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Honoring the Life of JoAnn Taricani, Director and Professor, School of Music 

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on February 3, 2022 - 4:16pm
JoAnn Taricani, professor of Music History
JoAnn Taricani, Director, School of Music; Professor of Music History.

The University of Washington suffered a profound loss on February 1 with the sudden death of School of Music Director JoAnn Taricani. The longtime Music History professor had been experiencing health concerns in recent months but remained highly engaged to the very end in her work at the school and in the UW community, which she had served in multiple capacities since her arrival at the University in 1980.

Word of Taricani’s passing was shared with School of Music faculty, staff, and students the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 1, in an emailed message from Catherine Cole, divisional dean of the Arts, who acknowledged the shocking suddenness of Taricani’s death as well as the wide-reaching impact of her life and work:

“JoAnn was a beloved member of the School of Music and the University of Washington,” Cole wrote. “As a researcher, she was respected for combining meticulous archival research with insights gained through live performance of historical music. As a teacher, she was known for superb pedagogy and dedication to her students. As a leader who served in a remarkable number of roles at the University of Washington, JoAnn was gifted at making clear and transparent decisions and navigating the larger organizational structures of UW, all the while keeping her eyes firmly focused on the larger values of academic excellence, innovation, integrity, and inclusion. Her contributions and impacts are many, and we will pay tribute to her in the days and weeks ahead.”

Professor Taricani’s service to the UW included her ongoing work in a variety of university-level issues— budget committees, facilities planning, and membership on the Board of Directors for the UW Medical Center. She lobbied for all University of Washington faculty at the state Legislature, elected by the Faculty Senate as the faculty legislative representative for numerous legislative sessions. She also served as chair of the Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics (ACIA).

Within the School of Music, she has served as Director, Graduate Program Coordinator, and Chair of Music History. She produced early music performances through the student Collegium Musicum and in recordings with professional musicians. She was also a dedicated and gifted teacher. Undergraduates who studied with her went on to pursue future degrees at Oxford, Columbia, and other prestigious institutions. Her doctoral graduates have led distinguished careers, including one as a curator of rare books at Stanford University.

“JoAnn Taricani’s teaching success can be attributed to the value she placed on student participation and interaction,” said Cole. “She believed this was particularly important in teaching early music, where the many styles of music are unfamiliar to students. She said of her own teaching, ‘Overall, I try to adapt each course according to what I think will expand the thinking and experience of students, whether in academic writing and research, or performance discoveries.’”

Taricani received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research brought together intensive scholarly research of primary source materials with live performance and interpretation of those sources. Her publications took multiple forms, including traditional scholarly texts, live performances, and new audio recordings.

One of those was her collaboration with UW Emeritus English Professor Thomas Lockwood on a magnum opus: a three-volume edition of musical works on the plays of the British author Henry Fielding, published over the course of several years (in 2004, 2007 and 2013) by Oxford University Press. Taricani’s singular achievement in this project was an extraordinary feat of archival detective work, as she was able to uncover and assemble the various popular ballads that had been incorporated into Fielding’s dramas. Comprising 2,000 pages, including 200 pages of music, this publication was celebrated by colleagues as “hands down, the best edition ever published of any long eighteenth century playwright.” One of its volumes also garnered the prestigious Robert Lowry Patton Award in 2015 for the best recent study in British literary studies of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century.

Taricani’s recent projects included a musical edition of subversive songs created as a souvenir for the coronation of King Charles II of England entitled An Antidote Against Melancholy. The music from these songs had not previously been integrated with the texts and doing so revealed new facets of its history and context. Her project also included the creation of an extensive website tracing the origins and historical contexts of every song in Antidote.

She also produced a remarkable set of professional recordings of the songs, a compendium set for release as a full-length CD by Centaur Records. The extraordinary ambition and accomplishment of this project was recognized by receipt of the 2017 Noah Greenberg Award of the American Musicological Society, the highest award in Taricani’s field. Her interdisciplinary approach to scholarship was substantial in scope, path-breaking and original in content, and innovative in form.

At the time of her passing, Taricani was immersed in ongoing work alongside chairs of the academic arts units at the UW. This work included the launch of the ambitious Arts Capital Campaign to revitalize key arts spaces on campus, including significant modernizations of the School of Music’s Brechemin Auditorium, student recital hall, and corridors and common spaces. During the past two years she also oversaw the implementation of the School of Music’s constantly shifting health and safety policies and protocols related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Her term as director of the School of Music from July 1, 2020 to the present overlapped with a period of intense and rapid change in methods of learning and instruction as she shepherded the school through a complete pivot to remote learning and instruction in Spring 2020, and subsequent return to in-person instruction in Autumn 2021.

School of Music Professor Joël-François Durand has agreed to serve as interim Director of the School of Music through the end of June 2022. "JoAnn Taricani's passing has been a terrible shock for us all," he said of his longtime colleague. "She had a significant impact in many areas of the University and the School of Music. All of us here who knew and worked with her are remembering her fondly. We will miss her laughter, her unbound energy, and her positive outlook.”

Tributes to Taricani proliferated throughout the UW Music community in the days following her passing, with students and faculty responding to the news in the best way they know—by making music. On Wednesday, February 2, the UW Chamber Singers, led by Professor Geoffrey Boers, recorded a video tribute to Taricani: “My Flight to Heaven,” a setting of a 17th century poem by English poet Robert Herrick (See link below). The University of Washington Symphony, meanwhile, continued rehearsals for its Feb. 4 Meany Hall performance, which included a musical tribute to a most beloved and important member of the UW community.

View the UW Chamber Singers Tribute to Dr. Taricani 

Honoring the Life of JoAnn Taricani Memorial Service: Sunday, April 24, 2 p.m., Walker-Ames Room, Kane Hall, University of Washington

Memorial Gifts to Music History
Gifts in memory of Dr. Taricani may be directed to two suggested scholarship funds that support students in the Music History Program. View the links below for more information.

Adelyn Peck Endowed Fellowship
Supports annual awards to a graduate student in the School of Music for the best paper in music history.

Louise Van Ogle Memorial Scholarship
Provides support for an annual scholarship to a worthy student majoring in music history and literature.