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Composer, conductor, educator, and flutist David Van Vactor (1906-1994) came to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1947 to serve as head of the newly-created Department of Fine Arts, and to take up the baton as the third conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra until 1972, taught at UT until his retirement in 1976, and continued to compose until his death in 1994.

Before coming to Knoxville, Van Vactor served as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chamber Orchestra, assistant conductor of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra, and guest conductor for, among others, the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and the orchestras of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Santiago, Chile. Renowned as a conductor and highly-respected as an educator, Van Vactor was also known internationally as a composer. His works have been performed around the world; many debuted in Knoxville.

The David Van Vactor Music Collection includes multiple drafts and final versions of compositions from all eras of Van Vactor’s long career. Successive drafts allow researchers to study Van Vactor’s process of composition, from writing and revising to working with his transcriptionist and publisher.