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The Society recognizes the accomplishments of members who have died by printing obituaries in this place. They will normally be no more than 500 words and will focus on music-related activities such as teaching, research, publications, grants, and service to the Society. The Society requests that colleagues, friends, or family of a deceased member who wish to see him or her recognized by an obituary communicate that desire to the AMS office ( The Committee on Obituaries oversees the process.


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James Haar

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 16, 2019

James Haar (1929–2018)

James Haar died on 15 September 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri, the city of his birth. He was one of the foremost musicologists of his generation, and was a productive scholar, dedicated teacher, and devoted AMS member over a career spanning more than six decades.

Haar earned his B.A. at Harvard University in 1950 with an honors thesis on Frescobaldi’s keyboard music. He completed the M.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a thesis on parody technique in Josquin’s masses under the supervision of Glen Haydon (1954). His Harvard Ph.D. dissertation, “Musica mundana: Variations on a Pythagorean theme” (1961), was prepared under the guidance of John Ward and Nino Pirrotta. At Harvard he served in a variety of teaching capacities before going to the University of Pennsylvania (1967–69) and New York University (1969–77), where he chaired the Music Department. In 1978 he was appointed W. R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a position he held until his retirement in 1997. Until 2008 Haar continued to teach courses as a visiting scholar and to serve on dissertation committees. In 2009 he gave his last AMS Annual Meeting presentation, forty-nine years after his first.

His AMS service began in 1966 with a term as JAMS Editor-in-Chief. He was elected Vice President in 1973 and President in 1977, and also served for more than forty years on AMS committees, among them Publications, Finance, AMS 50, COPAM, and Kinkeldey. Few corners of the AMS have not benefited from his efforts and influence. In 1995 he was elected an Honorary Member. In 1987, he was honored with election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The majority of Haar’s scholarship focused on the madrigal, a topic in which he had few peers. Approaching the subject as a series of case studies, each new article or essay illuminated another problem, the solution of which added to our understanding of the whole. His essays remain relevant today, serving as models of meticulous scholarly practice. In addition to his own publications, he was a Senior Consulting Editor for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), and served on many other editorial boards. He continued to publish into his final years, with his last (co-authored) essays appearing in 2017.

Haar’s teaching mirrored his scholarship, with high expectations of his students. He oversaw nearly thirty dissertations on topics ranging from medieval and Renaissance source studies to early Baroque violin music, Mannheim opera, Beethoven, and Richard Strauss. Always generous with his time, he was equally generous with his home, and frequently hosted parties with students and colleagues. A visit to Haar’s residence was not complete without a tour of the garden, one of his favorite non-musical activities, and the high point of any party was watching him play four-hand piano with his students. He was the embodiment of the word “professor,” and will be greatly missed.

—Scott Warfield

First published in the Feb. 2019 AMS Newsletter, p. 30.

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Anthony Newcomb

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 16, 2019

Anthony Newcomb (1941–2018)

Anthony Newcomb, musicologist and longtime University of California, Berkeley faculty member, died at home in Berkeley, California on 18 November 2018, age 77. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Philips Exeter Academy (1955–58), Stanford University (1958–59), the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. in music, english, and economics, 1962), and Princeton University (Ph.D. in musicology, 1969). Prior to graduate work at Princeton, he studied harpsichord and organ with Gustave Leonhardt in Amsterdam as a Fulbright scholar. At Princeton he studied with Lewis Lockwood, Arthur Mendel, and Oliver Strunk. From 1968 to 1973 he served as instructor and assistant professor at Harvard University; in 1973 he joined the music faculty at the University of California Berkeley, where he remained until his retirement in 2005. He received the University of California, Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1989 and served as Dean of Humanities from 1990 to 1998, after which he also served as chair of the Departments of Art History (2000–02) and Music (2003–05). In 2005 he was appointed Gladyce Arata Terrill Distinguished Professor in Music and Italian Studies, elected to the Berkeley Fellows society in 2007, and elected an AMS Honorary Member in 2009.

Tony initially trained with an eye to becoming an organist and conductor, starting with French conservatory-style musicianship lessons with Darius Milhaud in Oakland in the early 1950s and serving as first chorister at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. After a year of keyboard study in Amsterdam and European travels (1962–63) he was persuaded to study musicology at Princeton. At the suggestion of harpsichordist-scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick, Tony investigated the early musical influences on Girolamo Frescobaldi at the court of Alfonso II d’Este in late sixteenthcentury Ferrara. (Research visits in Bologna and Modena in the late 1960s and early ’70s also led to a part-time career in the wineimporting business in California.) His dissertation and subsequent two-volume study The Madrigal at Ferrara 1579–1597 (Princeton University Press, 1980) drew on a richly detailed 1594 correspondence from Este courtier and musician Alfonso Fontanelli to Duke Alfonso II. Like many of his generation, Tony migrated into more modern repertories after first proving himself in Renaissance scholarship. Studies of formal process as generating levels of meaning and expression in the music of Wagner reflected the early influence of Carl Dahlhaus on American musicology, and interest in aesthetics and critical interpretation led to innovative work on ideas of musical “narratology” in Schumann and Mahler in the later 1980s and early 1990s.

In addition to extensive university service throughout his time at the University of California, Berkeley, Tony served on numerous American Musicological Society committees, the Board of Directors, the JAMS editorial board, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal from 1986 to 1989. In 1992 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. During his last two decades Tony returned to his original field of the late Renaissance Italian madrigal with complete, extensively annotated editions of the works of Alfonso Fontanelli, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, and Giovanni Maria Nanino (the latter with Christina Boenicke) published by A-R Editions between 1998 and 2018. An article on Nanino and the “new Roman style” of the 1580s will appear posthumously this year in The Journal of Musicology.

—Thomas Grey

First published in the Feb. 2019 AMS Newsletter, p. 30.

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Donna S. Parsons

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 16, 2019

Donna S. Parsons (1966–2018)

Donna S. Parsons, a native Iowan and lecturer in popular music at the University of Iowa, died on 17 May 2018 after a short illness. She earned the B.M., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, the last degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in music literature. She completed her dissertation, “Their Voices Sing True and Clear: British Women Musicians and their Literary Counterparts, 1860–1920,” in 2001.

Following that dissertation, a major focus of her University of Iowa work stemmed from teaching a class devoted to The Beatles, one she taught many times. She published a number of articles and reviews on music and Victorian literature in Victorian Studies and other journals, and taught several courses in the University of Iowa’s School of Music and the University Honors Program. She received the university’s Honors Program Teaching Award in 2013.

This obituary first appeared in the February 2019 AMS Newsletter, p. 30.

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