On August 4th, 2010, Lawrence acquired the 21 renaissance and baroque instruments, 250 pieces of early wind music, and over a dozen books on early music that make up the James Smith Rudolph Collection of Early Winds. I want to express my deepest thanks to Mr. Rudolph for his decision to place the stewardship of his collection in our hands.  To say I am excited that Lawrence was chosen to be the home of this magnificent collection would be a gross understatement.  This collection of krumhorns, recorders, and flutes will fuel the passion for early music that has been growing on campus in the last few years. 

My plan is to install a beautiful display case to show off the instruments and raise excitement for renaissance and baroque instrumental music, but if the passion and excitement for these instruments is anywhere near what I anticipate, the display case should be completely EMPTY most of the year.  My goal is to get these inspirational winds directly into

James Rudolph with his First Recorder!

 the hands of our young musicians.  Instruments that are merely used for display are no longer musical instruments! Already LUCEM (Lawrence University Collective of Early Music) and the Lawrence Baroque Ensemble are planning on ways to best use these instruments.  I can hardly wait to see what sorts of music making this collection will inspire.

So how did Lawrence end up as the home for this collection?  Well, the tale is definitely worth recounting.  Sometime in the 1950s, James Smith Rudolph, WWII veteran, was living in Paris.  He didn’t have a lot of money, but once a year, he made his way to Lausanne, Switzerland to ski with a friend who lived there.  Since there wasn’t a whole lot of skiing in Paris, James left his skis at his friend’s place.

 This particular year, when James made his trek to Switzerland he was greeted with the sad news that a thief had stolen his skis! Ski-less and bored, James took to wandering the streets of Lausanne, where he spied a beautiful wooden instrument in a music store window.  He had never seen anything like it before.  He entered the store, found out the instrument was a recorder, and decided to buy it!  So instead of skiing for two weeks, James spent the time in the apartment falling in love with his new instrument. And this was the start of the life-long love affair with early instruments and early music that eventually led to the creation of his magnificent instrument collection.  So in a sense, Lawrence really has an unknown ski thief to thank for our great good fortune!


I first heard about the collection this spring when I, and around a dozen other conservatory deans around the country, received a letter from Mr. Rudolph describing his collection and expressing his desire to find a permanent home for it at a university.   The letter caught my interest right away, since I had seen the impact that high quality instruments can have on a conservatory; especially if those instruments get into the hands of our students.  Our Guarneri violin, our Brombaugh organ, our quartet of Cox strings, and our collection of early keyboard instruments show the transformative power of fine instruments every day.

This started a series of correspondences with Mr. Rudolph where I shared the vision I had for his cherished collection; a vision where his collection would continue to inspire countless generations of students and help them gain a deeper understanding of, and love for, early music.

I am happy to report that of the dozen institutions that were interested in the collection, Mr. Rudolph chose Lawrence as the new home for his collection, in a large part because of our strong commitment to get the instruments into the hands of our students.

My deepest thanks go to James Smith Rudolph.  May his outstanding collection inspire untold numbers of Lawrentians  both now and well into the future! Check out images of the collection on our Conservatory Facebook site.

Submitted the 19th of September, 2010 by Brian Pertl, Dean, Lawrence Conservatory of Music

Published by

Brian Pertl

Brian Pertl, Dean of the Coservatory of Music at Lawrence University, has degrees from Lawrence University in Trombone Performance and English, as well as a graduate degree in Ethnomusicology. He is a passionate advocate of music and music education. He is thrilled to be back at Lawrence working with an exceptional faculty, and an exceptional student body.