Albert Ross Parsons

print this page

Albert Ross Parsons (b. September 16, 1847, Sandusky, Ohio; d. June 14, 1933, Mount Kisco, NY) was a prominent figure on the New York musical scene. Although he had no formal education after the age of twelve, he studied organ in New York as a teenager and expanded his studies to the pianoforte. When, at the age of twenty, he moved to the Liepzig Conservatory, he met Wagner, whose music and philosophy he admired. In 1892 he returned to the United States, where he taught piano and worked as an organist and composer. He opened a studio in Steinway Hall. Parsons was considered one of New York's finest piano teachers.(2)(4)

Although well known as a pianist, organist, and composer, Albert Ross Parsons concentrated his considerable skills in the field of teaching, in which he excelled to the extent that he was considered one of New York's finest piano teachers. While studying in Europe, he translated important works from German into English. Parsons' translation of Wagner's Beethoven is considered a masterpiece.(3) He learned to translate German, French, Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.

After his studies in Europe, Parsons returned to New York and opened a music studio in Steinway Hall.(4) William mentions Parsons only a few times in the Diary, as someone he met or talked with.(Diary, 1894-05-26) Parsons wrote several volumes on music and piano as well as other topics.(3)(4) He was an Egyptologist, astronomer, philosopher, and poet.

When the Metropolitan Conservatory of Music was formed in 1886 and established at 19 & 21 East 14th Street, it was initially conceived by its founders, Charles B. Hawley and Herbert W. Greene, as a vocal school.(6, p. 292) Parsons joined the faculty as a piano teacher. Other faculty members included Dudley Buck, S. B. Warren, Harry Rowe Shelley, and R. H. Woodman. In 1891, as the curriculum expanded, the Conservatory was incorporated and renamed the Metropolitan College of Music.(5)(6, p. 292) In 1900, the name was changed again to the American Institute of Applied Music (212 W. 59th Street), which included the above mentioned schools as well as the Synthetic Piano School (founded by Kate S. Chittenden in 1887) and the American Institute of Normal Methods.(6, p.114)(7)

Parsons married Alice Van Ness, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. He died at age 85 from the effects of a stroke.(4) He was a Fellow of the American College of Music.


  1. "Albert Ross Parsons," American National Biography, vol. 17, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 80-81."Albert R. Parsons," National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. II, New York: James T. White & Company, 1892, p. 495. (accessed via Google Books)
  2. "Albert Ross Parsons (Arranger)," Bach Cantatas Website (accessed 9/1/2012)
  3. "Albert R. Parsons, Musician, 85, Dead," The New York Times, June 15, 1933, p. 17.
  4. 'From Conservatory to College," The New York Times, April 9, 1891, p. 5.
  5. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: American Supplement, vol. VI, Weldo S. Pratt, ed. New York: The Macmillan Co, 1920. (accessed via Google Books)
  6. A Handbook of Private Schools, 17th ed., Boston: Porter Sargent, 1922, p. 274. (accessed via Google Books)