Geoffrey Block, Distinguished Professor of Music History

Geoffrey Block

Geoffrey Block, Distinguished Professor of Music History Emeritus
University of Puget Sound, School of Music

Before arriving at the University of Puget Sound in 1980, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Block received his B.A. from UCLA, his M.A. and PhD at Harvard, and a Fulbright to study Beethoven’s musical manuscripts in the composer’s hometown of Bonn.  During his 37 years at Puget Sound Block taught numerous music history courses and freshman seminars, both for non-majors and majors.  A founding member of the Humanities Advisory Board, Block also taught numerous Humanities courses, most recently “Drama, Film, and the Musical Stage” and “The Lord of The Ring: Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung.”  His academic awards include a John Lantz Junior Fellowship and two Lantz Senior Fellowships, a Dirk Andrew Phibbs Memorial Award for research and publication, selection as a Regester Lecturer, numerous university study grants, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. 

As a scholar Block has written eight books, including Ives: “Concord” Sonata (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from “Show Boat” to Sondheim and Lloyd Webber (Oxford University Press, 1997; 2nd ed., 2009), Richard Rodgers (Yale University Press, 2003), Experiencing Beethoven: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), and Schubert’s Reputation from His Time to Ours (Pendragon, 2017).  He has written more than 60 articles and three dozen reviews on Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Ives, jazz, and the Broadway musical in numerous journals, essay collections, and reference works.  He has been interviewed in local and national newspapers and local, national, and international media such as KING-FM, KUOW, NPR, the BBC and ABC, and has appeared in commercial documentaries, including American Masters: Richard Rodgers.  He has also given four keynote addresses at international conferences on the American and British musical.

For three decades Block has been acknowledged for his Ives scholarship, a reputation based mainly on the three books he has published on this composer.  But it has been his pioneering work on the American musical that has probably made the greatest impact.  Block’s essays and books were the first to examine the compositional methods of a Broadway composer, starting with an article Block wrote on Frank Loesser’s manuscripts in 1989 that, according to one scholar, “provided one of the first moments of legitimacy to scholarship on the American musical [and] essential reading for anyone interested in the genre and its historiography.”  Scholars have written that “Geoffrey Block is unquestionably the leading academic authority on the American musical” and “the world’s preeminent commentator on musicals in the field of musicology.”  Stephen Sondheim once wrote that he found a Block essay “virtually unique in its specificity and intelligence.”  Perhaps his longest-lasting contributions to the field are the more than 20 volumes he has commissioned and edited over the past two decades (and hopes to continue doing long into the future), first as General Editor for Yale Broadway Masters (2003-2011) and currently as the Series Editor of the prize-winning Oxford’s Broadway Legacies (2010-), “accessible and interesting” books on Broadway creators and individual shows designed for scholars and students.  

Block is currently teaching part time and working on a book for Oxford University Press on the symbiotic relationship between musicals and films called A Fine Romance: Broadway and the Hollywood Film