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Dawn Culbertson papers

Identifier: PIMS-0039

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Scope and Contents

The Dawn Culbertson papers (1972-2004) contain manuscript compositions, personal papers, and recordings. Series 1 includes scores of Culbertson's original compositions. Series 2 contains notebooks from her time spent as a student at Peabody, correspondence, press releases, and concert programs. Series 3 contains cassette and CD recordings of Culbertson’s WJHU-FM radio show, Exploring Early Music. Also included are two CD albums of original music, Paper Boats and Other Works and The Return of the Evil Pappy Twin.


  • Creation: 1972 - 2004


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use at the Peabody Archives. Contact for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.

Biographical / Historical

Dawn C. Culbertson (1951-2004) was a composer, performer, writer, and overnight host of a classical music radio program in Baltimore. A self-proclaimed misfit, Culbertson dabbled in unconventional music genres.

A Baltimore native, Culbertson was a 1969 graduate of Towson High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Towson University. Culbertson played the lute and recorder, sang, and earned her master's in music composition from the Peabody Conservatory in 1981.

Culbertson was very involved with the community, singing in the choirs of Grace and St. Peter's and the old Christ Episcopal churches. She was also a soloist at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Old St. Paul's Episcopal, Old Otterbein United Methodist churches, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

For over ten years Culbertson was an overnight disc jockey and music librarian at the former Johns Hopkins University station WJHU-FM. There, she had a 4 a.m. program called Exploring Early Music. She was passionate about early Renaissance music, studying and performing the genre regularly. Culbertson was a classically trained lutenist but also shifted gears to play “punk lute,” performing popular music as her alter ego, Evil Pappy Twin.

Culbertson regularly performed at local Baltimore restaurants and in 1993 founded the Baltimore Composers Forum, a group that showcased local music compositions. She also founded the Vox Asylum, a group of singers who performed anti-war music from a variety of time periods.

In addition, Culbertson played electric bass in a big band, was a caller for English country dancing, wrote as a music critic (publishing articles under the name D. C. Culbertson), and was a member of the National Organization for Women.


3.05 Cubic Feet (1 full-size letter box, 1 half-size legal box, 1 large flat box, 3 medium flat boxes, 2 card files)

Language of Materials



Dawn Culbertson was an eclectic musician and composer based in Baltimore who experimented with the lute and recorder. Her papers contain original manuscript compositions, personal papers primarily from her student years, and recordings of her radio show, Exploring Early Music.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ruth Culbertson (mother of Dawn Culbertson) in approximately 2012 and 2021.

Processing Information

Processed by Grace Minghsuan Tsai in 2016.

Guide to the Dawn Culbertson papers
Kerri Sheehan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA