Charles Elliott Fouser

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Charles Elliott Fouser was an American composer and music professor, and a member of the Theosophical Society in America, along with his wife Sarah. He set Annie Besant's invocation "O Hidden Life" to music.

Title of "O Hidden Life"

Fouser taught at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois during the years 1917-1918 and 1921-1923, and also at state schools in Wayne, Nebraska; Chemey, Washington; and University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His academic career concluded at the Northern Illinois State Teachers College (predecessor to Northern Illinois University) from 1931 to 1946.

Life and career

According to the Northern Illinois University Archives,

Charles Elliott Fouser was born March 24, 1889 in Beecher, Illinois. During his early years Fouser attended the Chicago Musical College, the Northwestern School of Music, Tonghunst Academy in Munich, and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. His teachers were Louis Falk, Adolf Brune, Gustav Geierhaas, Edgar Stillman Kelley, Ernesto Consolo, Karl Keckzeh, and Herman Sagerer.

In 1917 Fouser married Sarah May Cocks. He began his notable career as a teacher of music at Northwestern University where he taught from 1917 to 1918 and from 1921 to 1923. He saw service during World War I with the 316 Field Artillery Band. Fouser was head of music departments at the State Normal Schools of Wayne, Nebraska (1920-1921) and Cheney, Washington (1923 to 1929) as well as Supervisor for the music department at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois (1929-1930).

In 1931 Charles Fouser was appointed Associate Professor of Music at Northern Illinois State Teacher's College. As a leading musician in a small department, Fouser's musical abilities contributed to the scope of the curriculum, bringing about an increase in the size of the department and increasing his influence on university life. Professor Fouser was a faculty member of the Northern Illinois State Teachers College until his death in 1946. Fouser was beloved not only at Northern, but also at the First Methodist Church in DeKalb where he was organist for the last 12 years of his life.

A brilliant composer of musical works, Charles Fouser's compositions included two symphonies, two symphonic poems, The Lord's Prayer, The Violin Concerto, A Te Deum, A Choral Eucharist, The Treasure Island Suite, and The Magnificat. In 1954 to honor his contributions in music Northern named its music library in Swen Parson Hall after Charles E. Fouser.[1]

His Prairie Symphony was performed March 1, 1942 at a concert of the Civic Orchestra of Aurora, Illinois. The American Theosophist wrote,

He will be remembered by many readers for his contributions to last year's convention program. The Symphony is described as "a work of the American idiom and is a picture of the American prairie country seen in its vastness by a traveler who set down his impressions in sound rather than paint."[2]

Theosophical Society involvement

Both Charles and his wife Sarah Cocks Fouser (September 1889 - January 1981) joined the Theosophical Society in America on October 19, 1940 as "National Members" (members-at-large). Since DeKalb is only about 42 miles from Wheaton, Illinois, they were able to attend programs at the national headquarters. Mr. Fouser composed a setting for Annie Besant's invocation "O Hidden Life."


Mr. Fouser died on October 14, 1946. His wife Sarah moved back to Kentucky, where she was born, and died in January 1981. She continued to be a member of the Theosophical Society in American until 1978, when she became nearly blind.

Additional resources


  1. "Charles Elliott Fouser", Faculty Papers UA 18, Northern Illinois University Archives.
  2. "Theosophist - Composer," The American Theosophist 30.4 (April, 1942), 95.