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The American Musical Instrument Society


The Curt Sachs Award 2006

Edward L. Kottick

Edward L. KottickAlthough I have resided in Iowa City for more than 35 years, I'm really a transplanted Easterner. I was born in Jersey City, NJ, in 1930, and was brought up in Brooklyn, NY, where I studied the trombone. I later became a music major at NYU. Following two years in the army, where I conducted a band, I went to New Orleans, LA, to play in the symphony; but after a few years of that I decided to go to graduate school at Tulane University, where I was introduced to musicology and renaissance music. The combination made a deep impression on me, and after my MA I went to the University of North Carolina for my PhD. (It was there that I saw my first kit harpsichord.) I continued to play the trombone, which helped support my wife and two daughters, but by this time I had become a dedicated musicologist. After a series of teaching posts around the midwest I ended up at the University of Iowa, where I have happily remained ever since. I ran the collegium musicum at Iowa for many years, and also played recorder in a baroque trio ensemble. I retired from teaching in 1992.

My scholarly interests gradually turned away from the renaissance and toward performance practices and organology (the study of musical instruments). My interest in the harpsichord also grew, and I started building instruments from Zuckermann kits on commission. At the same time I began to develop a practical, scholarly, and acoustical interest in the instrument, as can be seen from my publications. I've been an agent for Zuckermann Harpsichords for more years than I can remember, and it's an association I've always enjoyed. Recently I've increased my involvement with the company. I now write the construction manuals for the kits, and I do the technical support for them. I also design new instruments for ZHI. My wife Gloria, who worked as a concert manager before she retired, is a fierce harpsichord tester. No instrument leaves my shop without her OK. She also has an unerring eye, and nothing leaves my computer without her proof reading (or if it does I usually regret it). Our older daughter Judy is a psychotherapist. Until recently, she ran the counseling program for a major fertility clinic in New Jersey. She now has a private practice as a consultant in the fertility field. Janet, our younger, after many years of toiling in the corporate world, now runs her own public relations firm in Kansas City, MO.  We have five grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. I used to say that none of them seemed to be interested in musicology or harpsichords; but my oldest grandson, Andrew (Drew) who recently graduated from The University of Iowa with a double major in art and computer science, and who now runs his own graphics design business in Iowa City, has recently joined me in my shop.  Drew says it's a pity that no one in the family seemed interested in learning my building skills, and he wants to do that.  It's a pleasure having him work along side me a few evenings a week. My publications deal with Renaissance music, early keyboard instruments, performance practice, and acoustics. My best-known book, published in 1987 and reissued in paperback in 1992, is The Harpsichord Owner's Guide: A Manual for Buyers and Owners. My next-to-last book, written with George Lucktenberg, Early Keyboard Instruments in European Museums, appeared in 1997. I recently finished writing A History of the Harpsichord --my magnum opus--which was released in May, 2003. I'm still an active builder, with more than eighty bowed, plucked and keyboard instruments under my belt (although these days I limit my building to string keyboards).

Biography courtesy of

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