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Irwin Fischer Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Fischer

Scope and Content of the Collection

Scores and sheet music, correspondence, programs, news clippings, scrapbooks, memorabilia, travel ephemera, articles, speeches, and audio recordings.

Irwin Fischer maintained a close relationship with Edith Borroff, a previous student and fellow composer, for many years. Borroff's papers can also be found at The Newberry. Personal correspondence between Irwin Fischer and Edith Borroff has been consolidated into The Edith Borroff Papers for ease of research purposes.

Irwin Fischer also remained close to his primary piano teacher, Kathryn Williams, for most of his life, and a large quantity of correspondence between the two is present in the collection.


  • Creation: 1903-1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940 - 1977



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Irwin Fischer Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Irwin Fischer Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Irwin Fischer

Irwin Fischer was born in Iowa in 1903 to parents Christopher and Ella Fischer. In 1914, the family moved to Chicago, where Irwin took piano lessons under Kathryn Williams. He maintained a close relationship with Williams throughout his life.

In 1924, Irwin Fischer graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA and enrolled in the American Conservatory of Music. Here, he studied under Louise Robyn before traveling to Europe in 1927 to continue his studies at The Mozartarium in Austria. He graduated from American Conservatory with his master’s degree in 1930. Later, he continued his studies with Boulanger in Paris (1931) and with Kodály in Budapest (1936). In the 1930s, he developed a technique called “biplanal” and later, in the 1960s, he adopted more of a conservative systematic serialism.

In 1928, he married Marion Heineman. Marion was also a pianist and taught lessons to children out of the couple’s home. The Fischers had two children, Alan and Fred, and taught them piano from an early age.

Fischer’s first full conducting job was in 1939 for the National Youth Orchestra, part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration. He worked as conductor in this position until 1942, when WWII forced the orchestra to disband. At this point, Irwin became the official organist of the Chicago Symphonic Orchestra as well as conductor to the South Side Orchestra. He held this position with CSO until 1964, when the organ was damaged beyond repair.

Nineteen forty-two also saw the beginning of Fischer’s acquaintance with the Salvation Army’s Central Music Institute. Every summer for 32 years, Fischer worked at CMI’s camp as volunteer music faculty. He held this position until his retirement in 1975.

In 1974, Fischer was appointed as dean of the American Conservatory of Music. In 1955, Fischer was appointed to his last conducting post as conductor of the West Suburban Symphony Orchestra. He held this position for over 20 years before his unexpected death in 1977.


15.8 Linear Feet (6 cartons, 1 Hollinger box, 3 A/V boxes, and 5 oversize boxes)


Irwin Fischer (1903-1977), composer, professor, conductor, and musician. Enjoyed a long career teaching at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois. Also worked as an organist for the Chicago Symphonic Orchestra and various churches, a conductor for the National Youth Symphony, South Side Symphony, and West Suburban Symphony. Known primarily for scores such as the Hungarian Set (Pearly Bouquet) and Symphony I.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Works, 1926-1977
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Correspondence, 1919-1977
Box 2
Series 3: Professional Papers, 1920-1992
Boxes 2-4
Series 4: Personal Papers, 1903-1977
Boxes 4-7
Series 5: Audiovisual Materials, 1940-1977
Boxes 8-10

Collection Stack Location

1 16 7, 1 18 7


Donated to Newberry Library by Edith Borroff on October 29, 1975 with subsequent donations by Marion Fischer and Edith Borroff.

Related Archival Material

More information on Irwin Fischer can be found in Edith Borroff's Papers

Separated Materials

The following materials have been separated from the collection for individual cataloging:

  • University of Chicago Yearbook "The Cap and Gown," 1923
  • University of Chicago Yearbook "The Cap and Gown,"1924
  • Englewood High School Yearbook "The E," 1920
  • Carl Fischer Superior Manuscript Book No 3 "Counterpoint and Triple," undated
  • Carl Fischer Superior Manuscript Book No 3 no title, undated
  • Carl Fischer Superior Manuscript Book No 4 "Canon and Fuge," undated

Processed by

Emily Richardson, 2020.

Inventory of the Irwin Fischer Papers, 1903-1992, bulk 1940-1977
Emily Richardson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States