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The American Musical Instrument Society


The Curt Sachs Award 2011

Albert R. Rice

Rice was given the Sachs award "for his lifelong devotion to scholarship related to musical instruments, for his many years of service to the Society, and in recognition of his important books and articles on the history of the clarinet." He has been an active performer on historic and modern clarinets for over thirty years. From 1986 to 2008, he was curator of the Kenneth G. Fiske Museum of Musical Instruments at The Claremont Colleges. He is also an independent appraiser of musical instruments and worked as a professional librarian.

Al Rice, left, receives his Sachs Award certificate from outgoing AMIS president Stewart Carter
Al Rice, left, receives his Sachs Award certificate
from outgoing AMIS president Stewart Carter

Sachs Award Acceptance Speech
21 May 2011, Phoenix, Arizona

Thank you, Stew, for your kind remarks. Thank you members of the Board of Governors, members of AMIS, and all others present. I also want to thank the members of the Sachs Committee, all of my friends in AMIS who have been so helpful to me over the years, and especially to my wife, Eleanor, who could not be here tonight. I am deeply honored to receive the Curt Sachs Award. The Sachs award winners listed on the AMIS website are impressive for their individual achievements and I am humbled to be in their company.

Curt Sachs was a pioneer organologist and ethnomusicologist who, with Erich Hornbostel, wrote the modern classification of musical instruments that is still used, with some additions and amendments, today. It happens that one of my instructors at Claremont Graduate School took a class in musical instruments in the summer of 1951 with Sachs at the University of Southern California. Professor Margaret Smith told me that Sachs was a fine teacher and a kind-hearted individual.

My musical background started with a mother who was a coloratura soprano and singing teacher, and as I grew I was exposed to art songs, opera, and musical theater. I remember a performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto beautifully played by a family friend before I began studying the instrument. Sometime later, I began learning and playing the clarinet, had excellent clarinet teachers, excelled in my studies, and happily played in school bands as principal clarinetist. It was during my undergraduate days that I became fascinated and rather fixated on studying the history of the clarinet. For example, for several years I attempted to track down the many sources listed in the clarinet books by Rendall and Kroll. Later, I wrote to Philip Bate, who had edited the last edition of Rendall’s book and asked him to comment on material I sent him on the chalumeau. His cordial answer was “I think you should teach me!”, and from the mid-1970s this comment encouraged me to search for chalumeau music and information. Over the years, I played in several different amateur and professional orchestras and in one glorius summer in the Tanglewood Music Festival orchestra, coached by members of the Boston Symphony, under such legendary conductors as Leonard Bernstien, Seija Osawa, Neville Marriner, and Gunther Schuller.

While attending college I subscribed to the Galpin Society Journal and a bit later to the AMIS Journal and enjoyed reading and absorbing the articles. In fact, research at libraries became a very important part of my life starting in the 1970s. I finished an M.A. in musicology at Claremont Graduate School where my most influential teacher was Roland Jackson, and afterwards studied for two years with Rosario Mazzeo, formerly of the Boston Symphony, who was very supportive of my writing and research. In 1978 during my Tanglewood summer, I was happily surprised to receive the proofs of a short article that I wrote for the Galpin Society Journal, edited by Anthony Baines.

The 1980s and 1990s were very active with a chamber group, the Almont Ensemble, consisting of clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano. We played many concerts of new music, mainly in southern California and as far north as Seattle, Washington. The group also recorded several CDs including music that was commissioned from various composers.

In 1980 I returned to Claremont to pursue a Ph.D. in musicology and was able to attend my first AMIS meeting in New York City, where I visited the presitigious musical instrument collection at the Metropolitan Museum, and saw, but did not meet, the rather young curator, Laurence Libin. At the end of a very interesting meeting, AMIS members took a bus ride to Scarsdale, New York to visit the extensive collection of Robert Rosenbaum. I was the last to leave the bus, greeted by Mrs. Rosenbaum at the entrance to her home and was astounded at seeing dozens of instruments lined up next to the walls. In fact, I was startled to see among the first instruments on display: recorders by Denner and Hotteterre.

At Claremont, I inquired numerous times about the Curt Janssen Collection of Musical Instruments. I pestered the Vice President, my future wife, and she commissioned an inventory of the entire collection from me. I was hired in 1986 with Patrick Rogers, a recent Claremont Ph.D. graduate, to run the Kenneth G. Fiske Museum, with about 550 musical instruments of all types, named after the orchestra director and violin teacher at Pomona College. As curator, I gave tours to individuals and school groups, accepted many instrument gifts, raised money, maintained and promoted the collection, and urged collectors to give instruments to the collection. After a few years, the Fiske Museum positions were eliminated but I continued as the volunteer curator for twenty years, while the collection grew substantially from 550 to over 1200 instruments. There were two very enjoyable and exciting AMIS Conferences at the Fiske Museum, in 1988 and 1998, and I wrote several articles about instruments in the Museum. Because there was no curricular support for the Museum, the Colleges decided to sell it. In 2008, the entire Fiske Museum was purchased by the Musical Instrument Museum here in Phoenix. A most fortunate and happy occurence for a fine collection of instruments.

Since 1985 I have attended AMIS conferences, missing only 1991 at Moravian College. The contacts I established over the years greatly benefited my work and research. For example, after the 1994 meeting in Elkhart, I shared driving for two days with Arnold Myers to two collections, Leblanc’s Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the Holton Collection, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Both collections now reside at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. Here, Arnold and I examined and measured many instruments. Our long-time professional association has been enjoyable and valuable. Over the years, one of the great pleasures was to meet and talk to my many AMIS friends and colleagues from all over the world, including three late members: William Waterhouse, Phillip Young, and Nicholas Shackleton. I subsequently had long correspondences and email exchanges with all three of them, and visited Bill in London and Nick in Cambridge. Many others in AMIS and in this room continue to thrive, collecting and studying instruments, and producing articles and books about our consuming interest, musical instruments. The old saying is really true, we all stand on the shoulders and accomplishments of our predecessors.

Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to write several articles and three books published by Oxford. During this time I worked as a music teacher and full-time as a librarian at a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library system. I am truly blessed with a wonderful and supporting family, friends, colleagues, and AMIS. I am humbled to receive this award and thank you most sincerely.

-Albert R. Rice

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