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Curator’s Corner: Meet the Team

Who are the people behind The Cello Museum?

Hello, cello friends.

My name is Brenda Neece, and I am a curator here at The Cello Museum.

Brenda Neece, head and shoulders with modern cello

Dr. Brenda Neece, Curator

The idea for an online museum about the cello came to me in a flash in the sitting room of one of my greatest and most beloved mentors, the great Jeremy Montagu (1927-2020), organologist and retired curator of the Bate Collection at the University of Oxford.

Immediately after leaving the University of Oxford where I earned my doctorate in the history of the cello, I took up the post as the first curator of the musical instrument museum at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. After just over a decade there, I left to pursue my interests in the cello and in photography.

Since that time, Jeremy had been trying to persuade me to get back into the museum world, and I had resisted until that moment last October. As our conversation turned to my career, I said: “Jeremy, if only there were a cello museum – then I’d want to get back to museum work.”

Light bulb

If this had been a cartoon, a light bulb would have appeared over my head at that moment, along with the text: I will make a cello museum online.

From there, Jeremy and I discussed the value of sharing information, making it readily available to all who are interested, and how such a museum could be made a reality. After leaving Jeremy’s house, I realized I’d had possibly the most valuable tutorial I’d ever had with him.

the British Museum

My next two and a half weeks involved a tour of some of the most famous sites of Egypt, with visits to prominent Egyptological collections in the UK beforehand. Although these were unrelated to the cello, as I visited numerous museums and historic sites, my mind was working on how to create the cello museum online without a physical presence.

When I returned to my home in North Carolina from my adventures in Egypt and the UK, I started to put together The Cello Museum team. This included

  • an anonymous sponsor and advisor
  • two official advisors – Jeremy Montagu and Laurence Libin
  • an anonymous advertising and web expert with five years of musical instrument museum experience
  • and another cello specialist with interests that overlap but also complement my own – Erica Lessie.
Jeremy Montagu

Jeremy Montagu, 29 October 2019. This was the day The Cello Museum was born.

With great sadness, I must report that Jeremy Montagu passed away a few hours after I announced the museum opening date.

I will write more about him in the future, but for now, my thoughts are with Jeremy’s family and friends.

I will always remain grateful to him for all of his help with this museum – and moreover, for his guidance over three decades. I am sad that he did not live to see the launch of The Cello Museum.

Click here to learn more about me.

My Father’s Advice

Growing up, I witnessed my father putting together and leading teams of researchers. He told me I should always surround myself with people who were smarter and/or more expert than I was, and that way I’d have the best team possible.

I followed my father’s advice when I brought together the people at The Cello Museum. Now, it is my great pleasure to introduce the rest of The Cello Museum team.

Erica Lessie, Researcher and Guest Curator

Erica Lessie with some of her Cellos of Unusual Shape (COUSes)

Photo credit: Timothy Fox

I didn’t think it was possible, but Erica Lessie might be as cello-obsessed as I am. I have known Erica and admired her work for nearly 30 years. I met her when she was working on her DMA in cello performance and doing research on non-standard cellos at Florida State University.

Today Erica does research and writes about the cello and is a freelance cellist in the Chicago area.

She works in a broad range of styles across many facets of the Chicago music scene. Erica does research and gives programs about her C.O.U.S.es (Cellos of Unusual Shape).

At The Cello Museum, she works as a researcher and guest curator, writes reviews of books and music, and  sends us all a regular series of digital “postcards” about unaccompanied cello literature composed by women, called: “That’s What She Said.”

Click here to learn more about Erica.

Dr. Laurence Libin, Senior Advisor in Organology

Laurence Libin. Photo by Eileen Travell

Photo credit: Eileen Travell

Dr. Laurence Libin is one of the greatest organologists of our time, and I was fortunate to meet him when I was a student. When I asked Jeremy to be an advisor, he suggested that I ask Laury, too. I was thrilled when Laury agreed to be our Senior Advisor in Organology.

Laury’s leadership in the field of organology is formidable. As a student, I remember being in awe and slightly afraid of him until I actually met him. I was happily surprised by his wonderful sense of humor and kindness.

He helped me a great deal in my student days and his example as a scholar, curator, and professor, has been a strong influence on my work in organology ever since.

It is a great honor to have Laury on The Cello Museum team as our Senior Advisor.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Laurence Libin.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me – and the whole team – here. This is both the realization of a dream and an ongoing journey – one which I hope will never come to an end – because the cello’s history and place in our lives will never be finished.

It has been almost eleven months since that “Aha!” moment in Jeremy Montagu’s sitting room when I realized there actually could be an online museum about cellos, and now I am thrilled to share it with you.

Welcome to The Cello Museum!

Sticker design wiThe Cello Museum logo for cello and laptop stickers.

Enter our prize drawings for a chance to win a Cello Museum cello or laptop sticker.

Celebrate with Us and Enter to Win Cello Merch

Starting 18 September and continuing on each of the next three Fridays, we will be doing random prize drawings for some cello merch.

Please join our mailing list for details on how to enter. The winner today will receive a mug. Other prizes this week include a cello case sticker and a laptop sticker.

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