orchestras, ensembles and choirs at several Midwestern colleges and universities. He retired from Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1977, after serving five years as Dean of the School of Music. Throughout the remainder of his life, Gerren remained active in promoting educational and civic programs in partnership with federal and local governments. Nicholas Gerren died on December 10, 2002, in Xenia, Ohio.


3 Linear Feet (6 boxes + 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Nicholas L. Gerren papers are arranged in eight series according to subject or format: Education, Military, Correspondence, Programs, Employment and Employment Opportunities, Professional and Social Organizations, Civic Organizations, and Newspaper Clippings. Correspondence is subdivided into a General section, organized chronologically, and a section in which correspondence is organized alphabetically by the surname of the correspondent. These correspondents consist of members of KU faculty and staff, writers, musicians, and composers. Specific subject-oriented correspondence may also be found as subgroups in other series. The Programs series documents performances in which Gerren participated as violinist or conductor. Newspaper clippings include complementary subject material. Arrangement within folders is chronological.

Photographs in the Nicholas L. Gerren papers primarily relate to Gerren's professional experiences as a performance musician and professor of music, including formal portraits of Gerren, as well as group portraits of student musical ensembles.

Physical Location

RH MS 409

Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS-P 409

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Gerren, Nicholas L.

Guide to the Nicholas Gerren Collection
Papers of Nicholas Gerren
Finding aid prepared by adm and sc, 2004; revised by, cl 2010; cmp, 2024
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
<p>Nicholas Gerren Collection , Kansas Collection, RH MS 409, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries</p>

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States