ROCHESTER, NY — Ellen Koskoff, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, has been chosen as one of this year’s ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award winners. These prestigious awards, presented annually by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), recognize excellence in music writing (books, articles, and liner notes) by American authors and journalists.
Koskoff — who has been a member of the Eastman faculty since 1980 — is honored this year for her book Music in Lubavitcher Life, published in 2001 by the University of Illinois Press. The book illuminates the world of the Lubavitcher Hasidim, a community of ultra-orthodox Jews centered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, NY. Drawing on nearly 20 years of close study of the Lubavichter community, Koskoff combines lively anecdotes with historical background and musical analysis to reveal music-making among the Lubavitchers as a gateway to their ideas about the nature of human spirituality, social interaction, and God.
Along with vivid descriptions of musical performance in religious contexts and private gatherings, Koskoff’s book details the musical sounds and structures that symbolize Lubavitcher social relations. It also examines the differences between Lubavitcher women’s and men’s music-making and the underlying beliefs and assumptions that give rise to gender-specific musical behaviors.
In addition to ASCAP, Koskoff’s work has been praised by other writers and scholars. Among them is Bruno Nettl, co-editor of Excursions in World Music, who says the book “provides an unparalleled treatment of the role of music in a self-contained community, explaining much about Judaism and Jewish culture in America.” Nettl continues by calling it “a fascinating and frequently entertaining read.”
ASCAP will honor Koskoff and the other winners at a special ceremony in New York’s Lincoln Center on December 4.
The ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award was established in 1967 in memory of Deems Taylor, president of ASCAP from 1942 to 1948, who died in 1966 after a distinguished career as a composer, critic, and commentator. Several other members of the Eastman faculty have been previous recipients of the Deems Taylor Award. They include Samuel Adler, professor emeritus of composition; David Headlam, associate professor of theory; Donald Hunsberger, professor emeritus of conducting and ensembles; Kim Kowalke, professor of musicology; Ralph Locke, professor / department chair of musicology; Jürgen Thym, professor of musicology; and Robert Wason, professor of theory.
Note to editors: Ellen Koskoff is available for interviews. A photo is available.