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The American Musical Instrument Society


Thirty-first Annual Meeting of the Society at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
June 19-23, 2002

AMIS is returning to Boston this spring, having last met there in 1985 in a joint meeting with the Galpin Society. This year's meeting, hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, will offer a diverse and engaging program, with particular attention focused on the Museum's well-known collection of nearly 1100 musical instruments. Darcy Kuronen, the MFA's curator of musical instruments, is chair of both the local arrangements and program committees.

MFA gallery image
View of the Museum of Fine Art's gallery of
musical instruments. Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

From the Old North Church to the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, Boston is steeped in history, making it a popular destination for anyone interested in America's past. It is also an easy city to get around in by foot, with safe and reliable public transportation. Weather in late June should be mild and pleasant, but visitors should pack for temperatures ranging from cool to hot. Because of an especially full round of events scheduled during the AMIS meeting, it is recommended that members plan an extra day or two in Boston if sightseeing or shopping are among their priorities.

As Boston is an exceptionally expensive destination, affordable housing has been arranged at Simmons College, a pleasant fifteen-minute walk from the Museum, located near the city's Back Bay Fens. Surrounding an attractive quadrangle, Simmons College dormitories are clean, spacious, and air-conditioned. A continental breakfast will be provided at the College on Thursday through Sunday mornings. Several hotels are located within reasonable proximity of the Museum, but prices per room will generally approach $160 to $200 per night in late June. As in all of Boston, parking near Simmons is limited and costly, so members who must drive should plan accordingly. At least one garage near Simmons and the MFA currently offers overnight parking for $20. Further information about lodging, parking, and travel to and within Boston will be mailed to members separately in March or early April, along with registration materials for the meeting.

A special feature of this year's program will be several brief demonstrations by musicians performing on selected instruments from the MFA's collection. This is a rare opportunity to hear a variety of unique and historical instruments that are seldom heard publicly. Presentations are scheduled that feature serpents, natural horns, viols, musical glasses, a glass flute, and numerous types of early guitars. Attendees will likewise be able to hear assorted harpsichords, clavichords, pianos, and organs demonstrated in the Museum's musical instrument gallery on Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Over a dozen related papers have been selected for the program, along with two mini-concerts featuring the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet, playing instruments made by Adolphe Sax, and the Boston Village Gamelan, performing on some of the instruments from the MFA's nineteenth-century Javanese gamelan orchestra. Paper sessions and other presentations will take place in the Museum's 400-seat auditorium. On Thursday and Friday evening members will attend concerts at the MFA and another Boston venue. As of the publication deadline for this issue of the Newsletter, an exact selection has not been made, but several excellent proposals are under consideration. Registration materials will include full announcements of these concerts.

Bus trips are scheduled on Saturday to view two of the most significant private collections of musical instruments in New England, with the group divided in half to visit each site in alternating morning and afternoon sessions. In historic Lexington we will visit a wonderful exhibition called The Banjo: The People and the Sounds of America's Folk Instrument, on view at the Museum of Our National Heritage. This exquisitely displayed exhibition explores the fascinating musical and social history of the banjo from its African roots to its present-day role in popular music. James Bollman of nearby Arlington has lent over sixty instruments from his acclaimed collection, plus numerous photographs, books, sheet music, and other items related to banjo history. Bollman's collection includes some of the earliest examples of fretless banjos from the minstrel-show era as well as many of the most highly decorated five-string instruments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mr. Bollman will be on hand to talk about his passion for collecting these instruments over the past thirty years.

No one will want to miss a visit to the home of long-time AMIS member Marlowe Sigal in Newton Centre to see and hear selected instruments from his outstanding collection of early keyboard and woodwind instruments. Sigal's notable collection includes harpsichords by Taskin, Dulcken, Shudi, and Kirkman; pianos by Stein, Walter, and Erard; bassoons by Grenser, Porthaux, and Catlin; oboes by Richters, Rottenburgh, and Fornari; clarinets by Baumann, Cahusac, and Hopkins; and five saxophones made by Adolphe Sax. At noon, the entire group will convene in Lexington for a box lunch and our annual business meeting.

After returning to Simmons College from our field trips, there will be an opportunity to purchase books, recordings, clothing, instruments, and other musical items donated to raise money for the Society's endowment fund, which is used to support our annual prizes, publications, and student-travel awards. Logistics this year do not allow the operation of this sale as a silent auction, as in past meetings, but all members are strongly encouraged to donate whatever good-quality merchandise they can for the sale and to suggest an appropriate price for each item.

On Saturday evening, the Society's annual banquet will also take place at Simmons College, featuring a traditional New England clambake (without the sand, however). At the close of the banquet, another new highlight of this year's meeting will unfold in the form of an amusing quiz show called "Who Wants to Be an Organologist?" In lieu of our usual live auction, this spirited and entertaining game will test the musical wits of selected panelists while allowing audience members to assist their favorite team with correct answers. Start boning up on your music history.

For those staying in Boston through Sunday morning, an optional walking tour is planned to visit two well-known neighbors of the MFA, New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall and Boston Symphony Hall. Pending his busy schedule, we hope to be joined by distinguished acoustician Leo Beranek, who will speak about these two noted halls and describe the features that make them such exceptional spaces for musical performance.

Further information about the meeting may be obtained from:

Darcy Kuronen, Curator of Musical Instruments
Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-5523
Phone: 617-369-3341; Fax: 617-369-3026


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