Memories of Kitty Keller
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Sad news, indeed

Posted By Paul F. Wells, Thursday, December 13, 2018
Kitty Keller's passing is truly a watershed event both for our Society and for American music scholarship. I cannot think of any other individual who so embodied the spirit and aims of our organization, including many who perhaps enjoy more prestige within the academy. Her curiosity, knowledge, and enthusiasm were boundless, her contributions to the field enormous. Working always without benefit of--or the shackles imposed by--any institutional affiliation, she accomplished more than any five other people. Others have enumerated some of her many accomplishments so I need not repeat them. I knew, and admired, her work before ever I joined the Sonneck Society; it was truly an honor and pleasure to get to know her once I did. And when I did Kitty, of course, welcomed me with open arms...and a hefty to-do list of things she thought needed attention! Apart from our mutual love for the Society and its members, we shared many musical interests as well -- tune scholarship, early American music, and music manuscripts. Indeed, Kitty was a major source of inspiration for me in building the manuscript holdings of the Center for Popular Music, the collection that now forms a major component of the joint CPM/American Antiquarian Society's American Vernacular Music Manuscripts project and website. Kitty was someone I often turned to for assistance with some project or other. Whenever I did she was always beyond generous in sharing materials and knowledge. I had the pleasure of visiting her and Bob's home on a few occasions, at times to conduct Society business, at others to pursue research in her amazing personal library. The latter visits were always more productive than trekking to the Library of Congress might have been, and usually included lunch and/or tea & cookies! Of course, the greatest informational resource was what was contained in her head, a resource that she shared as graciously as she did her tangible materials. As others have noted, our Society might not exist at all had it not been for Kitty's enthusiasm and energy. SAM is now quite a different animal than was the early Sonneck Society, and though the evolution is welcome, it is more than a little disheartening to realize that many of today's members never knew Kitty and perhaps are unaware of all that she did in the organization's first quarter century or so. She deserves to be memorialized in some very substantial way. --Paul Wells, past-president SAM

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