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Who We Are

The American Musical Instrument Society promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods.


We Are . . . 

  • Collectors

  • Performers

  • Museum professionals

  • University professors

  • Instrument builders, technicians, and restorers

  • Amateur historians

  • Academic institutions

  • Music and musical instrument lovers

What We Do

AMIS promotes the study of musical instruments and the interaction between scholars across musical disciplines. The society meets once a year for an annual meeting packed with presentations, tours, concerts, and academic lectures. Through our peer-reviewed Journal, we provide an opportunity for scholars to publish their latest work. More informally, we share research, information, and news about instruments through our Newsletter, blog, list-serve, and Facebook page. 


AMIS also celebrates the very best of musical instrument scholarship through awards for article and book length publications. The Curt Sachs award is presented to an eminent figure in the field who has dedicated their career to the study of musical instruments. 

We also support new research and young scholars through publication grants and travel awards to attend our annual meetings. 

Our History

Around 1970 an informal network of U.S.-based collectors of musical instrument decided to create an organization devoted to musical instruments. Their goal was to enable themselves and others to exchange information about instruments and collecting.


Introductory meetings in 1971 and a questionnaire mailed to potential members were followed in 1972 by a national meeting at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., during which the attendees heard lectures and performances; met informally to show, discuss, and exchange instruments; and held a business meeting where they voted to form the American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) and elected the society’s first board. 


AMIS was incorporated in 1973; the first newsletter appeared in 1971, thereafter two to three times per year; the first Journal was published in 1975, thereafter annually. In 1983, AMIS created its most prestigious award, the Curt Sachs Award, for lifetime service to the goals of the society, named for an important founder of the field of organology. Subsequently, AMIS created awards for the best English-language publications about musical instruments, including the Densmore Prize for best article (est. 1988), and the Bessaraboff Prize for best book (est. 1989). Also in 1989, the Gribbon Award for Student Travel was established, and has subsequently become an important investment that AMIS makes in encouraging young scholars in the field of musical instrument studies.


The Society has met at many of the most esteemed musical instrument collections in the United States and occasionally in international locations, most recently celebrating the reopening of the collection of instruments at St. Cecilia’s Hall at Edinburgh University in Scotland in 2017. AMIS has often met with other organizations with aligned missions, including the Galpin Society (UK), the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Instruments and Music (CIMCIM), and the Historical Keyboard Society. In 2000, AMIS participated ina major scholarly gathering of twelve music societies held in Toronto, titled “Toronto 2000: Musical Intersections.”

Our Future

AMIS is interested in growing our membership and our research areas in order to encompass as much of the historical musical instrument research world as possible. In 2017, after identifying two communities of scholars that are under-represented in AMIS membership, the Board of Governors launched two new working groups dedicated to 1) ethnomusicology, and 2) topics related to banjo/mandolin/guitar topics. 

In 2018, the Board of Governors began a process of Strategic Planning, to decide future areas of opportunity and direction for the society as we continue to support scholarship about musical instruments into the future. 

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