Born: June 25, 1892, St. Joseph, Missouri.
Died: April 20, 1980, Littleton, Massachusetts.
Buried: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.
Katherine was the daughter of Maxwell Gaddis Davis and Jessie F. Barton.
She wrote her first composition, Shadow March, at age 15.
She graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1910, and studied music at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. After graduation, she continued at Wellesley as an assistant in the Music Department, teaching music theory and piano.
At the same time, she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Davis also studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and taught music at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts, and at the Shady Hill School for Girls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Many of her over 600 compositions were written for the choirs at her school. She is probably best remembered for her Christmas piece The Little Drummer Boy.
Originally titled The Carol of the Drum, she wrote it in 1941, and the Harry Simeone Chorale recorded it in 1958. Davis didn’t know of the recording until she heard it on the radio in December 1959.
Davis belonged to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and received an honorary doctorate from Stetson University, DeLand, Florida. She left all the royalties and proceeds from her compositions, which include operas, choruses, children’s operettas, cantatas, piano and organ pieces, and songs, to Wellesley College’s Music Department, where the funds support musical instrument instruction.