Sydonia Brooks Papers/National Association of Negro Musicians Collection
Scope and Contents
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, circa 1915-1962
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.
- 1915 - 2000
- Brooks, Sydonia Mae, 1921-2008 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
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.
3 Linear Feet (in 4 boxes, 29 photographs)
Language of Materials
A leader in the Chicago Music Association and the National Association of Negro Musicians, Sydonia Brooks donated a collection of CMA and NANM newsletters, proceedings and photographs.
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.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Sydonia M. Brooks in 2006.
- National Association of Negro Musicians (U.S.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Brooks, Sydonia Mae, 1921-2008 (Person)
- Guide to the Sydonia Brooks Papers/National Association of Negro Musicians Collection
- Processed by Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project. Additional processing by Elizabeth Loch, 2020.
- September 2020
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
Part of the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection Repository
Woodson Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago IL 60628 United States