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Northern Illinois University
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Northern Illinois University

Type of Program and Degrees Offered

We don’t have an ethnomusicology program. What we have is an Individualized master’s program in World Music Studies that involves interdisciplinary course work. Other than required courses in music including research methods, music history, and music theory, students are encouraged to take courses from disciplines such as anthropology, communication, history, and philosophy. Three tracks in this program are available for graduate students to pursue their advance study: research, performance, and education.  


The world music program is part of the School of Music at NIU.  The Indonesian gamelan ensemble (instruments and outreach activities) is a shared resource with NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies. 

There is no undergraduate degree offered in our program. However, courses such as Survey of World Music Cultures, Music of China, Music of Southeast Asia, World Music pedagogy, and Introduction to Ethnomusicology are available for upper level undergraduate students. 

The graduate program in world music is an Individualized Study Program in that students have to consult with faculty advisor to design a specialization with course work selected from existing courses, seminars, and/or independent study, offered both in-and off-the School of Music. The interdisciplinary nature of such program provides students opportunities not only to acquire high-level music skills and overall musicianship, but also to increase their awareness of the cultural and social aspects of various musical practices of the world.  Collaborated disciplines from past successful programs include Anthropology, Art History, Communication, Foreign Language, Political Science, etc. NIU’s well-known Center for Southeast Asian Studies is another interdisciplinary area for students to develop such collaboration. 

Special Resources

Non-European classical music cultures that have been part of the NIU music curriculum include African drumming, Balinese and Javanese music and dance, Chinese music (silk-and-bamboo and orchestral) Middle Eastern (Arabic) music, and North Indian music. Global trends of fusing musical elements from the world are also highly celebrated in the NIU Music School, for example, the Afropop ensemble. In addition, the world music program invites visiting artists from many different countries to give special performances and workshops. These artists came from Asia (China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia), from Latin America (Mexico), Africa (Ghana, Zambia), and the Middle East (Turkey and Syria). 

Affiliated Faculty

Cliff Alexis: Musical Instrument Technician, Steel pan

Omar al Musif: M.M. Northern Illinois University, Applied artist, Middle Eastern/Pan Arabic music, frame drums

Greg Beyer: DMA, Manhattan School of Music, Associate Professor, percussion, new music, berimbau

Robert Chappell: M.M., University of North Texas, Professor emeritus, percussion, tabla 

I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda: National Performing Arts Institute (KOKAR), Denpasar, Indonesia, Applied artist,
Indonesian gamelan, Indonesian dance

Michael Mixtackie: M.M. Indian University, Instructor: percussion, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban Folklore

Liam Teaque: M.M. Northern Illinois University, Associate Professor: steel pan

Jui-Ching Wang: DMA, Arizona State University, Associate Professor: world music, music education, ethnomusicology

General Program Statement

The NIU School of Music has held a pioneering role in integrating diverse musical styles into its curriculum since the 1970s with the establishment of the first all-student steel band and Chinese music ensemble in the U.S. Throughout these four decades, academic courses in world music survey, ethnomusicology, and regional studies, and performance studies in various musical cultures of the world make up of the unique curriculum that have helped cultivate students to become culturally informed and artistically versatile musicians and music educators. 
The special strengths of NIU world music program are in its versatile world music ensembles including Steel Band, Chinese music ensemble, Indonesian gamelan ensemble, and Middle Eastern ensemble.  

Found in 1973, the NIU steel band was the first active steel band in an American university. NIU is one of the few institutions in the world at which students may pursue undergraduate and graduate music degrees in steelpans.   For more information about NIU Steel Band, please visit http://www.niu.edu/MUSIC/ensembles/steelband.shtml

The Chinese Music Ensemble was the first college Chinese music group in the U.S. and currently is the only one in Illinois.  Established by Professor Kuo-Huang Han in the 1970s, it gave several national and international concert performances between 1976 and 1978.  Inactive for several years, the ensemble was reinstated in 2010.  Members of the ensemble learn to play assorted authentic Chinese instruments. Individual lessons and group rehearsals make up the major part of the curriculum.  Our program teaches the Central Javanese and Balinese gamelans and gives regular concerts and demonstrations on and off the NIU campus. In addition to gamelan music, students in the ensemble also learn to play Keroncong music and to dance.  Since 2013, the gamelan ensemble has been directed by Professor Ngurah Kertayuda, guest artist and native Balinese gamelan director, dancer, and choreographer.

The Middle Eastern Music Ensemble provides an opportunity for students to learn the theoretical, practical, and historical perspectives of Pan-Arabic music traditions. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to a wide range of Pan-Arabic music styles, with an emphasis on irregular rhythms and maqam. Aural skills are highly enhanced by the training in the ensemble as a result of immersion in listening to and reproducing microtonal intervals and irregular meters. Since 2013, this ensemble has been directed by renowned frame drum artist Professor Omar al Musfi.

Financial Support

Assistantships may be awarded to qualified candidates, preferably those who pursue World Music-Research track. All qualified candidates must demonstrate a knowledge of world music cultures and ethnomusicological research trends and possess highly developed interpersonal skills. Graduate assistants will be assigned to teach an undergraduate Music and Culture course and will receive a full tuition waiver and a stipend.

All applicants may also apply for Artistic Talent Tuition Waiver Awards. These awards waive up to 9 credits of tuition a semester.

Further Information

Jui-Ching Wang
Associate Professor
School of Music, MB#206
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Program Website


The content for Northern Illinois University was last updated November 14, 2014.

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