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H. Wiley Hitchcock, at 84; leading music scholar, writer

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times News Service / December 10, 2007

NEW YORK - H. Wiley Hitchcock, a leading scholar of American music and the founding director of the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College, died Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 84.

The cause was prostate cancer, his wife, Janet Hitchcock, said.

Besides being a teacher, editor, and author of works including important studies of baroque music, Dr. Hitchcock played a major role in building a support structure for scholars and studies in American music.

In addition to founding the institute at Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York, in 1971 and directing it through 1993, Dr. Hitchcock served as president of the Music Library Association, the Charles Ives Society, and the American Musicological Society. He was also on the editorial boards of The Musical Quarterly and American Music, as well as of New World Records, a recording venture devoted to American music.

He was probably best known as the co-editor (and chief content editor), along with the British musicologist Stanley Sadie, of the New Grove Dictionary of American Music (Macmillan, 1986). The voluminous "Ameri-Grove," as it came to be called, was heralded for its ecumenical embrace of vernacular musical idioms and for its often-breezy writing style.

Speaking of the work in a 1986 interview with The Boston Globe, Dr. Hitchcock explained his editorial stance.

"Lacking a patronage system, like Europe's, American music has developed along broad lines," he said. "Therefore, inclusiveness of pop music, jazz, country, rock and Native American Indian music was essential."

Hugh Wiley Hitchcock was born in Detroit. After earning a bachelor's degree at Dartmouth and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he began his teaching career, he studied music with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. In 1961, he relocated to New York to take a post at Hunter College, a decade later moving to Brooklyn College. He retired from CUNY in 1993 as a distinguished professor but continued to teach at Yale, Columbia, and New York University.

Among his notable books is "Music in the United States: A Historical Introduction" (1969), still a valued college text. His last completed work was a critical edition of the 129 songs by Charles Ives, published in 2004.

Besides his wife of 42 years, an art historian who is also known as Janet Cox-Rearick, he leaves two children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce: Susan Tyler Hitchcock of Charlottesville, Va.; and Hugh Jarvis Hitchcock of Miami; and two grandchildren.

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