Snow, Robert Joseph (1926–1998)

By: Larry Wolz

Type: Biography

Published: December 7, 2006

Robert Joseph Snow, musicologist and university professor, was born in Indiana in 1926. Snow grew up in Crothersville, Indiana, and attended a Catholic seminary after graduating from high school. Studying primarily with Willi Apel, he completed B.M. and M.A. degrees at Indiana University. In 1968 he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, where he studied with Dragan Plamenac and Charles Hamm. His dissertation focused on a fifteenth-century manuscript from the Strahov Abbey in Prague.

Snow's early professional career included service as a church choir director and music adviser to the American Council of Catholic Bishops during the controversial post–Vatican II years of the late 1960s. He also served as an editor for the World Library of Sacred Music publishers in Cincinnati from 1958 to 1974. Snow held academic appointments at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Illinois, Duquesne University, and the University of Pittsburgh before being appointed to the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught from 1976 until his retirement in 1996.

Although his scholarly studies ranged widely, Snow's greatest impact as a musicologist came from his study of sacred music of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, accomplished primarily during his years in Texas. He and Texas-born musicologist Robert M. Stevenson have been the principal promoters of interest in this music, which is important to the history and culture of the Southwest. Through their publications and subsequently through the research and publication of their students, these two musicologists have filled countless lacunae in the history of music in the Americas.

Snow published two books: The 1613 Print of Juan Esquivel de Barahona (Detroit, 1978) and The Extant Music of Rodrigo de Ceballos and Its Sources (Detroit, 1980). Perhaps most importantly, he prepared editions of the works of Portuguese composer Gaspar Fernandes (Lisbon, 1990) and Spanish composer Rodrigo de Ceballos (Granada, 1995). His crowning achievement as an editor of early music was A New-World Collection of Polyphony for Holy Week and the Salve Service: Guatemala City, Cathedral Archive, music MS 4 (Chicago, 1996). Snow also wrote numerous articles for musicological journals and dictionaries and encyclopedias of music.

He died in Austin on June 9, 1998. After his death a memorial festschrift of thirty-nine essays by his colleagues and students was published in 2002. Snow's large library and archives on Iberian music are now a part of the Centro de Investigación de Música Religiosa Española at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This collection is housed in the Robert J. Snow Hall, along with a portrait of the musicologist by Rafael Romero commissioned by the center.

David E. Crawford, "Robert J. Snow Obituary," AMS Newsletter, February 1999. David E. Crawford, ed., and Grayson Wagstaff, asst. ed., Encomium musicae: Essays in Memory of Robert J. Snow (Festschrift Series No. 17) (Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 2002).


  • Music
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Music and Drama

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Larry Wolz, “Snow, Robert Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 7, 2006

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