Thomas L. Riis (1930- ), Musicologist

24 Oct

Thomas is the great-grandson of Hans Christian Riis’ brother Jens Hansen Riis, and the 3rd cousin of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, James, Anne, Bonnie, Wendy, Pamela, Gail and Paul.

Riis,%20TomDr. Thomas Laurence Riis, the Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and the Director of the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado – Boulder’s College of Music, was born in New Hampshire on October 6, 1950, the son of Laurence and Ruth Riis. He earned degrees from Oberlin College (1973) and the University of Michigan (1976, 1981).

Thomas is a specialist in Musical Theater and writes and lectures frequently on many topics in 19th and 20th-century American music. His book Just Before Jazz, devoted to African American Broadway and minstrel shows, received an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1995. In 2002, Tom served as a period musical consultant for the Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York. He taught as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Lüneburg, Germany, in 2005-2006. Tom’s most recent book, Frank Loesser, the fifth volume in the Yale Broadway Masters series, was published in 2008. That same year he gave the Rey Longyear Memorial Lecture at the University of Kentucky’s American Music Center and was elected to the presidency of the Society for American Music for 2009-2010.

Tom’s other interests include medieval song and historical performance practice. He is active as a choral singer, viol player, and cellist.


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Biographies, Connections


2 responses to “Thomas L. Riis (1930- ), Musicologist

  1. swedie1

    October 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I’ve heard about him but haven’t met him. Another interesting connection: I studied musicology in grad school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

  2. Lisa

    October 25, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I just put his book, “Just Before Jazz” on reserve at the library. I’ve been interested in reading about minstrel shows and Black theater ever since we saw “The Scottsboro Boys.”


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