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Donald Erb papers

Identifier: Spec-Coll-00019

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The papers of Donald Erb consist of original compositions in manuscript form, published scores, performance programs, newsletters, awards, newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, articles, and miscellaneous papers. Of particular note are his handwritten original manuscript scores which span his entire career as a composer and comprise the bulk of the collection.


  • 1950-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1962-1990

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

The Department of Special Collections is open to any interested researcher upon presentation of a valid CASE ID or other valid official identification card. Department is open to other researchers by appointment only. No usage restrictions.

Biography of Donald Erb

Born in Youngstown, Ohio on January 17, 1927 Donald Erb began his musical career at an early age. While he was visiting his Great Aunt during the summer months, she would give him trumpet lessons to keep him busy. After serving in the Navy in World War II he made his living playing trumpet in jazz bands before enrolling at Kent State University and earning his BA in 1950. In 1953 he earned his Master of Arts degree in Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) where he studied composition under Marcel Dick. He went on to study under Nadia Boulanger in Paris before returning to CIM to teach composition and theory. Around this time, Erb began to experiment with the relationship between the sound capabilities of traditional instruments and electronic synthesized sound to create his unique sound and style. In 1964, he received his Doctorate of Music from Indiana University where he studied under Bernard Heiden.

From 1966-1981, Erb served as the composer-in-residence at CIM, where he began to gain national recognition for his works. During that time he also served as the composer-in-residence with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the 1968-1969 season as well as professor of composition at Indiana University from 1975-1976 and again from 1984-1987. From 1981-1984 he served as professor of composition at Southern Methodist University. In 1987 Erb returned to CIM as the Distinguished Professor of Composition where he became professor emeritus in 1996. In 1996 ill health prompted him to end most of his activities as both a composer and lecturer. Erb died on August 12, 2008 at his home in Cleveland Heights at age 81.


57.28 linear feet


The papers of Donald Erb consist of original manuscripts, published scores, programs, newsletters, awards, newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, articles, and miscellaneous papers.

Series description

The Donlad Erb Papers are divided into 7 series and 8 subseries as follows:

Series 1: Compositions. 1950-1998. The more than sixty manuscripts in this series span the career of Donald Erb as a composer of modern music. The bulk of this series consists of the handwritten original music compositions by Erb in subseries 1. The published scores in subseries 3 range from full band scores to solo pieces to choir pieces. Of note is a piece entitled Stargazing, which inlcudes sheet music for an entire wind symphony and a magnetic tape with electronic sounds recorded for use in the performance. This series is divided into five subseries as follows: Subseries 1: Original Manuscripts, 1950-1998; Subseries 2: Original Manuscripts. Oversize, 1973-1992; Subseries 3: Published Scores, 1967-1996; Subseries 4: Published Scores, Oversize, 1967-1997; Subseries 5: Miscellaneous, 1993-1997

Series 2: Professional. 1950-1998. Consists of programs from orchestras around the world that performed works by Erb. Also included here are newsletters from professional organizations and institutions mentioning Erb and his work in the field of composition and music eductation. This series is divided into three subseries as follows: Subseries 1: Programs, 1950-1998; Subseries 2: Newsletters, 1961-1997; Subseries 3: Awards. 1978-1999

Series 3: Newspaper Clippings, 1958-1998

Series 4: Correspondence, 1967-1985

Series 5: Photographs, ca. 1976-1996

Series 6: Articles, 1991 and undated

Series 7: Miscellaneous, 1958-1999

Physical Location

Special Collections Research Center

Acquisition Information

The Donald Erb Papers were acquired by the Special Collections Research Center at the Kelvin Smith Library of Case Western Reserve University in two gifts from Donald Erb in September 1981 and from Dr. John Suess in October 2008.
Finding aid for the Donald Erb papers
Finding aid prepared by Andrew Kaplan
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections Repository

Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland OH 44106-7151 United States