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Gardner Jencks papers

Identifier: PIMS-0045

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Scope and Contents

The Gardner Jencks papers (1929-1989) contain primarily scores of Jencks' compositions, as well as a small collection of music by other composers, personal papers, and ephemera. Series 1 contains printed facsimile copies of Jencks' manuscript scores. Series 2 contains holographic manuscript scores without printed copies. Series 3 includes scores by other composers. Series 4 contains various manuscripts relating to Jencks' study of music as well as a PhD dissertation on Jencks' music by Richard Cornell. Lastly, series 5 contains various ephemera including draft plates of a booklet about Jencks, notes, a newspaper clipping, and a concert program.


  • Creation: 1929-1989


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

Gardner Jencks was a pianist and composer who wrote hundreds of pieces over his 50-year career. Born in New York in 1907 and raised in Baltimore, Jencks became interested in studying music at the age of 13 after attending a summer concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Jencks began studying piano under the direction of Harold Bauer and Joseph Lhevinne. At the age of 17, Jencks left high school and moved to New York to pursue a career as a pianist. He began attending the Diller Quaile School of Music and studied composition under Richard Donovan.

Jencks moved back to Baltimore in 1934 and attended the Peabody Conservatory beginning in 1937, earning an Artist Diploma in 1940 in both piano and composition. He gave two well-received piano recitals in New York in 1941 and 1942, but the war interrupted his career as a concert pianist.

From the 1940s until his death in 1989, Jencks wrote hundreds of sonatas and other pieces for piano, none of which was published. Jencks would perform his pieces privately for well-known composers including Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, Carl Ruggles, and Roger Sessions. His music drew on twelve-tone technique, the music of Webern and Cowell, and Jencks's own "dissonant chord theory." Pianist Marcia Mikulak worked with Jencks in 1979-1980, performing and recording some of his music.


9.02 Cubic Feet (26 medium flat boxes, 1 oversize flat box)

Language of Materials



Gardner Jencks was a pianist and composer who grew up in Baltimore and earned an artist diploma from the Peabody Conservatory. His papers contain manuscript and printed facsimile scores of his unpublished compositions, papers related to his study of music, and various items of ephemera.


Very few scores have proper titles, but are named with a numbering system Jencks used. Numbers 1-19 represent early works. From 1977 onward Jencks titled his pieces with the year (using only the last two digits) followed by the number of the piece that he had written that year, and then a letter to designate the version of the piece. For example, the third version of the tenth piece written in 1985 would be called “85-10C.”

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Penelope Jencks, representing the estate of Gardner Jencks, in 1990 and 1992.

Related Materials

An LP recording of Jencks' music by pianist Marcia Mikulak is available through the library catalog at

Processing Information

Processed by Isaac Greene in 2015.


Guide to the Gardner Jencks 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