Michael B. Collins

Michael B. Collins, Denton, Professor Emeritus of musicology, 1968-2001, died May 12. After teaching for a number of years at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., he taught the history of music at UNT for 33 years. During the Korean War, he enlisted in the military and enrolled at the Army Language School in Monterey, Calif. He acquired native fluency in Russian and was deployed to West Germany for Iron-Curtain duty. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Stanford University, studying in Italy as a Fulbright Fellow. His instrument was the piano, and he specialized in the performance of Baroque music and the history of opera. His publications include critical editions of Scarlatti’s Tigrane (Harvard University Press) and Rossini’s Otello (Fondazione Rossini), and the 1984 co-edited book Opera and Vivaldi (University of Texas). Contributions in his memory may be made to the UNT College of Music.


Michael Collins, my dissertation advisor and a teacher-friend of mine for 34 years, was born July 26, 1930, in Turlock, California, to Chrissie and Dr. Marion Collins, founders of MedicAlert. He earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D, the latter in musicology, at Stanford University; his principal teachers were Putnam Aldridge and Leonard Ratner.

Almost fifty years after he defended it, his 1963 dissertation, "The Performance of Coloration, Sesquialtera, and Hemiola (1450-1750)," continues to impress for its chronological sweep and engaging, lucid prose. As Michael himself observed in the introduction, he sought “to assemble, insofar as possible, all information concerning the notation and performance of triplets between the approximate dates 1450 and 1750.” The study documents — all lifelong concerns — a love of music, a desire to engage with performers, a thorough understanding of musical notation, a passion for archival research, and an enviable affinity for languages (Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese).

During the Korean War, Michael interrupted his academic study with military enlistment and enrollment at the Army Language School in Monterey, California, where he acquired native fluency in Russian. Shortly thereafter he was deployed to West Germany for Iron-Curtain duty.

In the decade after his dissertation, Michael published three major essays on Baroque performance practice in JAMS and one in Music & Letters. Painstakingly researched, these and a number of smaller studies at times engendered controversy. Thus it was with a certain liberation that he took up the more amiable consideration of opera, including those by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Mozart, Rossini, and Bellini. Here Michael produced critical editions of Scarlatti’s Tigrane (Harvard University Press) and Rossini’s Otello (Fondazione Rossini), and the 1984 co-edited book Opera and Vivaldi (University of Texas).

Following three years at the Eastman School of Music where he became abiding friends with Charles Warren Fox, Michael joined the University of North Texas musicology faculty, teaching there from 1968 until 2001. In addition to advanced seminars, including one devoted to Beethoven string quartets, a richly rewarding undertaking with Michael at the helm, his Baroque performance course was legendary given that it allowed him to put into practice his dedication to Baroque court dances learned from Wendy Hilton. I will never forget Michael breaking into a sarabande in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

As with music, Michael savored life, and he was a virtuoso host. His dinner parties and superb command of French and Italian cuisine remain in the memory of his many grateful friends and students.

James Parsons ('92 Ph.D.)

Comment #1 posted by James Parsons (not verified) 6 years 24 weeks ago.

Michael will be missed, as he was a warm and caring individual and likely the best teacher I ever hope to encounter.

Comment #2 posted by Anonymous 6 years 33 weeks ago.

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