by Catherine Zachary
This past weekend former UNC Department of Music Professor Lilian Pruett was awarded the inaugural Honorary Membership of the South-East Chapter of the American Musicological Society. Numerous UNC Music faculty and graduate students were in attendance for the conference and Distinguished Professor Annegret Fauser presented the Laudatio for Pruett’s award. Current AMS-SE President, Dr. Helena Kopchick Spencer said,
“In our decision to confer the status of Honorary Membership in AMS-SE, there was absolutely no question that Professor Lilian Pruett would be the first scholar to receive this honor. Professor Pruett has been an integral member of AMS Southeast throughout the history of the chapter, from its foundation in the 1950s to the present day. She served as the chapter’s first Secretary-Treasurer (1955–57) and President (1957–60) at a time when there were very few women in the field of musicology, let alone in leadership roles. So, on a personal note, she is an inspiration and role model to those of us junior female scholars currently serving as chapter officers. She again served as Secretary-Treasurer in 1975–77, and continues to attend chapter meetings—most recently, delivering the keynote address at our Spring 2019 meeting.”
Professor Pruett and her husband, the late Professor James Pruett (former chair of the UNC Music Department), remained active in the UNC-CH musicology area after their retirements. A tremendous source of support for our graduate program, they established the James W. Pruett Summer Research Fellowship in 2007. This award offers graduate students the opportunity to spend up to three summer months in the Music Division of the Library of Congress (of which James Pruett was Chief from 1987-1994) processing archival collections in the Division and conducting independent research. It was reorganized in 2014 and renamed The James and Lilian Pruett Graduate Research Fellowship. This program is just a small example of the impact that Lilian has had on this department and the field of musicology. As current UNC Music faculty, Professor Tim Carter noted,
“Lilian Pruett’s longtime contributions to musicology extend well beyond her fine scholarship on Renaissance music to service in our profession and the support and mentoring of graduate students here at UNC-Chapel Hill. I could not be more delighted at her gaining an honor that is so richly deserved.” -Professor Tim Carter
Professor Pruett was born in Croatia and attended the University Mozarteum Salzburg from 1946 to 1950 before emigrating to the United States. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1952, after which she taught at Miss Hall’s School (Pittsfield, MA) until 1954. She then pursued graduate studies in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned her Master of Arts in 1957 and her Ph.D. in 1960. Her doctoral dissertation was on “The Masses and Hymns of Costanzo Porta,” a sixteenth-century composer active in Northern Italy, about whose work she continued to publish over the years. Professor Pruett taught for several years at UNC-Chapel Hill and then joined the faculty of North Carolina Central University, where she built her career from assistant professor in 1965 to full professor only eight years later, in 1973. Since her retirement in 1998, she is professor emerita at NCCU.
Over the years, Professor Pruett has contributed important bibliographical and historiographical work on music and musicology in Yugoslavia and other central European nations, most recently in the article “Central Europe in the Sixteenth Century: A Musical Melting Pot” from 2004. An accomplished keyboardist herself, she has also published many articles about the organology and repertoire of early keyboards, from such articles as “Style, Form, Performance: Some Observations on Haydn’s Late Piano Trios” (1983), “Bonifazio Asioli and Equal Temperament” (1991), and “An Organ Building Project of the Sixteenth Century: The Large Organ of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague” (2000).
Another highlight of Professor Pruett’s extensive research in the field of musicology, from the mid-1980s, she worked on sixteenth-century manuscripts in Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna. This project culminated just last year with the publication of her AR edition of a major Habsburg manuscript, Codex Vienna NB Mus.Hs.16.197. The repertoire consists of a cycle of polyphonic hymns for the entire liturgical year, which reveals the musical world of a region that might well be described as the home ground of the Counter-Reformation.
At the conclusion of her Laudatio, Professor Annegret Fauser remarked,
“We in the South-East chapter are lucky that she continues to share both her generous engagement in the scholarly community of the region and her acumen as a scholar in the North Atlantic World that reaches from the historic worlds of sixteenth-century Habsburg to today’s challenges of research. We are truly delighted that she has accepted our nomination to be an honorary member of the Chapter.”
Surrounded by colleagues and students whose work and lives she has impacted, Professor Lilian Pruett accepted the award with grace and pride. That same day she also gave the keynote address for the spring meeting.
“This recognition of my life in musicology is an unexpected gift by which I feel greatly honored and for which, in turn, I would like to honor the memory of my mentors, George Sherman Dickinson and Glen Haydon, without whom this life would not have become possible.” -Professor Lilian Pruett
Congratulations to Professor Pruett for all that she has accomplished through her years of teaching and research. Most of all, the Department thanks her for everything that she has given to the field of musicology and the graduate program at UNC.