UT professor awarded 2020 Dent Medal by Royal Music Association

Kaiya Little, Life & Arts General Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 24 flipbook.

In accordance with his morning routine, professor Eric Drott scrolled through his inbox, checking his abundance of emails. An invitation to an award ceremony in Newcastle, England, appeared — the most anticlimactic way to receive exciting news.

“(The email) was fairly cryptic,” Drott said. “It was just, ‘Professor Drott, please read the following.”’

Celebrating lifetime achievements for his work, associate professor Drott of the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music won the 2020 Dent Medal, a Royal Music Association award recognizing “outstanding contributions to musicology.” Last week, Drott traveled to the U.K. to receive his acknowledgement and deliver a presentation on his recent music research. 

“You publish and your work gets cited, but you’re not really sure what kind of impact or what people think about it,” Drott said. “(The award) just feels right, it’s affirmation. It tells me that I hadn’t been doing this for nothing.” 

Growing up, Drott said he played music both in college orchestras and garage bands with friends. He said his mentors encouraged him to pursue graduate school at Yale, where he obtained a Ph.D. in music theory. 

“I’ve always been keenly interested in music,” Drott said. “I’d also grown up in a college town, so I’d always been drawn to the academic life. I knew I wanted to teach and be a professor. It seemed really interesting: the idea of being able to read things, think, write, have these profound conversations with people.”

Caroline Gamble, an economics and sustainability freshman, said she took Drott’s Music and Social Protest class to find a fun and interesting escape from her major-specific courses.

“He knows just about everything about music and everything we talk about is very interesting,” Gamble said. “You have a lot of freedom with it, like there’s a prompt and everything but you’re able to add your own voice and your own opinion into it, and it’s just a good outlet class.”

For biology freshman Isabella Douglas, Drott’s Music, Protest, and Social Movements class became a means to explore past and present artists. She said learning from Drott, who has been a music professor for 20 years, gives her the opportunity to enhance her passion for music. 

“Dr. Drott, is really good at keeping us all engaged,” Douglas said. “He always encourages us to think.”

Drott said due to COVID-19, The Royal Mint could not produce the Dent Medals. Although he could not take home a physical medal, he said he wants to entertain his students in the meantime by creating a makeshift version with cardboard and tinfoil. 

“(I) had to pose for photos and pretend like I was receiving the medal, but there (was) no medal,” Drott said.

Even without tangible proof of his award, Drott said he feels proud of the contribution he made to the music community.

“To have this (award), it does make you feel like people have gotten something out of what I (researched),” Drott said. “It’s valuable to people, and that means a lot to me.”