As the accompanist and composer to the Ted Shawn Men Dancers from its beginnings in the 1930s, Jess Meeker amassed a collection including hundreds of his original music manuscripts, formal portraits, personal snapshots, personal papers, press clippings and correspondence that trace his development as a composer as well as his professional and personal relationships to choreographer Ted Shawn, choreographer Steffi Nossen, Jacob’s Pillow visiting artists, students and staff at Jacob’s Pillow, until his death in 1997. The vast amount of original manuscript scores he produced, many with copious notations and instructions throughout, reveal his intimate involvement in the development of both Ted Shawn’s, and later Steffi Nossen’s, work. He wrote scores to accompany full-length pieces as well as shorter works geared to very specific warm ups and techniques created by Shawn and Nossen. Interspersed among his music writing folios is published sheet music by classical composers such as Bach, as well as the work of more contemporary composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another significant portion of the collection includes press clippings, interviews, publicity pieces and programs that document Meeker’s work at the Pillow and his tours with the original Men Dancers in the 1930s up to his continuous involvement at the Pillow into the 1990s. Also included are videotapes of Ted Shawn dances, copies of original footage of the Men Dancers, and videotape of The Dance in Education Fund benefit performance, Harrison, NY, April 7, 1984. There are also audio reel-to-reel recordings of Jess Meeker's music used in performance and studio accompaniment. Other materials include personal papers such as contracts and correspondence with Pillow staff as well as financial, military and educational records. The photographs in the collection comprise Jess Meeker's lifetime, from military and formal portraits, to more informal snapshots of gatherings with friends at his New York City apartment, visits to his sisters, cross country travels, and gatherings with numerous staff and dancers at Jacob’s Pillow. Jess Meeker’s framed items include signed photographs of Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, and various principal dancers. The collection also contains several books related to music composition, theory and history.
The Jess Meeker Collection is arranged into 6 series based on subject and/or format.
Series I: Music manuscripts, printed music, including “teaching folders”
Series II: Music manuscripts for the Steffi Nossen School of Dance
Series III: Photographs, personal papers, newspaper clippings, programs and a US flag
Series IV: Audio-visual materials
Series V: Framed photographs and awards
Series VI: Books
Ted Shawn Correspondence Collection, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Archives
Barton Mumaw Collection, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Archives
Ted Shawn Collection, New York Public Library
Denishawn Collection, New York Public Library