For his rigorous scholarship of previously unknown Italian sacred music from the Renaissance and early Baroque eras, Robert L. Kendrick was honored as Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, class VI, on Dec. 10 at the Italian Consulate in Chicago. This achievement is the highest ranking honor of the Italian Republic, and it is awarded for “merit acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic, and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers.
“Bob’s very first book, Celestial Sirens: Nuns and Their Music in Early Milan (1996), shattered once and for all the received idea that the music of early modern nuns was a backwater repertory, and it brought those musical artifacts and the circumstances of their creation into the mainstream of study in musicology, gender, and 17th century studies,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities.
“His book, Sounds of Milan, 1580-1650 (2002), blends a rigorous study of music and liturgy against many other elements of Milanese culture in breathtaking ways,” Robertson added. “He has also brought to light the understudied yet important music and ritual of Holy Week in his Singing Jeremiah: Music and Meaning in Holy Week (2014), singling out the many public spectacles that united large numbers of religious institutions in southern Europe.”
For many years, Kendrick has worked collaboratively with his UChicago and Chicago area university colleagues and the Italian Cultural Institute and Italian Consulate to enhance the knowledge and experience of the Chicago cultural community through discussions, lectures, film screenings, and musical performances.
His UChicago colleagues describe Kendrick as an exceptional teacher and mentor and in 2006 graduate students in the Division of the Humanities successfully nominated him for the Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award. He speaks five languages fluently and reads three other languages. “His mind runs at warp speed,” according to Robertson.
At UChicago, Kendrick works across disciplinary boundaries both within and outside of the Division of the Humanities. “Interdisciplinary study is far easier to do at the University of Chicago than any other university in North America,” said Kendrick, the William Colvin Professor in the Departments of Music, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College.
“Kendrick is an early modern musicologist of famously polyglot and polymath knowledge, who scholarship scrutinizes materials and ideas intensely, and with boundless curiosity and engagement with others,” said Martha Feldman, the Mabel Green Myers Professor in the Department of Music. “Phenomenally energetic and efficient, his approach to research and teaching is Hydra-headed, combining excellent analytic skills with tremendous powers of argument.”
As much as his UChicago colleagues laud him, Kendrick is modest about his own accomplishments. While he was surprised to become a Knight, Kendrick recognizes that the UChicago has remarkable prestige internationally, and considers his contributions to be a very small part of a wider historical context in which other UChicago luminaries such as physicist Enrico Fermi and musicologist Philip Gossett also have been honored by being made Knights of the Republic of Italy. Furthermore, the University has a long tradition of Italian studies overall, with many distinguished colleagues past and present. In that sense, he notes that it is precisely the unique interdisciplinarity of the University that is essential to research such as his, as Kendrick has benefited from the advice of other faculty members in other departments.