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.
Dr. 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.