Wisconsin Music Archives, Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Charles H. Mills Collection

(ca. 1900–1937)

Return to Papers and Manuscripts

Books and scores from the personal library of Mills can be found via MadCat


The Mills Collection includes materials from the estate of Charles Mills, former director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music. It includes books, scores and published editions of his works, three letters, and many musical manuscripts. These manuscripts, which make up the bulk of the collection, are in most instances incomplete workings of sections of his compositions or exercises in fugue and counterpoint writing. The collection also includes musical examples of counterpoint prepared by Mills and taken from a number of texts which are listed in the bibliography preceding the inventory. There are also numerous loose sheets of manuscript which have not been specifically identified.

Many of the compositions and exercises have been critiqued and commented on by Cuthbert Harris, who appears to have had a significant influence on Mills’s work for many years and who helped prepare Mills for his doctoral examination. This relationship was through correspondence, with Harris remaining in England, and some of the manuscripts have notes on them from Mills to Harris and vice versa. Mills was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and Harris’s book Examination Questions was written particularly for students preparing for fellowship there; this may be the connecting link which began Harris’s apparent long-time tutelage of Mills.


Photo of Charles H. Mills.

Charles Henry Mills was born January 29, 1873 in Nottingham, England. He attended the Guildhall School of Music in London, and then was a private pupil of Ebenezer Prout, with whom he studied the history and theory of music; F. Neick, under whom he studied the organ; and A.L. Pierce. In 1892–93, Mills made a concert tour of the United States as a pianist. Between 1894 and 1907, he was the organist for various churches in England, Wales, and Scotland. He was conductor of the Aberdeen Operatic Society from 1898 to 1900, and in 1908 was appointed city organist of Aberdeen. Mills was also the borough organist of Salford, Manchester, from 1907–8. He received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1904 from the University of Edinburgh, where he was a medalist, and a doctorate in music from McGill University in Montreal, Canada in 1911.

Mills came to the United States in 1907 as professor of the history and theory of music at Syracuse University in New York. In 1908, he accepted the position of professor of music and director of the School of Music at the University of Illinois, where he would remain until 1914. Also in 1908, he married Caroline Louise Bell Miller of Edinburgh, Scotland. They would later have a son, Dr. Charles Selby Mills.

From 1914 until his death in 1937, Charles Mills was a professor of music and the director of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin. One of his most noted accomplishments there was “the Wisconsin plan” which provided for the acceptance of music courses for entrance credit by the University of Wisconsin on an equal basis with recognized academic subjects. The high standards Mills set as a basis for granting this increase in entrance credits for music were credited with greatly increasing the quality of public school music education, and the “Wisconsin plan” served as an example for other states to follow.

Mills also elevated the level of music study at the University of Wisconsin. When he came to Wisconsin, the School of Music offered only a two-year course leading to a certificate. During his tenure here, it became a four-year course leading to a Bachelor’s degree, and Master’s and Doctoral programs were introduced. One of Mills’s last public appearances was at the 1937 commencement exercises, where he escorted his first Ph.D. candidate, Robert A. Sromovsky. The program was shifted from a conservatory-type course to a broader educational program in which nearly half the credits earned by graduates were in subjects outside of music including English, History and languages. Mills believed that it was important for musicians to be well-rounded individuals.

Mills was an accomplished pianist and organist, and a composer of choral and instrumental works. His best-known works include a Magnificat in F for chorus and soli, a musical setting for Dryden’s Ode to St. Cecilia for double chorus, soli and full orchestra, Festival Overture in E for full orchestra, The Wreck of the Hesperus, and incidental music to Aristophanes’ Clouds and to The Masque of the Golden Scroll. He designed a number of organs in Madison, including a four-manual concert organ at Music Hall, a three-manual concert organ for the Masonic Temple Auditorium and an organ for one of the smaller lodge rooms there, and organs for Calvary Luther and St. Andrew’s Episcopol churches.

Mills was an Associate of the Royal College of Music (1898) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (1905). He was a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists and dean of its Wisconsin chapter at the time of his death. During his career, he served as president of the Wisconsin Music Teachers’ Association, the Association of Midwestern University Schools of the Music (the first president of that association), and the Association of Music Schools of State Universities. He was a member of the executive committee of the Music Teachers’ National Association, and was also a member of the Music Supervisors' National Conference, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.


  • Baker, Theodore. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 4th revised and enlarged ed. New York: G. Schirmer, 1940.
  • Saerchinger, Cesar, ed., International Who’s Who in Music and Musical Gazetteer. First ed. New York: Current Literature Pub. Co., 1918.
  • Folder of clippings at University Archives including articles from the Wisconsin State Journal, the Capital Times and the New York Times.


3 flat archival boxes (one linear foot)

Box 1

Folder 1: Description

Folder 2: Article, poems, letters

Folder 3: Masque of the golden scroll

Folder 4: Ode to St. Cecilia

Folder 5: Awake, Sweet Rose

Folder 6: Published works

Folder 7: Fugue and counterpoint examples, 1

Folder 8: Fugue and counterpoint examples, 2

Box 2

Folder 1: Notebook of music sketches

Folder 2: Wreck of the Hesperus

Folder 3: Battle of Jury

Folder 4: Come Holy Ghost = Veni Creator spritus

Folder 5: Come tell me

Folder 6: Fear no more the heat of the sun

Folder 7: Festival overture in E

Folder 8: Fugue for 8 voices

Folder 9: Fugue for organ

Folder 10: If thou art sleeping

Folder 11: Kelma

Folder 12: Life, symphonic poem

Folder 13: Magnificat in F

Folder 14: Norwegian love song

Folder 15: Serenade

Folder 16: Were I to be a rose

Folder 17: Whoso dwelleth under the defense of the most high

Folder 18: Unidentified sketches for chorus

Box 3

Folder 1: Notes on fugal writing

Folder 2: English madrigal singing

Folder 3: Motet sketches

Folder 4: Counterpoint examples

Folder 5: Misc. compositions

Folder 6: Misc. compositions, sketches, exercises

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Last update on 22 December 2010
Wisconsin Music Archives.  Phone: 608-263-1884, Email: askmusic@library.wisc.edu, Fax: 608-265-2754, Address: Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin--Madison, B162 Memorial Library, 728 State Street, Madison, WI 53706-1494