Remembering Bruno Nettl

Update: a concert in honor of Professor Bruno Nettl has been scheduled for May 10, 2020 at 2:00 PM in the Great Hall. All are welcome.

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I inform you that our colleague Professor Emeritus Bruno Nettl passed away last night after a short illness. Even in my brief time here, I was deeply touched by the warm welcome he gave me, and we had begun to develop a wonderful friendship over the course of the numerous lunches and meetings we had together. I am sorry that process was cut short, but grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know such a phenomenal scholar and human being. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

To describe Bruno as a giant in the field of ethnomusicology hardly does him justice. His work was seminal in establishing the discipline in the United States, both through his research and via the army of ethnomusicologists he has trained over the years. In addition to having authored or co-authored literally hundreds of articles, Bruno served as a visiting faculty member at dozens of institutions around the globe and as an editor for numerous journals, and he was awarded a great many accolades, including several honorary degrees and honorary memberships in scholarly organizations. Most recently, Bruno published some reflections on his 1995 book, Heartland Excursions, in the latest edition of Sonorities. He was also particularly proud of the book his daughter Gloria assembled that features his wife Wanda’s art.

To close, I’d like to quote from Philip Bohlman’s article on Bruno in the Grove Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians (he is one of very few scholars to be so featured during his actual lifetime): “Nettl’s influence on modern musical scholarship crosses disciplinary as well as international borders. He has encouraged rapprochement and cooperation among all domains of musical scholarship, and has strengthened the interdisciplinary potential of ethnomusicology by drawing from folklore studies, anthropology and the social sciences. The influences of his approaches to world music are also evident in his activities as a teacher, which embrace all levels of music education, and appear in his articles and classroom textbooks, as well as the characteristically lucid quality of all his published work. Many leading ethnomusicologists have studied with Nettl and written dissertations advised by him. It has been the greatest measure of his intellectual breadth and diversity that his former students have not formed a single school, but have established new directions both for ethnomusicology and modern musical scholarship generally.”

Bruno requested that no funeral service be held, but there will be a celebration of his life at a later date.


Jeff Sposato
Professor and Director
School of Music

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