Shirley Meyer Blankenship Music and Papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Subject Terms

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Personal Papers

Audio Recordings

Sunshine Dinner Playhouse Theatre Production Photographs

Guido Sinclair Music and Papers

Shirley Blankeship Computer Files

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Finding Aid for Shirley Meyer Blankenship Music and Papers, 1950-2016 | The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music

By Inka Alasade, Justin Carver, Ilona Matkovszki, Eleanor Tewksbury, Noah Lenstra, Carol Berthold, Thornton Miller, Nolan Vallier

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Collection Overview

Title: Shirley Meyer Blankenship Music and Papers, 1950-2016Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

ID: 12/5/53

Primary Creator: Blankenship, Shirley (1938-)

Extent: 14.5 cubic feet

Arrangement: Organized into five series: Series 1) Personal Papers, ca.1900-2009, Series 2) Audio Recordings, 1953-2015, Series 3) Sunshine Dinner Playhouse Theatre Production Photographs, 1995-1997, Series 4) Guido Sinclair Music and Papers, 1958-2005, and Series 5) Shirley Blankenship Computer Files, ca. 1950-2016. Series 1 is arranged chronologically. Series 2 is arranged in two different methods by date of acquistion: materials received in 2009 are arranged by a system of Roman numerals given to each recording by Shirley Blankenship and materials received in 2016 are arranged alphabetically based on their original order. Series 3 is arranged alphabetically by the title of the production. Series 4 contains two sub series based on the primary creator of the material: Sub-Series 1) Guido Sinclair Papers and Music and Sub-Series 2) Shirley Blankenship's Guido Sinclair Legancies. Each sub-series is arranged chronologically. Series 5 is arranged into three subseries based on the bulk of material found within each set of files: Sub-Series 1) Personal Files, Sub-Series 2) Audio Files, and Sub-Series 3) Shirley Blankenship's Guido Sinclair Legacy Files. Each of the sub-series in Series 5 is arranged alphabetically by title.

Date Acquired: 12/04/2009. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Adams County, Illinois, Champaign County, Illinois, Compositions-Music, Harps, Jazz, Music, School of, Music -- Indonesia, Music Composition, Piano, Quincy, Illinois, Theatrical Productions, Violin

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Consists of scrapbooks, reel-to-reel audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, sheet music, photographs, correspondence, posters and concert programs documenting Dr. Shirley Meyer Blankenship's career as a music student at the University of Illinois, a harpist, violinist, pianist, composer, theater performer, private music instructor, and University of Illinois School of Music faculty member between 1972 and 1981. Of special note are original compositions based on the music of her former husband and jazz musician, Guido Sinclair (1935-1992), as well as graphic illustrations, concert posters, jazz recordings, and Sinclair's original compositions. Materials in Series 4, Sub-Series 1 represent materials created by Guido Sinclair and donated by Shirley Blankenship to the archives. The Music and Papers were partially digitized by Dr. Blankenship prior to being acquired by the University of Illinois. A small but selected sample of images and recordings are included online.

Biographical Note

Shirley Meyer Blankenship is a music educator, composer, pianist, harpist, and violinist. She was born in Decatur, Illinois, in 1938 and graduated from the Notre Dame Conservatory of Music (Quincy, IL) in 1955 and Quincy Senior High School in 1956. As a teenager, she was awarded the title Miss Quincy. She received a BM in piano performance with a minor in violin from the University of Illinois in 1961. She continued her training in piano performance at Washington University in St. Louis receiving a Master of Music in 1966. She then returned to the University of Illinois to begin a Master of Music Theory degree and taught Music Theory as a graduate teaching assistant. She earned her second graduate degree in 1969 and eventually taught harp and music theory at the University of Illinois between 1972 and 1981. In 1977, she became the first woman to receive a Doctorate degree in music composition from the University of Illinois. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Dr. Blankenship performed on harp with the Squareknot Quartet, a group which included such members as Dorothy Martirano on violin. In the mid 1980s, Dr. Blankenship organized an arts exchange between the Squareknot Quartet and the country of Indonesia. At this time, Dr. Blankenship also married Guido Sinclair, a Jazz musician who played saxophone and performed regualarly at jazz venues in both Champaign and Chicago. Between 1988 and 1992, she began performing with Sinclair on violin, harp, and piano at several local bars and restaurants including Nature's Table. Dr. Blankenship was instrumental in promoting Sinclair's music after his death in 1992 and arranged, published, and performed several of his compositions. Around this time she began the Artist in Motion series, which held concerts at several area clubs including Chester Street. From the mid 1990s to the 2010s Dr. Blankenship began working on her Harp Legacy Project, in which several contemporary composers created compositions for her to perform and record. From this project she has created a number of harp webinars and articles on composing for the instrument.

During her teaching career, Dr. Blankenship has been an instructor of harp, piano, violin, viola, composition, music theory and other subjects at the University level. Her appointments include: Washington University in St. Louis; MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois; Quincy College; Lindenwood Colleges in St. Charles, Missouri; Hardin (formerly Jefferson) Junior High, St. Charles, Missouri; Olivet Nazarene University, Kankakee; and the University of Illinois. As a violinist, Dr. Blankenship has performed with the Quincy Symphony, University of Illinois Symphony and also with the Springfield, Kankakee and Danville Symphonies. She has been the harpist for the Decatur Symphony and was the principal harpist with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony, in which she has participated as a violinist, violist and keyboardist as well. Her theatrical career includes being the music director, accompanist and/or actress for productions at the University of Illinois, Little Theater Company and Champaign, Illinois' Sunshine Dinner Playhouse. Dr. Blankenship has contributed her performance skills to the advancement of contemporary and new music, especially for the harp. As a student at the University of Illinois, she was a member of The Contemporary Chamber Players and has been a consultant to numerous composers. Dr. Blankenship has performed and/or composed under the names of Sherilee Niles, Shirley Meyer, Shirley Ann Blankenship, Anne Jazzmin, and Gianne Sinclair.

Subject/Index Terms

Adams County, Illinois
Champaign County, Illinois
Music, School of
Music -- Indonesia
Music Composition
Quincy, Illinois
Theatrical Productions

Administrative Information

Repository: The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music


Additional materials were donated by Dr. Blankenship on July 26, 2016.

Box 21 and 22 were donated by Dr. Blankenship to the Music and Performing Arts Library and then the boxes were transferred to the Center on June 14, 2021.

Box 23 and 24 were donated by Dr. Blankenship to the Sousa Archives on November 1, 2021.

Box 25 was donated to the Sousa Archives on May 2, 2023.

Acquisition Source: Dr. Shirley Meyer Blankenship

Acquisition Method: Gift

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal Papers, ca. 1900-2017],
[Series 2: Audio Recordings, 1953-2015],
[Series 3: Sunshine Dinner Playhouse Theatre Production Photographs, 1995-1997],
[Series 4: Guido Sinclair Music and Papers, 1958-2005],
[Series 5: Shirley Blankeship Computer Files, ca. 1950-2016],

Series 3: Sunshine Dinner Playhouse Theatre Production Photographs, 1995-1997Add to your cart.
Consists of mounted color photographs of theatrical productions produced by the Sunshine Dinner Playhouse in which Blankenship was involved.  The photographs are arranged alphabetically by production title.
Box 9Add to your cart.
Folder 1: By Popular Demand: C-U Geritol Follies, August 23-27, 1995Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Memories are Made of This, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: Smoke on the Mountain, 1996Add to your cart.
Box 13Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Holiday Magic, 1996Add to your cart.
Folder 4: I Shall Not Be Moved (Gospel Music Comedy), 1997Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal Papers, ca. 1900-2017],
[Series 2: Audio Recordings, 1953-2015],
[Series 3: Sunshine Dinner Playhouse Theatre Production Photographs, 1995-1997],
[Series 4: Guido Sinclair Music and Papers, 1958-2005],
[Series 5: Shirley Blankeship Computer Files, ca. 1950-2016],

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