Skip to main content

E. H. Butler Library, Buffalo State, The State University of New York

Archives & Special Collections: Peter Yates Musical Composition and Material Collection [mid 20th century]

Descriptive Summary

Title: The Peter Yates Musical Composition and Material Collection

Date Span: [bulk, mid 20th century]

Acquisition Number: N/A

Creator: Peter Yates

Donor: Dr. Peter Yates; Buffalo State College Music Department

Date of Acquisition: ca. 1980

Extent: 1 box; .25 linear ft.

Language: English

Location: Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State 

Processed: ca. 1990; Marjorie Lord, reprocessed 2011

Information on Use

Access: The Peter Yates Musical Composition and Material Collection is open for research. 

Reproduction of Materials: 
See Archivist for information on reproducing materials from this collection, including photocopies, digital camera images, or digital scans, as well as copyright restrictions that may pertain to these materials. 

Even though all reasonable and customary best-practices have been pursued, this collection may contain materials with confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the SUNY Buffalo State assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation: 
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, The Peter Yates Musical Composition and Material Collection, Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State.

Biographical Note:
Peter Yates (1909-1976), along with his wife Frances Mullen, is perhaps best remembered for his founding of the concert series Evenings on the Roof in Los Angeles. It grew literally on the roof of the 2nd floor of the Yates’ home, designed by Rudolf Schindler, one of the first of many artists and musician to emigrate from Europe to southern California during the early years of World War II. This concert series was to give most of them a much needed opportunity to have their music performed in an extremely supportive setting. (The reader is urged to consult the early chapters of D. Crawford’s Evenings On and Off the Roof for extensive coverage of this most important aspect of music history in the United States.)

Mr. Yates’ appointment as Chair of the Music Department at Buffalo State College in 1968 met with many “raised eyebrows,” due to his lack of experience in higher education teaching and administration. He was, after all, an interviewer with the California Employment Service for most of his pre-Buffalo years. Additionally, he had earned only minimal academic qualifications, a BA degree from Princeton. However, having served as associate editor of Arts and Architecture, 1940-1967, as a contributing editor to Arts in Society, as well as author of two well-received books -- An Amateur at the Keyboard (1964) and Twentieth Century Music (1967) plus his long and unparalleled association with many of the most important contemporary European and American composers, the usual and traditional resume expectations were overlooked in lieu of this newer and richer experience.

During their years in Western New York, Peter and Frances participated actively in the musical life of Buffalo. With the Albright Knox Art Gallery directly across the street, hosting the infamous Evenings for New Music, 1964-1980, which might be said to have found its predecessor in Yates’ Evenings on the Roof, Peter felt right at home in Buffalo. At the larger SUNY university center, SUNY at Buffalo, Peter hosted a weekly series of music programs on WBFO-FM, the local public radio station. He successfully brought Lou Harrison, the then-controversial American composer, to the Albright Knox for a stunning evening of talk and music. He continued to lecture as professor in the music department after retiring from the chairmanship. He passed away from a heart attack in Buffalo, in 1976.

Additional Suggested Readings

Buffalo State logo
E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State
1300 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878 6300
Fax: (716) 878-3134