Eastman professor of ethno-musicology Ellen Koskoff received the esteemed 2002 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for her recent book “Music in Lubavitcher Life.” ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, rewards the Deems Taylor Award annually for exceptional writing and scholarship about music.
Koskoff, an Eastman professor since 1980, wrote “Music in Lubavitcher Life” after years of research on the religious music of the Crown Heights, Brooklyn Lubavitcher Hassidic Jewish community. The book deals with a number of musical and social issues, including the complex social rules of musical performance and music establishing a connection with God.
The genesis of her idea of a study of music in the Lubavitcher community was a chance encounter with a group of Lubavitchers when she was in grade school. A building in her Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania neighborhood was bought by a group of Lubavitcher Hassidim and converted to a religious school, or “yeshiva.” As she passed the yeshiva on her way to school, she heard impassioned singing issuing from the windows of the building.
An avid musician herself, she said she could relate to the intense connection the Lubavitchers had to music. She was inspired to learn more about the community and the role that music played in its social structure. Koskoff’s research began while she worked on her doctoral dissertation and has continued over the past 20 years.
Koskoff reports that the receipt of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for “Music in Lubavitcher Life” was a surprise to her. Her publishers submitted the book to the ASCAP committee for consideration without specifically telling her that they had done so.
When she received the phone call informing her of the award, she thought it was a case of mistaken identity.
Koskoff is not the first Eastman professor to receive the award ? past recipients include, among others, David Headlam, associate professor of theory, Kim Kowalke, professor of musicology, and Ralph Locke, professor and department chair of musicology.
Koskoff’s research interests are not limited to the Lubavitcher Hassidic Jewish community. She is currently studying musical performance of women in Korea and Asia, and maintains that her ultimate interest lies in the relationship between music and gender roles. Koskoff is also interested in Balinese gamelan music and is planning a trip to Bali.
Educated at Columbia University, Boston University and the University of Pittsburgh, Professor Koskoff has served as editor and contributor to a number of important musicological journals and publications.
She has been published in the third volume of the “Garland Encyclopedia of World Music,” the “New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians” and many other prestigious music journals.
In addition to her teaching duties at Eastman, Koskoff directs the Balinese gamelan at Eastman.