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The American Musical Instrument Society


The Curt Sachs Award 2016

John Koster

John Koster
John Koster

The award was presented to Koster on May 21, 2016, during the society's annual meeting in Vermillion, South Dakota, "in recognition of his contributions to the study, restoration, and construction of the harpsichord and early piano, his many articles and books, including those for which he was awarded the Society's Bessaraboff Prize and Densmore Prize, his years of service to the National Musical Instrument Museum, and his dedication to the teaching of organology."

John Koster, born in upstate New York in 1950, began his musical career at the age of nine as a chorister at Saint Thomas Choir School in New York. He studied music history at Harvard College, where his teachers in musicology included John Ward, Nino Pirrotta, Anthony Newcomb, and Gustav Leonhardt. After receiving in 1971 the A.B. with Honors in Music for his thesis on fifteenth-century musica ficta, he was for many years a professional harpsichord maker in the Boston area, where he also took care of the historical keyboard instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1990–1991 he held an Andrew W. Mellon Senior Fellowship to do research in the musical instrument department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. From 1991 to 2015 he was Professor of Music, Conservator, and Curator of Keyboard Instruments at the National Music Museum, the University of South Dakota. Under his curatorship the Museum acquired nearly fifty keyboard instruments from the early sixteenth century to the mid-nineteenth to become one of the world’s finest and most diverse collections of historical harpsichords, clavichords, and early pianos. Koster was also centrally involved in teaching and administering the University’s program for the Master of Music degree with specialization in the history of musical instruments. He has lectured widely and published extensively on organological and musicological topics. For his book, Keyboard Musical Instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1994), the first comprehensive catalogue of its kind in English, he received the AMIS’s Bessaraboff Prize, followed by the Densmore Prize for his 2011 article “A Harpsichord by Diego Fernández?” (Galpin Society Journal, 2011). After his recent retirement from the National Music Museum and return to New England, Koster continues to be active as a scholar with principal research interests in the history of musical instruments, especially harpsichords and other early keyboards, and in relating instruments to their larger context in the histories of music, art, and technology.

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