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About the AMS

The American Musicological Society exists to expand understanding of music and sound through research, teaching, learning, and advocacy. To realize its mission, the Society fosters new work through a range of grants, fellowships, publication subventions, and awards; encourages exchange through publications, meetings, performances, lectures, and other public programs; and supports the professional lives of its members and constituents through workshops, mentoring, discussion forums, and other resources. As a guiding principle, the AMS promotes equity, access, and inclusion.

The American Musicological Society was founded in 1934 as a non-profit organization to advance "research in the various fields of music as a branch of learning and scholarship," a mission that has since evolved to include teaching and learning about music in addition to research. In 1951 the Society became a constituent member of the American Council of Learned Societies. At present, 3,500 individual members and 1,000 institutional subscribers from forty nations are on the rolls of the Society.

The Society is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by the membership at large, consisting of six directors-at-large and five officers. An elected Council of sixty regular members and thirty student members advises the Board of Directors concerning the general policies of the Society. Within the framework of the Society are fifteen chapters, geographically circumscribed divisions covering all of the U.S. and Canada. The chapters hold meetings, at such time and place as determined by their elected officers, to bring the activity of the Society to the local level and make participation in the affairs and concerns of the discipline available to all.

To fulfill its declared purpose and to create a community of scholars, the AMS conducts a variety of enterprises. From the very beginning the Society has held annual meetings; these run from Thursday afternoon to Sunday noon on a weekend near the beginning of November. Concurrent sessions to accommodate the reading of about two hundred papers form the core of the meetings, which also include study sessions, panel discussions, and forums on a variety of topics. Concerts, exhibits, and social and business functions engage the time and interests of members beyond the scholarly sessions. The meetings are held in metropolitan centers from coast to coast in both the U.S. and Canada. Depending on the site of the meeting, attendance varies from 1,200 to over 2,000. Abstracts of papers read are available for all in attendance and are available for sale after the meetings. They are also available online.

In addition to its formal association with the American Council of Learned Societies, the AMS cooperates with the International Musicological Society, the Music Library Association, the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for American Music, and the College Music Society in undertakings of common interest. Joint meetings with one or more of these societies are held from time to time.

In 1948 the Journal of the American Musicological Society was established, superseding earlier bulletins and papers read at annual meetings. It is published three times a year and contains articles, book reviews, and scholarly communications. By giving permanent form to the best in musicological research, the journal makes manifest the growth and vitality of the profession and reflects the scholarly interests of members.

A Newsletter, published in February and August, began to be issued regularly in 1971. It contains announcements, reports, a list of papers read at chapter meetings, obituaries, the program for the annual meeting, and sundry items of interest to the community.

The AMS Directory is an annual publication. In addition to the names and addresses of all current members and institutional subscribers, it includes the By-Laws of the Society as well as lists of governing personnel, honorary and corresponding members, past presidents, current committees, guidelines for award and fellowship competitions, and the Society's Guidelines for Ethical Conduct. (All this information is also maintained at this web site.)

Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology, a published list of dissertations in progress and completed at institutions worldwide, reached its eighth accumulation in 1996. The comprehensive index, regularly updated, is available online and has proven to be one of the most popular services the society provides.

Music of the United States of America (MUSA) is an extensive series of music editions sponsored by the American Musicological Society and funded through the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Michigan's Institute for American Music. Its offices are located at the University of Michigan. Twenty-five of the projected forty volumes are currently available.

Bequests from Manfred Bukofzer, Otto Kinkeldey, Gustave Reese, Dragan Plamenac, Paul Pisk, and Lloyd Hibberd formed the nucleus of an endowment fund established in 1971 to support the publication of books and editions of music. These have in some cases been published and distributed by the Society, but are more often supported by subventions to university and commercial presses. The Society has supported the publication of hundreds of books over the years, and currently spends about $100,000 per year on this initiative.

On the occasion of the Society's fiftieth anniversary in 1984, the Society launched a campaign to raise funds to endow one-year fellowships awarded to doctoral candidates in the dissertation-writing year of their education. As a result, the AMS currently funds three Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Fellows annually.

Although the anniversary celebration quite properly looked to the future, the past was documented in a booklet, The American Musicological Society 1934-1984. This contains an anniversary essay on the founding and early history of the Society and is followed by lists of officers and board members, winners of awards, editors of the journal, and honorary and corresponding members.

In 2005, the Society launched a capital campaign with the goal of raising endowment funds to support its many activities: Opening Paths to Unlimited Scholarship, or OPUS. It drew to a close in 2009 with the achievement of $2.2 million in additional endowment funds. Its success was ensured by leading grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The funds have been allocated to

  • Grants to assist scholars in their research needs
  • Awards for outstanding scholarship
  • Fellowships for graduate students
  • Additional publication support, including the AMS 75 PAYS subvention program

Recent Society developments have tended more and more toward reaching a broader audience. Initiatives include

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The office of the Society is located on the campus of New York University (as of June 30, 2016) in New York, New York.

Interim Executive Director Siovahn Walker and two co-workers support hundreds of volunteers to accomplish the Society's many activities.