© 2019, Ed Kottick
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May, 2019. My personal instruments are all gone or spoken for now. And yes, I'm still doing repair work. One of my most interesting repairs last year was an Italian whose bentside had been sheared off above the soundboard level. The broken-off section still existed, partially as large pieces of wood, and partially as shards in a box! It was quite challenge.

Last Fall I spent a two-day residency at Florida State University in Tallahassee. My host was Dr. Li Yeou, a forward-looking piano technician with a DMA in horn performance who runs an impressive Master's program in piano technology. Dr. Yeou requires his students to be able to service harpsichords as well as pianos, and I gave several master classes in aspects of harpsichord maintenance, I consulted with students privately, and I gave two public lectures. I really enjoyed myself, and the students were ultra-responsive. Dr. Yeou may just have found the answer to our shortage of qualified harpsichord techs!

I recently finished conducting nine performances of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man," probably one of the most popular musicals ever written-particularly in Iowa, where the action takes place. I'll be conducting a concert of the music of Jerome Kern in the Fall, followed by the yearly "Messiah" in December. I haven't played my trombone in any show pits yet this year, but I was pleased to play in "Little Women" last spring, since it was a trombone-euphonium double. How often do I get to play my euphonium in a show? Otherwise, I continue to play in the usual ensembles.

My webmaster tells me that thousands of you continue to "hit" this website. I'm astounded and complimented. I'll keep it up as long as you keep looking.

April, 2018. Well, I'm a year older and still in good health. Last year I offered my five personal instruments for possible sale. I am happy to say that (although at the moment they are still in my possession), the French Double, the bentside spinet after Logan, and the clavichord after 1784 Hubert are spoken for. The KoS clavichord and the octave virginal are still available. Thanks to those of you who made inquiries!

After 54 harpsichords, 15 clavichords,and two fortepianos, I am no longer building; but I am still doing repair work and it still comes in.

Last August I was invited by the Sheldon Museum in St. Louis to supervise the unpacking and setting up of a new acquisition, a harpsichord formerly owned by comedienne Phyllis Diller. The instrument is a rare Cannon Guild harpsichord, custom-made for Diller in the early 1970s. Cannon Guild was a consortium formed by engineer James Cannon, acoustical engineer Caleb Warner, and harpsichord builder Eric Herz. Its purpose was to mass-produce an instrument made of modern materials. Suffice to say, the plan didn't work out; but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was not at all a bad harpsichord. It was an interesting trip!

I'm still blowing my trombone and at the moment I'm playing in the pit for "Little Women." Last fall I conducted a concert of the music of Leonard Bernstein, and a few months ago did a concert version of Camelot. I'll be conducting a Rodgers and Hammerstein concert in October, a "Messiah" in December, and a "Music Man" in the spring of next year.

March, 2017. I will be 87 this year, and although I am in good health I am reaching an age where I am confronting my mortality. I'm beginning to think about the disposition of the three harpsichords and two clavichords that I personally own, and have decided to put them up for sale. I am more interested in seeing them go to professionals, or serious students or amateurs, people who would appreciate them and care for them, than I am in making a lot of money, so prices are negotiable. If you're interested in acquiring one of these instruments please get in touch with me and we can talk about it.

From largest to smallest, the instruments are:

  1. 1994 French Double, Hemsch school, five octaves FF-f'''.
  2. 2017 Bentside Spinet after 1795 James Logan, five octaves, GG-g'''. (An example is on the ZHI website).
  3. 2009 Double-fretted clavichord after 1784 Hubert, four-and a half octaves, C-f'''. (An example is on the ZHI website).
  4. 2002 Double-fretted clavichord ("King of Sweden"), four octaves, C-d''' (An example is on the ZHI website).
  5. 1996 Octave virginal in pianino form, four octaves, C-c'''

June, 2016. This last year didn't work out exactly as planned. I did not build another Troubadour virginal; instead, I sold the one I'd made for myself to the buyer. We're both happy. And I am going to build #54, an English bentside spinet. I am no longer associated with Old Capitol Opera, so I didn't get to conduct "West Side Story" and won't be do "Magic Flute" this year. But I did do "Man of La Mancha," and shortly will be doing "South Pacific." In September I'll be helping the city of Coralville's Center for the Performing Arts celebrate it's fifth birthday by directing the music for a (as yet undetermined) Gershwin show. And I'll be doing another "Messiah" for Coralville in December. I played trombone in the pit for "Damned Yankee" and "1776," as well as in local bands, orchestras, and other ensembles.

June, 2015. I am about to start work on my 54th harpsichord, another Troubadour virginal. The Troubadour I built for myself last year got a successful workout in a local production of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." The Troubadour is now available from Zuckermann Harpsichords in kit form.

I continue to conduct musical theater. Iowa City now boasts a professional opera company, Old Capitol Opera, and I am its music director. Last fall I conducted "Chicago" for OCO, and this year I'll be doing "West Side Story." I'll also be conducting "Man of La Mancha," and Mozart's "Magic Flute" is planned for next year.

Unfortunately, my History of the Harpsichord has sold out its run and is now officially out of print. The chances of more copies ever being printed are vanishingly small.

February, 2014. The Cedar Rapids Symphony (also known as "Orchestra Iowa") commissioned a Neapolitan Italian, which I delivered last December. Also last year I completed a ZHI Hubert clavichord for Carol lei Breckenridge. As I write this I am building a Troubadour virginal, an instrument I designed for ZHI a few years ago. I am also writing a construction manual for it, so it will soon be available as a kit.

As always, I continue do a steady stream of repair work. Last summer I went to the University of Illinois in Urbana, and spent three days putting their instruments in shape.

I continue my work in musical theater. Last year I did "Carousel" and "Anything Goes" last year. I conducted the "Messiah" mentioned below in 2012, and did it again in 2013. My pit playing included "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Shrek."

On February 7th I was in Los Angeles, giving a talk at UCLA at the invitation of their Medieval and Renaissance Institute. They sponsored a one-day symposium entitled "Galileo Galilei: the Pendulum, the Pen, the Lute." My talk was "Vincenzo Galilei and the musical revolution of the stile moderno" (Vincenzo Galilei was Galileo's father).

May, 2012. I recently sold three instruments: a Flemish single to performance-artist Rinde Eckert, an Italian to Eastern Kentucky University, and a Franco-Flemish double to Utah State University. I'll be driving the double to its new home in June. Repair work continues apace.

Very shortly I'll be building a "Troubadour" virginal, an instrument I designed for Zuckermann a few years ago. This instrument has proven popular with professionals, and that was its intent.

And I'm still directing the music for musical theater. I'm in rehearsal for "Guys and Dolls" as I write this. "Show Boat" is coming up in August, and next spring I'll be doing "King and I," one of my all-time favorites! A few months ago I played trombone in the pit for a production of "Gigi." This December I'll be conducting a Messiah — a different type of musical theater.

A little-known fact: a few years ago I wrote a novel, Cycling Through Eden, a retelling of the biblical story of Adam an Eve. You can read about it (and buy it, if you wish) on

September, 2010. The biennial Boston Early Music Festival and Exhibition began in 1981, and I've been to every one of them; but not last year, and perhaps not again. Early music has become so main-stream there seems to be little point in it for me anymore (although the BEMFE opera productions are truly magnificent). In no way is this intended to discourage anyone from going to the Festival. It's still a great affair; but after all these years I'm jaded.

2007 saw the completion of my 50th harpsichord, a Franco-Flemish double, commissioned by a professor of finance at the University of Northern Iowa.

The American Musical Instrument Society honored me with their Curt Sachs Award in May of 2006, at the Society's 2006 meeting at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD. The citation bears the following text:

"The Board of Governors of the American Musical Instrument Society records its pleasure in designating Edward L. Kottick the recipient of the 2006 Curt Sachs Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the appreciation of the harpsichord and to the understanding of its historical development, physical characteristics, and acoustical properties through his distinguished work as a scholar, author, lecturer, builder, and designer."
Vermillion, South Dakota, May 22, 2006.
Signed by Kathryn L. Shanks Libin, President

The Neapolitan harpsichord I designed for Zuckermann Harpsichords continues to sell well, both as kits and finished instruments. To say that this instrument is "interesting" is putting it mildly, since it is built all of maple, including the soundboard, a typical Neapolitan practice.

Another design I did recently was a double-fretted clavichord (compass C-f 3 chromatic) after the 1784 Hubert in Edinburgh. I finished the prototype at the beginning of this year, and it is indeed an outstand clavichord (for which I cannot take credit, since all I did was re-design Hubert's work for kit construction). More sets of parts should be available soon.

At ZHI's request I recently designed a small, simple virginal, suitable for the jobbing harpsichordist, that will fit into the back seat of a car. We call it "The Troubador." The shop is finishing the prototype now.

Over the past few years I've been creating construction manuals for Zuckermann Harpsichords, building the instruments as I write. I find it challenging and fulfilling work. So far I've done the octave virginal (which I designed), the double-fretted King of Sweden clavichord (which I redesigned), the new Italian virginal, the new five-octave unfretted clavichord, the Neapolitan Italian, and the Hubert clavichord. I've also done the two Flemish singles (1x8', 1x4' and 2x8'), the Flemish double, the conversion kits for the old 5' slant side (the original Zuckermann harpsichord), the 6' slant side, and all the early Flemishes. I am also doing technical support for the kit instruments.

As always, my shop is busy with repair work, an activity I enjoy a great deal.

I continue to practice my new career as music director/conductor of musical theater. Last year I did "Camlelot," and this year Bernstein's "Wonderful Town" and the great classic "South Pacific." In January of 2011 I'll be doing "My Fair Lady."

And I resumed playing the trombone, the instrument I abandoned 45 years ago. I've played in some pit orchestras, and also play regularly with a quartet (in which I play the sackbut) and a quintet. Why did I ever quit?

You can get some information on my latest book, A History of the Harpsichord, including the Table of Contents, on the IU Press web site.

On September 24, 2010, I will be in the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, NC, lecturing on the subject of harpsichord decoration for an event called "Old & New/Bold & Blue" Art of the Harpsichord." It is sponsored by Alienor, an organization devoted to contemporary music for the harpsichord. The title of my talk is "Fruit, Flowers, Floozies, Fripperies, and Finishes: A Fleet Frolic through Harpsichord Decoration."

Ed Kottick
502 Larch Lane    Iowa City, IA 52245
Phone: 319.337.3770 (H) — 319.321.7604 (C)