Philip Greeley Clapp was born in Boston on August 4, 1888. His mother, Florence Greeley Clapp, and his aunt, Mary Greeley James, were his first music teachers of piano. At age 11 he began to study composition under the dean of the Boston University Music Department, John P. Marshall. He continued his education at Harvard, earning his B.A. in 1908, and M.A. in 1909, while studying under Dr. Karl Muck, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During 1909-1911, Clapp studied in Germany under a Harvard fellowship, and took his Ph.D. in 1911. Dr. Clapp taught at Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and other colleges for the next seven years, before joining the faculty at the University of Iowa.
At Iowa, he continued as a composer, and conducted the University Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was hired to organize an official music department, because such instruction had been private since 1906. Associated with the University of Iowa as a professor and department head since September 1919, Dr. Clapp became director of the School of Music in 1932, a position he held until his retirement on July 1, 1953. Philip Greeley Clapp died of a heart attack on April 9, 1954. During his 35 years of guidance, the University of Iowa School of Music gained a reputation that attracted students from across the nation, largely for the varied experience, and due to the opportunity of graduate study, which was developed by Dr. Clapp. The University of Iowa Clapp Recital Hall was named in his honor in 1971.