Benjamin Franklin's Junto
James W. Pruett
When I applied to universities for admission in 1951, a statement on aspirations was required. Without really knowing what it meant, I wrote that I hoped to be a college professor. I suspected that I would have unusual freedom to be with books and with music, and with like-minded faculty and students. The eventual joy and satisfaction were to be beyond anything I could have imagined, and more than any teenager's expectations of the pleasures of an intellectual and artistic community.
I was born on December 23, 1932 in the small town of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, famed as having the world's largest granite quarry (whose stone covers a lot of Washington DC), and as the hometown of Andy Griffith, a childhood friend. The musical life was wonderful: oratorio, opera, drama, musical comedy, church and school music all were extraordinary for such a small town. My university education was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A., M.A., Ph. D) as a pianist, in music history and musicology, and in comparative literature. Two life-altering events occurred while at UNC: in 1957 I married Lilian Pibernik, now an internationally distinguished musicologist plus a fine pianist/harpsichordist; and in 1961 the University hired me with few credentials-- to direct the Music Library and join the faculty. I subsequently became Chairman of the Department of Music (1976-86). In 1987 I retired from UNC to become Chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, retiring there in 1995. The challenges and successes of my last appointment were as gratifying as any I experienced in academic life, intellectually or artistically.
Research, publishing, administration, and teaching throughout my professional career have been the most wonderful personal rewards, and few can match those deriving from mentoring students towards a life of the mind and intellectual inquiry.
As a tangible fruits of the years of teaching and collaborating with students and colleagues, in 1998 I was richly honored with a surprise national academic conference, and, subsequently, with a festschrift of the published proceedings: Res musicae: Essays in Honor of James W. Pruett, (ed. Paul R. Laird and Craig H. Russell , 2001). Today, my pleasure in mentoring young people is sustained through the Legacy Program of the Creativity Foundation, itself a center for intellectual and artistic endeavors.