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John Ross papers

 Collection
Identifier: M070

Scope and Content Note

The John Ross papers document his work as music director of Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (ELSFA) and National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), and his professional activities outside of them. The majority of the collection concerns musical arrangements by John Ross and performances of either Ross or the NCAAA. These include sheet music, scripts, advertisements, programs, and cast lists. The Sheet Music Arrangements consist of John Ross's personal and professional arrangements. Documentation of NCAAA's annual Black Nativity event figures prominently in the collection as does his arrangements of popular hymns and gospels. The collection also contains administrative, programmatic, audiovisual, and student records of the ELSFA and NCAAA. Included are budgets, proposals, applications, schedules, student lists, organizational information, and correspondence. Records documenting the financial operations of the ELSFA can be found in the NCAAA Financial folders. Other records include information about the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Elma Lewis (founder of the ELSFA and the NCAAA), the National Black Music Colloquium and Competition, and the annual festivals of African Diaspora.

The audio material includes recorded performances of Black Nativity: a CD Master DAT tape from 1995, a mini-disc from December 8, 1996, and a commercially produced cassette tape recording from 1995. In addition, Ross's 1997 compilation of gospel recordings, "Comin up Shoutin," is included on CD along with two reel-to-reel tapes of Randy Weston performing with the Boston Pops in 1981. During this performance, Weston sang "Three African Queens: Blues for Elma Lewis."There is one cassette tape containing personal recordings of "Spiritual tradition in the U.S." and "The Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival," both recorded in 1997. The collection also includes a small number of photographs of John Ross and various performances.

Records relating to his work outside of ELSFA and NCAAA include information about his book Climbing Jacob's Ladder, his involvement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), his involvement in the Unitarian Universalist Musician's Network, his work as musical director and organist for First Parish Church, the annual festival of African Diaspora, and his notes and correspondence concerning the many musical performances he was involved with. Of particular interest are the multiple musical arrangements by Ross of the Hogwarts school song taken from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series. The collection also contains a series of notebooks kept by Mr. Ross noting his day-to-day activities and appointments.

Dates

  • 1963-2006

Creator

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

John Andrew Ross was an accomplished African-American composer, organist, choral conductor, and jazz musician. Ross was born in Boston on December 15, 1940. In 1957, he entered Boston University where he concentrated in church music. He received degrees from the College of Liberal Arts in 1960 and the School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1964.In 1970, Ross became the music director at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, which closed in 1990, and its parent organization, the National Center of Afro-American Artists. Working with these organizations, he lead two widely recognized music ensembles, the Voices of Black Persuasion and the Contra-Band. Starting in 1970, Ross became the musical director of the highly acclaimed Langston Hughes gospel play "Black Nativity", a position he held until his death in 2006.

Outside of this work, Ross was a member of the American Guild of Organists. On November 12, 1995 he was ordained as the Minister of Music at the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he had begun serving as music director nine years before. Ross's work can be heard on his CD, "Comin' up Shouting: Gospel Songs and Spirituals Newly Arranged." Co-producing with folklore author John Langstaff, Ross has written musical arrangements for two books, Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Heroes of the Bible in African-American Spirituals and What a Morning: The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals, the latter of which won the Coretta Scott King Book Award. He has also received multiple regional Emmy Award nominations. In 1981, he won a regional Emmy with Billy Wilson for "Blues and Gone," a part of the series "Say Brother" produced by Boston's public broadcasting station WGBH. His awards include the1990 Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Achievement Award from the City of Boston, the 2000 New England Conservatory Anna Bobbitt Gardener Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2005 Music and Theater Award from the Tri-Ad Veterans League, and the 2006 Friends of the Urban League Lifetime Achievement Award.

Extent

6.45 cubic feet (7 containers)

Overview

John Andrew Ross was an accomplished African-American composer, organist, choral conductor, and jazz musician. Born in Boston on December 15, 1940, Ross became the music director at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in 1970. Working with the school and its parent organization, the National Center of Afro-American Artists, he lead two widely recognized music ensembles, the Voices of Black Persuasion and the Contra-Band. Starting in 1970, Ross became the musical director of the highly acclaimed Langston Hughes gospel play, Black Nativity, a position he held until his death in 2006.

Overview

The John Ross papers document his work as music director of Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and National Center of Afro-American Artists, and his professional activities outside of them. The majority of the collection concerns musical arrangements and performances of either Ross or the National Center of Afro-American Artists. These include sheet music, scripts, advertisements, programs, and cast lists. The Sheet Music Arrangements consist of John Ross's personal and professional arrangements. Documentation of the annual Black Nativity figures prominently in the collection as does his arrangements of popular hymns and gospels. The collection also contains administrative, programmatic, audiovisual, and student records of Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and National Center of Afro-American Artists.

System of Arrangement:

Arranged in alphabetical sequence.

Physical Location

55/2-3, FF5/D4
Title
Finding aid for the John Ross Papers
Author
Finding aid prepared by Cheryl Ostrowski
Date
June 2012
Language of description
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US