The sheet music collection includes several thousand compositions of popular songs dating from the 1850s to the early 1940s, including songs from musicals and Vaudeville acts; compositions created by Black musicians taught in the Classical tradition, as well as ragtime, spirituals and jazz. The more than 400 composers include Nathaniel R. Dett, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Scott Joplin, Will Marion Cook, Florence Cole, Clarence Cameron White, Eubie Blake, and Duke Ellington, to name a few.
The Music Department’s holdings document Black participation in and contributions to the development of jazz, folk, spiritual, popular and classical styles. Its collections are rich in sheet music, songbook albums, and instrumental concert material for voice and piano. The department contains over 3000 Sheet music scores by more than 400 composers, dating from the 18th century to the present. Among the major composers represented are Will Marion Cook, William L. Dawson, R. Nathaniel Dett, W.C. Handy, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.