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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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Ruth Steiner, 1931-2019

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 4, 2019

Ruth Steiner (née Piette), Professor Emerita of Music at Catholic University of America (CUA), died on 22 February 2019 at the Collington Continuing Care Retirement Community in metropolitan Washington, D.C. area after a long illness. Born in Oak Park, IL on 2 February 1931, she studied with Jan LaRue and Hubert Lamb at Wellesley College, MA, receiving her B.A. in 1952. After working with Gustav Reese at the Manhattan School of Music from 1952 to 1953, she began graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, earning an M.A. in 1957. She completed a Ph.D. at the Catholic University of America in 1963, where she then taught and served on the faculty from 1966 until 2000.


Steiner attended her first AMS Annual Meeting in Santa Monica in 1957. She wrote in “Wish 61” from the AMS’s 75 Birthday Wishes, “What happened in Santa Monica was that I fell in love, not with any particular individual (at least no one I can remember clearly) but with the whole idea of the AMS” (see Her AMS service began with the Board of Directors (1977–78) and the Program Committee (1982, 1991), and continued with three terms as Secretary of the Society (1983–88). During a period of transition in 1994, Steiner served briefly as Executive Director.


Steiner’s main areas of scholarship were groups of chant in the Sarum and Gregorian rites, with an emphasis on the responsories, prosulae, differentiae, and invitatory tones of Gregorian chant. She was internationally known as a specialist on the chants of the Divine Office. She served as Chair of the International Musicological Society Study Group ‘Cantus Planus,’ on the editorial boards of JAMS, the Journal of Musicology, and Plainsong and Medieval Music, and was an active member of the Medieval Academy of America. Perhaps her most significant contribution to the study of early music began in 1987, before “online” existed, when she obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to start what has become the Cantus Manuscript Database. This searchable index of chant manuscripts, now including images, has enabled scholars around the world to carry out research right from their own desks; the Cantus Database has transformed the study of liturgical chant and influenced the development of the discipline now known as the Digital Humanities. In the words of one of her colleagues in musicology, Grayson Wagstaff, former Dean of Music at Catholic University, “Many of us have wonderful ideas, but Ruth created a new world.”


A recipient of many honors, Steiner received The Catholic University of America Alumni Achievement Award in 1994. A series of grants from the NEH allowed her to welcome scholars from many disciplines to CUA for summer study, and with grants from the Dom Mocquereau Foundation, she was able to build an exceptional microfilm collection for the study of the medieval Office. With her creativity and imagination, she nurtured a generation of scholars, training them in manuscript study while demonstrating the vital importance of developing new tools for the exploration of the manuscript sources she had mastered, as well as providing a professional and ethical model of how to be a scholar.


Steiner’s numerous publications include several JAMS articles, some reprinted in her book, Studies in Gregorian Chant (Routledge, 1999). A Festschrift in her honor, The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages (Oxford, 2000), was edited by Margot E. Fassler and Rebecca A. Baltzer and includes contributions from principal figures in medieval liturgical chant research.  This volume immediately became an indispensable resource for the study of the liturgical Office and attests to the impact that Steiner’s Cantus Project and investment in the medieval Office in general has had on medieval chant research.

Debra Lacoste (assisted by Barbara Haggh-Huglo, Bob Judd, and Jon Steiner)

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Alejandro Enrique Planchart

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Alejandro Enrique Planchart (1935–2019)

Musicologist Alejandro Enrique Planchart, Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was an original—brilliant, tireless, exuberant, and colorful. He died in Santa Barbara on 28 April 2019 at age 83.

Born into a cultured and musical family in Caracas, Venezuela, Planchart made his home for more than six decades in the United States while never abandoning his roots. He earned his Mus.B. (1958) and Mus.M. (1960) at Yale, studying with Hindemith, and pursued his Ph.D. (1971) in musicology at Harvard. Planchart’s bicoastal career brought him to Santa Barbara, where he taught from 1976 until his retirement in 2002. He had taught previously at Yale (1967–75) and the University of Victoria (1975–76) and served visiting stints at Brandeis (1982–83) and Harvard (1989–90).

A lifelong musician, Planchart sang, played piano and harpsichord, and composed vocal and instrumental works. At a time when medieval and Renaissance vocal music was largely inaccessible, Planchart brought this repertoire to life through his editions and recordings and by involving students at Yale and Santa Barbara in his ensemble Capella Cordina. Many trace an enduring love of early music to this memorable experience.

The bookends of Planchart’s musicological work coincide with the beginning of the high middle ages and the birth of the Renaissance, though he made forays into the music of Morales, Tartini, Mozart, and the Beatles. In The Repertory of Tropes at Winchester (Princeton University Press, 1977), Planchart set the standard by cataloguing and analyzing this eleventh-century music within its historical context. At the other end of his oeuvre stands his magnum opus, Guillaume Du Fay: The Life and Works (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Like the fifteenth-century master, Planchart moved peripatetically between North and South in researching this book. Along the way, he produced scores of articles on Du Fay and his contemporaries, and on musical works, institutions, and performance. A consummate master of the vast cahiers of the Archives du Nord in Lille and the Vatican Library, he wore this learning lightly, sharing freely with colleagues and spearheading dissertations.

Tropes remained a preoccupation for Planchart. He penned articles on Italian collections and, with John Boe, edited the thirteen-volume Beneventanum Troporum Corpus (A-R Editions). Troping was also a metaphor for his teaching. Anyone delivering a paper who caught sight of Planchart in the audience knew he would bound to the microphone afterward and expand on a word or phrase with intelligence and insight. Planchart educated not by preaching, but through patient nudging.

Planchart’s legendary prowess as a raconteur also influenced his scholarship. From his account of a childhood piano lesson with Rachmaninoff to his evocative nicknames (“Winnie the Trope”) and spot-on wordplay (“tenors with ‘tin ears’”), he delighted listeners while aptly encapsulating ideas. His penchant for story-telling is evident in his writing, which strove to expose the humanity of the actors and the pulse of events. By the time his masterwork on Du Fay appeared, Planchart and the composer, it seemed, were old friends.

Planchart garnered many accolades for his scholarship, including the Howard Mayer Brown Award of Early Music America (2006) and the Medal of the City of Tours (Loire) and the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (2013). An honorary member of the AMS, he died only days before he could learn of yet another award: the British Academy’s prestigious Derek Allen Prize for lifetime achievement.

Planchart’s penetrating research, his magnanimity toward colleagues, and his outsized role in championing early music helped shape our entire discipline. With one slight emendation, the envoi that Planchart crafted for Du Fay, borrowing from Compère’s motet Omnium bonorum plena, captures the demise of his luminous presence:

Luna totius music[ologi]ae…has set.”[1]

—Anne Walters Robertson


[1] “The moon of all music[ology]…has set;” cf. Planchart, Guillaume Du Fay, I: 314.


Alejandro Planchart

Alejandro Planchart (2013)

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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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