Event to showcase donation of thousands of items to UNT Music Library

Joe M. Morris
A recent donation by the estate of Joe M. Morris, pictured, includes thousands of items, such as records, video tapes and other music media, as well as a rare item – a reproducing piano. Photo courtesy of the Joe M. Morris estate.
Morris donation
Dozens of reproducing piano music rolls – among other music media items – were among the thousands of items donated by the estate of Joe M. Morris to the UNT Music Library. Photo courtesy of Grace Vogelzang.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 10:47

What: Following a donation of thousands of items by the estate of Dallas collector Joe M. Morris, the UNT Music Library will play selections from piano rolls, cylinders and 78 rpm discs. Among the most prominent items donated are a Model B Ampico Knabe Grand reproducing piano, along with 5,400 rolls for use with the piano, a Steinway Grand piano, several phonographic players and hundreds of other music media. In total, the donation includes roughly 22,000 items.

When: 5-7 p.m. April 30 (Wednesday)

Where: The Edna Mae Sandborn Room, Room 430A in Willis Library, 1506 Highland Ave., Denton

Cost: Free, but RSVP to Head Music Librarian Mark McKnight at Mark.McKnight@unt.edu.

What else: Watch a video of the Model B Ampico Knabe Grand reproducing piano here.


DENTON, Texas (UNT) – The UNT Music Library will have a reception April 30 to unveil the recent donation of thousands of items from the estate of a Dallas man who wanted his extensive music media collection to benefit education.

The event, from 5-7 p.m. April 30 (Wednesday), will include music from the collection played on some of the vintage phonographs and on the Model B Ampico Knabe Grand reproducing piano. The piano, similar to a player piano, is one of the highlights of the collection. A reproducing piano records the exact notes, rhythms and dynamics of a pianist's performance. For example, when the music roll of George Gershwin performing his "Rhapsody in Blue" is played, the listener not only hears the recording that Gershwin made but can also see the way Gershwin played it, said Mark McKnight, head music librarian.

"It's fascinating," said Andrew Justice, associate head music librarian. "It's one thing to listen to a recording, but it's another to watch the performance happen in front of you. The reproducing piano and its music rolls help this collection stand out as one of the largest in the country."

The reproducing piano was donated along with more than 5,400 music rolls for the piano, a Steinway Grand piano, more than a dozen instruments and components, and about 15,000 phonograph records, vinyl records, Super 8 films, DVDs, CDs and other music media.

"This collection was his life's purpose," said Grace Vogelzang, a friend of Morris' and executor of his will. "It speaks highly of UNT that he entrusted the Music Library with this collection."

Morris knew that he wanted to donate his collection when he died, said Vogelzang. To donate it to a university where students and the community would be able to use the items for research was an added bonus because Morris loved learning, she said.

"He thought of service and education as the most important things in life," said Vogelzang. "He loved the idea of knowledge as power and a way to give you a better life."

The collection isn't just about the music, Vogelzang said, because it offers library patrons a glimpse into roughly 100 years of history through the social, political and recreational issues reflected in that music. There is music from the late 1880s through the late 20th century. It took Vogelzang and an assistant more than 700 hours over three months to catalog the items for the donation.

"His house was like a museum," she said.

The items will be stored in the newly relocated and renovated Edna Mae Sandborn Room in the Music Library and in offsite archival storage, said Justice, and patrons will be able to access items from the collection, either at the library or by request.

"This donation is very meaningful," said McKnight. "It's great to have the reproducing piano and so many rolls of music for it, as well as the instruments and all the items in the collection."

To learn more about how philanthropic support is transforming the University of North Texas or to make a gift, visit http://giving.unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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