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New PhD in musicology offered in the ASU School of Music

Photo by Tim Trumble

September 30, 2015

As of August 2015, prospective students now have the opportunity to enroll in a program for a PhD in music with a concentration in musicology. This new program will be offered in addition to the Master of Arts with a concentration in musicology and the Master of Arts with a concentration in ethnomusicology, both of which are current programs in the ASU School of Music.

“As a School of Music focused on engaging students with a broad range of musical thought, expression and experiences, we are thrilled to offer a new, interdisciplinary doctoral program in musicology where students can explore musical traditions as sociocultural artifact, behavior and performance,” says Heather Landes, director of the ASU School of Music. “We hope our graduates will expand the traditional boundaries of music scholarship by challenging methodological and disciplinary boundaries.”

Musicology, the scholarly study of music within its cultural and historical context, often includes analysis of such diverse features as music’s style and structure, its use within society or its political significance. Ethnomusicology is a discipline with strong ties to anthropology that emphasizes a participation-focused approach to studying diverse musical cultures and practices around the world. Reflecting contemporary trends in the field, ASU’s faculty encourages students to adopt a broadly interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates both musicological and ethnomusicological approaches to the study of music.

“The unique curriculum of the musicology concentration will attract students from across the state and nation seeking practice-oriented and entrepreneurial opportunities,” says professor Sabine Feisst. “Through courses in applied musicology, students will develop skills in socially engaged practices and networking.”

The curriculum was designed to provide students with a diverse practice-oriented experience, combining specialized study in musicology with coursework in applied musicology (in which students learn to design conferences, interdisciplinary arts festivals, podcasts and musicology blogs), research colloquium (an interactive research forum featuring musicology students, faculty and guest speakers from across campus and other institutions), and two semesters of teaching experience (both in-person and online). Thus, according to associate professor Catherine Saucier, “Students receive a diverse experience, combining specialized study in musicology with opportunities to develop skills in community service/outreach, publishing, entrepreneurship, teaching and cross disciplinary research.”

The concentration specifically caters to student demand for mentorship in innovative areas such as 20th- and 21st-century music, American and East European music, migration studies, music and place, musical hermeneutics and ecomusicology. “We’ve added two new faculty members to help us launch the PhD,” says Robert Oldani, associate director and professor of musicology. “The expertise of these new colleagues, associate professor Peter Schmelz and assistant professor Christopher Wells, complements the interests of other faculty working in the 20th and 21st centuries. Our faculty cohort is now engaged with many aspects of the music of our time.”

The faculty members and their areas of study are as follows: Feisst (20th- and 21st-century music, migration studies, experimental music, ecomusicology), associate professor Kay Norton (music and well-being, American sacred music, the American South), Oldani (19th-century music, Russian and Soviet music, opera), Saucier (Medieval and Renaissance sacred music, civic cultures of the Low Countries, hermeneutics, liturgical studies), Schmelz (20th- and 21st-century music, Russian, Ukrainian and Soviet music, Cold War studies), professor Ted Solís (pedagogies, improvisation, dance and music relationships, Hispanic Caribbean music, diasporic musics), and Wells (jazz history, African-American music, dance and embodiment).

Designed to promote collaborative and cross-disciplinary study within the School of Music, the program offers opportunities for study with ASU researchers and artists in a variety of disciplines. Students in the musicology concentration may elect two seminars suitable to their research interests in any discipline outside of music — in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Arts, Media + Engineering, for example.

The first three students who were admitted to the program are Shaun Hillen, Stephen Scovasso and Zachary Wiggins, all of whom graduated last spring with master’s degrees in, respectively, music education, music history and literature, and jazz performance. “I'm enjoying working with the faculty of this new program, and I have been very impressed with their passion and knowledge of music,” says Wiggins. “I am especially happy to be working as a teaching assistant for Dr. Wells’ class about New Orleans music, as I have always loved jazz.”

One of the highlights of the program is a weekly colloquium that encourages discourse on the place that music occupies in the society it serves. “It has been a wonderful forum to discuss and explore all the possible directions for research,” says Hillen. “We always seem to fill up the two hours with very engaging discussions. The nature of the dialogue makes the students feel like their contributions are as equally valued as the professors.”

Job opportunities in musicology are in such traditional areas as teaching and research in four-year or two-year colleges, but also may be found in private and governmental arts agencies, in local education associations, in advocacy groups for the arts in American life and in professional arts organizations.

“My career aspiration is to teach on the college level,” says Scovasso. “Last spring, I was given the opportunity to create and teach a new class for the department on the career of Stephen Sondheim, and I am now teaching the online version of the class. The experience proved to me that I could be a successful instructor. Without the backing of faculty members who have faith in me, this never would have happened. I can see that the faculty members will continue to provide this same level of support in the new PhD program as well.” 

Public Contact: 
Heather Beaman
School of Music Communications Liaison

Media Contact:
Heather Beaman
School of Music Communications Liaison