Irving Lowens Book Award


Irving Lowens’ research and writing in American music form a cornerstone for American music history. As the principal founder and guiding spirit of the Sonneck Society (now the Society for American Music) and its first president from 1974 to 1981, he was largely responsible for making the study of American music a respected and thriving area in musicology today. During his remarkable career he became distinguished in music criticism, musicology, and music librarianship. In his positions as music critic for the Washington Star (1953–1977), music reference librarian at the Library of Congress (1962–1966), and as Dean at the Peabody Conservatory of Music (1977–1982), he served in turn the public, the scholar, and the music student. The Irving Lowens Book Award commemorates this remarkable man and his contributions to the study of American music.

The Lowens Book Award represents one of our most prestigious honors and carries with it a monetary prize as well as a citation that will be presented at the annual national conference each spring. 

We define “American music” in its broadest, most inclusive sense meaning all musics of the Americas, in their historical and contemporary styles and contexts, including art and popular cultures, ethnic groups and minorities, immigrant composers, performers, and communities, along with American music’s ramifications on cultures elsewhere in the world.


The Society for American Music invites scholars to submit books published in the year 2019 for consideration for the Irving Lowens Book Award. The Society annually awards this prize to the book judged as the best in the field of American music. Any book on American music with a year 2019 imprint is eligible.


Application Requirements

Publishers should send one copy of the book to each committee member. Those wishing to submit books for consideration should email the committee chair (James Leve, directly for mailing information.  


Books must be received by June 1 (books received after this date will not be considered).


Past Winners

Year Winners
2019 Nancy Rao, Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (University of Illinois Press, 2017)
2016 David Brackett, Categorizing Sound: Genre and Twentieth-Century Popular Music (University of California Press)
2015 Allison McCracken, Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture (Duke University Press)
2014 Thomas Brothers, Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism (W. W. Norton & Co.)
2013 Christopher J. Smith, The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy (University of Illinois Press)
2012 Beth E. Levy, Frontier Figures: American Music and the Mythology of the American West (University of California Press)
Honorable mention: Jeffrey Magee, Irving Berlin’s American Musical Theater (Oxford University Press)
2011 Sabine Feisst, Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (Oxford University Press)
Honorable mention: Larry Hamberlin, Tin Pan Opera: Operatic Novelty Songs in the Ragtime Era (Oxford University Press)
2010 Larry Stempel, Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater
(W. W. Norton & Co.)
2009 John Koegel, Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City, 1840–1940 (University of Rochester Press)
2008 Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century (University of California Press)
2007 Michael Broyles and Denise Von Glahn, Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices (Indiana University Press)
2006 Anne Danielsen, Presence and Pleasure: The Funk Grooves of James Brown and Parliament (Wesleyan University Press)
2005 Jeffrey Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz (Oxford University Press)
2004 Tim Brooks, Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry 1890–1919 (University of Illinois Press)
2003 Gage Averill, Four Parts, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Harmony (Oxford University Press)
2002 Walter van de Leur, Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (Oxford University Press)
2001 Richard Crawford, America’s Musical Life: A History (W. W. Norton & Co)
2000 Carol Oja, Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s (Oxford University Press)
1999 Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man
(University of Illinois Press)
1998 Adrienne Fried Block, Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian (Oxford University Press)
1997 Judith Tick, Ruth Crawford Seeger; A Composer’s Search for American Music (Oxford University Press)
1996 Ingrid Monson, Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (University of Chicago Press)
1995 S. Frederick Starr, Bamboula! The Life and Times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (Oxford University Press)
1994 Joseph Horowitz, Wagner Nights : An American History (University of California Press)
1993 Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Wesleyan University Press)
1993 Ronald Radano, New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique (University of Chicago Press)
1993 Stephen Banfield, Sondheim’s Broadway Musicals (University of Michigan Press)
1992 Stuart Feder, Charles Ives, “My Father’s Song”: A Psychoanalytical Biography (Yale University Press)
1991 Susan Porter, With an Air Debonair: Musical Theatre in America (Smithsonian Institution Press)
1990 Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance (Praeger)
1989 Dale Cockrell, Excelsior: Journals of the Hutchinson Family Singers (Pendragon Press)
1989 Vivian Perlis, Copland: Since 1943 (St. Martin’s Press)
1988 Russell Sanjek, American Popular Music and Its Business (Oxford University Press)
1987 D.W. Krummel, Bibliographical Handbook of American Music (University of Illinois Press)
1986 Gunther Schuller, Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller (Oxford University Press)
1985 J. Peter Burkholder, Charles Ives: The Ideas Behind the Music (Yale University Press)
1984 Richard Crawford, Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody (A-R Editions)
1983 Charles Hamm, Music in the New World  (W. W. Norton & Co.)