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Laurence Powell Materials

Identifier: MC 2523

  • Staff Only

Content Description

Sheet music and copyright registration for "Whispering Spiders: A Song for Medium Voice," with music by Laurence Powell and lyrics by Powell's grandson, Thomas Zoe; partial typescript (54 pages) of memoir by Laurence Powell, beginning with his childhood and extending to his job offer from the University of Arkansas in 1926; photograph of Laurence Powell with his wife and children.


  • circa 1937-1994


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Conditions Governing Use

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical / Historical

Laurence Powell was born in Birmingham, England, in 1899. He attended Ratcliffe College in Leicester (1909-1915), and Ushaw College in Durham (1915-1917). He studied with composer Sir Granville Bantock at the Birmingham Midland Institute School of Music in 1919-1922. In 1923 he emigrated to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1936. He completed his education at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught music theory. There he married Eleanor Finegan, a violinist and director of music education at Birmingham University. He graduated in 1926, receiving a Master of Arts degree.

After graduating Powell was hired as an assistant professor of music theory by the University of Arkansas; he remained in that position until 1934. He also served as the music critic for the Fayetteville Daily Democrat. He began dividing his time between Fayetteville and Little Rock, setting up the Little Rock Junior College music department; in 1934 he joined the faculty of the college fulltime.

In Little Rock, Powell became close friends with poet John Gould Fletcher. Along with Fletcher and folklorist Vance Randolph, he took a strong interest in Emma Hays Dusenbury, a folksinger who resided near Mena in Polk County. Powell accompanied Allen Lomax to make recordings of Dusenbury’s songs for the Library of Congress. From the recordings, Powell transcribed and notated the music.

In early 1937 he relocated to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Resettlement Administration. His area included Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and eastern Texas. His most notable assignment was the Woodlake Project in Texas. By Fall 1937 he returned to Little Rock Junior College, where he remained until 1939. While at the college he founded the Little Rock Symphony Orchestra, serving as its conductor.

In 1939 he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he served as the assistant state supervisor of the WPA’s Michigan Music Projects. He was also organist of St. Andrews Cathedral, a position he held until 1947. He later lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, founding the Sante Fe Orchestra (later renamed the Rio Grande Symphony Orchestra). He retired to Victoria, Texas, passing away on January 29, 1990. (Biographical note copied from the finding aid for MS P87, Laurence Powell Music Scores)


0.1 Linear Feet (3 folders)


Materials are arranged by topic.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Laurence Powell Materials were donated to Special Collections by Powell's grandson, Thomas Zoe of Austin, Texas, on April 13, 2021. An additional item (Folder 3) was donated by Zoe on May 17, 2021.

Related Materials

See also the following related collections:

MS P87 Laurence Powell Music Scores

Processing Information

Processed by Katrina Windon; completed May 2021. Updated by Windon in June 2021 to incorporate an additional item (Folder 3).



Laurence Powell Materials
Katrina Windon
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States