Emma Louise Ashford

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Emma Louise Ashford
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Born27 March 1850
Newark, Deleware
Died22 September 1930
CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • Organist
  • Composer
  • Music editor

Emma Louise Ashford (born Hindle) (27 March 1850 – 22 September 1930)[1] was an American organist, composer, and music editor. She edited and published both music she wrote (over 600 compositions)[2] and editions and arrangements of music by other composers. From 1894-1930 she was an editor at The Lorenz Corporation, and at its periodicals The Choir Leader and The Organist.


Emma Louise Ashford (born Emma Louise Hindle) was born in Newark, Deleware,[3] the only child of English parents. She received her first musical training at an early age from her father, James Hindle, who was a singing teacher.[4] At eight years old she was admitted to her local Episcopal Church choir as an alto. She came to be known as "the best sight reader in the choir."[5] From the choir director she also received instruction on piano and organ. In 1864, at age fourteen, her family moved to Ballard Vale, Massachusetts. Here she met and became acquainted with composer James Ramsey Murray (famous for his music to the Christmas carol Away in a Manger).[6] The following year her family moved to Connecticut, where she took the organist position at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Seymour, Connecticut. At that time she also studied piano with a Mrs. Street, and pipe organ with Dr. Anderson of St. Paul's Church, New Haven, CT.[5]

At one of her family's musical evenings, Hindle, now age seventeen, met John Ashford, a young engineer and amateur singer who had recently relocated to Connecticut from Bath, England. They married in 1867,[7] and eventually moved to Chicago, Illinois. Mrs. Ashford was chosen out of twenty-eight applicants to fill the solo alto position at St. John’s Episcopal Church, whose director was the renowned Dudley Buck.[5][4] She also became the church's organist and harmony teacher.

In 1884, the Ashfords moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where John Ashford became the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Vanderbilt University.[2] As the couple settled into their new situation, both John and Emma Ashford became very involved in the musical activities at Vanderbilt University and in Nashville. Together they lead the choirs of some of the largest churches in Nashville. She also put more energy into composing her own music. She had, from the time of her youth, studied harmony and counterpoint with a number of teachers, most notably Henri Weber and Dr. R. H. Peters, Mus.D., who noted her "deep and clear insight into things musical" and was impressed with her "intense musical temperament."[6]

In Nashville, Emma Louise Ashford was organist and choir director at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, as well as holding the same positions at the Jewish Temple. For several years she filled the organist position at various churches around Nashville, including the First Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, First Baptist, Tulip Street Methodist, and Christ Church Episcopal churches.[6] Eventually, due to health concerns,[5][8] and her increased work composing and editing, Ashford was compelled to give up all choir and organist work.

In 1890 some of Ashford's vocal music - songs, quartets and trios - was published by the John Church Company. In 1893, renowned music publisher, compiler and editor E. O. Excell began publishing Ashford's anthems, including 17 in Excell's Anthems, Volume IV (1893) and 4 more in Excell's Anthems, Volume V (1896).[9] These publications also included anthems from more than 20 other American composers. She made three trips abroad, in 1894,[10] 1897, and in 1904, studying in England with the leading masters of the time. While abroad in 1894 she spent a large part of her time studying ecclesiastical music.[11] In 1896 Ashford began publishing with The Lorenz Corporation, and in 1902 she signed an exclusive contract to publish all her music with Lorenz.[6]

In addition to her composing, she began work in 1894 as an editor for two periodicals published by the The Lorenz Corporation - The Choir Leader (Associate Editor, and eventually Editor), and The Organist — A Bimonthly Journal Devoted to the Pipe Organ and the Reed Organ (Editor).[12] Many of her anthems were published in The Choir Leader, a long-running monthly magazine for small-to-medium size church choirs. Over the years many of Ashford's organ works appeared in The Organist,[13] as well as in the numerous collections Ashford prepared for The Lorenz Corporation Company. Some of these collections contained music exclusively by Ashford; others featured music from a wide range of classic and contemporary organ composers, in addition to pieces written by Ashford specifically for each collection.


  1. "News of the Week: United States". Witness and Canadian Homestead. September 24, 1930. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Collection: Emma L. Ashford Papers | Collection Guides". collections.library.vanderbilt.edu.
  3. Swain, Joseph P. (2016). Historical Dictionary of Sacred Music. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 21. ISBN 9781442264632.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Orem, Preston Ware (1912). "A Prize Song". The Etude. Vol. 30, no. 9. Theodore Presser Co. (published September 1912). p. 628. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Hall, Jacob Henry (1914). Biographies of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. Fleming H. Revell Company. p. 289.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Gilchrist, Annie Somers (1902). Some Representative Women of Tennessee. McQuiddy Printing Company. p. 83.
  7. Adelman, Joseph (1926). Famous women: an outline of feminine achievement through the ages with life stories of five hundred noted women. John L. Rogers. p. 283.
  8. "The Twenty-fifth Anniversary". Vanderbilt Quarterly. 1 (1): 30. 1901. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  9. "Excell's Anthems". imslp.org. Retrieved 10 May 2022.
  10. Stemmermann, Nell (2014). Church's Musical Visitor, 1871–1897: Class, Nationalism, and Musical Taste (Thesis). University of Cincinnati. pp. 208–209.
  11. "Mrs. John Ashford Home". Nashville American. 30 September 1894. p. 5.
  12. Who's Who in America, Volume 12, Part 1. A.N. Marquis & Company. 1920–1921. p. 235.
  13. "The Organist (Journal)". International Music Score Library Project. Retrieved 28 April 2022.

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