John Watson is an internationally-respected builder and conservator of historical keyboard instruments. As a maker of early keyboard reproductions from 1974 to 1995, and a conservator in private practice from 1977 to 1995, he joined Colonial Williamsburg in 1988 as Conservator of Instruments and Associate Curator of Musical Instruments, retiring in 2016. Since retirement, he has continued his work as a private conservator and scholar and, as always, has remained a supportive colleague to many in this Society.
The 2020 Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize for best book-length publication that furthers the society's mission is awarded to Robert B. Winans and colleagues for the book Banjo Roots and Branches (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018). This collection presents research on the African and Caribbean roots of the banjo from new perspectives. It explores the banjo as a slave instrument, and finally its multiple uses as folk and minstrel instrument in the nineteenth and twentieth century from both black and white perspectives.
The 2020 Densmore Prize goes to Jaime E. Oliver La Rosa for his article “Theremin in the Press: Instrument remediation and code-instrument transduction,” published in the journal Organised Sound 23/3 (December 2018): 256-69.
This essay is a thorough and thoughtful account of the invention and early life of the theremin during the 1920s and 30s, covering aspects of its design, the social context in which it arose, and the ways it was used in musical performances.