Katherine Preston, Leading Nineteenth Century Musicology
Katherine Preston was always interested in the idea of American music. As a child taking piano lessons, she asked her teacher why she was never given any compositions by Americans to study, and was told, "there aren't any". Determined to remedy this general American ignorance about our own musical heritage, she became a musicologist, planning to help illuminate the rich and unique musical heritage that all Americans share.
Her particular focus is on the role of music in the lives of nineteenth century Americans, including opera in the antebellum period, the work of journeymen musicians in Washington, D. C. during the late nineteenth century, and the pioneering musical theatre work of Tony Harrigan and David Braham in the 1880s and 1890s.
Preston earned her M.A. in Music and Musicology at the University of Maryland-College Park in 1981 and her Ph.D. at City University of New York, and is today recognized as one of the nation’s most important scholars of nineteenth-century American music. Preston has served as an outside reader on musicology dissertations at the University of Maryland and was a principal mentor for our own faculty member Patrick Warfield. She is currently preparing to retire from the College of William and Mary and has just completed a new book, Opera for the People: English-Language Opera and Women Managers in Late 19th-Century America (AMS Studies in Music).