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The Colonial Music Institute (CMI) conducts and promotes research and educational outreach in the fields of early American music and dance.

The CMI is grounded in primary research enlightened by interdisciplinary scholarship, disseminated through scholarly writing, authentic performances, and sound recordings. David Hildebrand, Ginger Hildebrand, Kate Van Winkle Keller, and Robert M. Keller founded the CMI in 1999. In 2020, the research resources, publications, and additional educational materials were generously donated to the Washington Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.


David and Ginger Hildebrand

David and Ginger Hildebrand began concertizing together professionally in 1980, turning their focus in 1985 to researching, performing, and recording colonial music. More recently, they have added programs on American music of the War of 1812. The Hildebrands present concerts and educational programs throughout the country for museums, historical societies, national and state historic parks, and universities. Mount Vernon, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and Colonial Williamsburg are among their many sponsors. David and Ginger’s seven full-length recordings focus mostly on colonial and federal era music, highlighting both classical and folk‑based repertory.

Ginger Hildebrand earned her B.A. in music from Dickinson College, going on to receive an M.M. in guitar performance from the Peabody Conservatory in 1988. She teaches classical guitar both privately and at local colleges. She also tours regularly with Ensemble Galileii and has done special outreach programs for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. For the past five years, Ginger has performed nearly every Friday at Walter Reed National Hospital, volunteering to soothe and encourage our wounded warriors.

David Hildebrand also received a Bachelor's degree from Dickinson College, then earned an M.A. in musicology from George Washington University and Ph.D. in the same field from Catholic University. He teaches American music history at the Peabody Conservatory. David is especially active in telling the story of "The Star-Spangled Banner;" he has also appeared on the PBS series "History Detectives." "Anthem," co-produced with brother Mark Hildebrand, has been broadcast nationally. David is frequently interviewed on National Public Radio, for whom he also wrote and narrated his own program "Broadside to Anthem: Music of the War of 1812."

Kate Van Winkle Keller (1937-2018)

It was the idea of Kate Van Winkle Keller (known as Kitty) and her husband Robert M. Keller to create the Colonial Music Institute with co-founders David and Ginger Hildebrand. For some 20 years, she contributed articles, databases, other educational materials, and authored several groundbreaking books on dance in early America.

Keller was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Connecticut Commission for the Arts, the Country Dance and Song Society, and the Connecticut Historical Society. Along with strong support and help from her husband, Keller co-directed several projects including The National Tune Index (published in 1980) and its online edition, Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, 1589–1839, and The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690–1783 (published in 1997).
She designed and coauthored The Playford Ball, 103 Early Country Dances 1651–1820 as Interpreted by Cecil Sharp and His Followers. First published by the Society of Dance History Scholars in 1990, this now-classic book on English country dance is in its third edition. Choreographer for the film “The Last of the Mohicans” (20th Century Fox: 1992), she has served as a consultant in early dance and music to many performing organizations and individuals, archivists, collectors, composers, and scholars.

A specialist in early American music and dance manuscripts, her bibliographic studies were published by the Music Library Association and the Country Dance and Song Society. She is a contributor to the American National Biography, the Cambridge History of American Music, the Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies, and the New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Her path-breaking work, ‘If the Company can do it!’ Technique in Eighteenth-Century American Social Dance (Historical Dance Foundation, 1990), was first presented to the International Early Dance Institute in 1989.

Along with Robert Keller and David and Ginger Hildebrand, Keller was a founding member and Research Director of The Colonial Music Institute (1998). In 2007 her major work on early dance was published as Dance and Its Music in America, 1528–1789 (Pendragon Press). Recent work includes a study of the Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads for the American Antiquarian Society and an exhibit and two books on American musical clocks, 1730–1830.

A graduate of Vassar College (class of 1959), Keller did post-graduate work at the Hartford Conservatory of Music. She was an officer and Executive Director of The Society for American Music, formerly The Sonneck Society, from 1977 to 2000, representing the Society at the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage. A tireless worker on behalf of early American music, she was honored with the Society’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1995. She served as Curator of the Library and Archives of the Country Dance and Song Society from 1985 to 1992 and was named Honorary Member in 1993.

In recognition of her scholarly achievements, Keller was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society of Worcester, Massachusetts in 2004. She was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 by the Society for American Music.

Robert Keller (1934-2021)

Robert M. Keller was a pro-bono consultant with Executive Services Corps of New England, directed the Computer Learning Center at Fox Hill Village in Westwood, MA, and has served as an Instructor of Computer Applications at Montgomery College. In 1988, he developed a unique system of indexing country dance figures and has compiled several major indexes of English and American country dances including the Dance Figures Index, American Country Dances 1730–1810, and The Dancing Master CD-ROM and website. He participated in the development of The National Tune Index and managed the programming for The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers. He was the principal author of the Early American Music and its European Sources. Keller earned a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy.


Based on decades of work by David Hildebrand, Ginger Hildebrand, Kate Van Winkle Keller, and Robert M. Keller, the Colonial Music Institute facilitated the creation of a number of research databases on Early American music and dance.

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