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Ed Kottick: Biography

Although I have resided in Iowa City since 1968, I'm really a transplanted Easterner. I was born in Jersey City, NJ, in 1930, and was brought up in Brooklyn, NY, where I studied the trombone. I later became a music major at NYU. Following two years in the army, where I conducted a band, I went to New Orleans, LA, to play in the symphony; but after a few years of that I decided to go to graduate school at Tulane University, where I was introduced to musicology and renaissance music. The combination made a deep impression on me, and after my MA I went to the University of North Carolina for my PhD. (It was there that I saw my first kit harpsichord.) I continued to play the trombone, which helped me support my wife and two daughters, but by this time I had become a dedicated musicologist. After a series of teaching posts around the midwest I ended up at the University of Iowa, where I have happily remained ever since. I ran the collegium musicum at Iowa for many years, and also played recorder in a baroque trio ensemble. I retired from teaching in 1992.

My scholarly interests gradually turned away from the renaissance and toward performance practices and organology (the study of musical instruments). My interest in the harpsichord also grew, and I started building instruments from Zuckermann kits on commission. At the same time I began to develop a practical, scholarly, and acoustical interest in the instrument, as can be seen from my publications.

I've been connected with Zuckermann Harpsichords International for more years than I can remember, an association I've always enjoyed. About 10 years ago I increased my involvement with the company. I now write the construction manuals for the kits, and I do the technical support for them. I also design new instruments for ZHI (see "News").

My wife Gloria, who worked as a concert manager before she retired, is a fierce harpsichord tester. No instrument leaves my shop without her OK. She also has an unerring eye, and nothing leaves my computer without her proof reading (or if it does I usually regret it).

About 10 years ago I revived two of my earlier careers, playing trombone (and euphonium) and conducting. I play for shows, I play in a big band, in a number of small ensembles, and I play euphonium in the Iowa City municipal band. I'm also in a mixed group called the "Iowa City Musical Comedy Troupe" that entertains in retirement and nursing homes. My conducting has been mostly restricted to Broadway musicals, but that's fine with me — I love musical theater. I've also done three "Messiahs" and some special events for the neighboring city of Coralville.

Our older daughter Judy is a psychotherapist and an expert in the field of fertility. She is the director of mental health for a large reproductive medicine practice. She is also a dedicated and highly effective activist for street safety. Janet, our younger, is a workplace culture consultant through her company, The Power of Goodwill. She conducts employee morale assessments, provides boss training, and helps company leaders and small business owners improve the culture of their workplaces.

My publications deal with Renaissance music, early keyboard instruments, performance practice, and acoustics. My best-known book, published in 1987 and reissued in paperback in 1992, is The Harpsichord Owner's Guide: A Manual for Buyers and Owners. It still sells well. My next-to-last book, written with George Lucktenberg, Early Keyboard Instruments in European Museums, appeared in 1997. My magnum opus, A History of the Harpsichord, released in 2003, is now sold out, although copies are still available here and there. I have been an active builder up until recently, when I finished my 54th harpsichord. With the completion of that instrument I decided to quit building while I was still ahead. In all, I have built more than eighty bowed, plucked and keyboard instruments. I still do repair work, however, and my shop is rarely without an instrument of two that needs fixing up.


  • B.A New York University, Washington Square, New York, N.Y., l953
  • M.A. Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1959
  • Ph.D. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1962

Teaching Experience

  • 1962-1965 Alma College, Alma, Michigan
  • 1965-1966 University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
  • 1966-1968 University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1968-1992 University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

Performing Experience

  • 1953 Trombonist, Gershwin Concert Orchestra
  • 1953-1955 Conductor of the Signal School Band, Fort Gordon, Georgia
  • 1955-1959 Trombonist New Orleans Philharmonic and New Orleans Opera Company
  • 1962-1965 Conductor of the Orchestra and Band, Alma College
  • 1965-1966 Director of the Collegium Musicum, University of Kansas
  • 1967-1968 Conductor of the University Chamber Orchestra, University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • 1968-1982 Musical Director of the Collegium Musicum, University of Iowa
  • 1969-1974 Recorderist, Faculty Baroque Trio, University of Iowa
  • 1991-1992 Recorderist, Ensemble da Camera
  • 2002 Recorderist, Baroque Orchestra of Iowa
  • 2005-present Conductor and music director for musical theater.
  • 2008-present Free-lance trombonist and euphoniumist in Iowa City
Ed Kottick
502 Larch Lane    Iowa City, IA 52245
Phone: 319.337.3770 (H) — 319.321.7604 (C)