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Harvard University
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Harvard University
Ethnomusicology Program
Department of Music

Type of Program and Degrees Offered

Harvard offers both an undergraduate degree through the Music Department and graduate curricula and Ph.D. degree specialization. See the Harvard Music Department website for details of the new undergraduate concentration (major) beginning in 2017. Harvard also offers a five-year AB/MM Program in Music with the New England Conservatory and a Five-year Dual Degree Program in Music with the Berklee College of Music.

Graduate students are encouraged to pursue related studies in fields such as Anthropology; Visual and Environmental Studies; Film Studies; Women, Gender and Sexuality; African and African American Studies; Sanskrit and Indian Studies; Near Eastern Languages and Civilization; and a full range of other departments relevant to their areas of interest. 

Program Statement

Ethnomusicology at Harvard offers intensive training in ethnographic method as well as study of theories, problems, and approaches relevant to the study of any living musical tradition in its cultural setting. By the end of the second year of study, students select primary and secondary fields of specialization, which may be defined by region (for example, Turkish or West African music); by musical styles (such as jazz or popular music); or by topic or theoretical approach (organology or aesthetics). The Harvard program has particular strengths in regions stretching from the Mediterranean to India, in Africa and African diasporas, and in urban America. There are excellent resources both in the music department and across the disciplines at Harvard in critical theory. Collaborations are encouraged among ethnomusicology and  other music department programs in historical musicology, music theory, composition, and cross-disciplinary studies.

Six to eight ethnomusicology courses—four seminars and four proseminars or undergraduate classes—are offered each year as part of the regular curriculum. Graduate seminars explore ethnomusicological methods and theories as they are applied to the study of music, as well as a wide range of issues and materials, while proseminars focus on music styles or distinctive musical settings.

An important aspect of the Harvard ethnomusicology program is that students receive training in Western music and its history as well as exposure to the methods and theories of historical musicology and music theory. A vital aspect of ethnomusicological training at Harvard is exposure to other disciplines, with particular emphasis upon anthropology, history, area studies, linguistic training, and theoretical frameworks related to the student’s specialization.

Many students participate in performance opportunities both on the Harvard campus as well as across the Cambridge and Boston metropolitan area. Campus ensembles include the Dudley World Music Ensemble (https://dudley.harvard.edu/dudley-world-music-ensemble) and numerous other vocal, instrumental, and dance groups.

Special Resources

Ethnomusicology laboratory, World Music Archives, special library collections, Peabody Museum, musical instrument collection (India, Iran, Mali, Zimbabwe), extensive sound and video archives (including the Archive of World Music and Hiphop Archive & Research Institute). The Asia Center, Reischauer Institute, Center for African Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, South Asia Institute, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and several other campus institutions provide additional intellectual resources and funding for student research and language study. Faculty and graduate students hold conferences each year on a variety of topics; music faculty, artists in residence, and visiting artists often enrich coursework and provide opportunities for students to perform. 

Full-Time Faculty in Ethnomusicology

Ingrid Monson. (Ph.D. New York University)  Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, Music Department and Department of African and African American Studies. Jazz; Afro-American music; cultural theory.

Kay Kaufman Shelemay. (Ph.D., University of Michigan) G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Music, Music Department and Department of African and African American Studies. Ethiopia; Middle East; urban US; Jewish music; historical ethnomusicology; music and ritual; music and community; musical ethnography.

Richard K. Wolf. (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Professor, Music Department and Department of South Asian Studies. Musics of south, central and west Asia. South Indian classical (Karnatak) music. Folk, tribal, and ritual music of India and Pakistan.  Folk and religious music of Tajikistan and Northern Afghanistan. Rhythm and drumming. Music in Islam. Emotion, phenomenology, space and time, semiotics, music and language.  Music and indigeneity. Ethnographic creative writing.  Music and ethos.

Affiliated Faculty

Vijay Iyer. (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.) Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Department of Music. African American music, critical improvisation studies, music cognition, embodiment, Asian American studies, music and activism, composition & performance.

Katy E. Leonard ((Ph.D., Brown University) Allston Burr Assistant Dean of Harvard College, Eliot House and Lecturer in Music. American vernacular and popular music, bluegrass, hip hop culture, music and civic engagement, music and community

Carol J. Oja. (Ph.D., Graduate School of the City University of New York) William Powell Mason Professor of Music and Program in the History of American Civilization. U.S. modernism, African-American music, cross-cultural intersections, Broadway musicals, women and music.

Sindhumathi Revuluri. (PhD, Princeton University, 2007) Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Indian popular music and film, global pop, sound studies, media theory, post-colonial theory, music and empire.

Braxton D. Shelley. (Ph.D., University of Chicago) Assistant Professor of Music and Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks Assistant Professor in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. African American music; gospel music; music and theology; music and dance. 

Yosvany Terry (National School of Arts [ENA], Havana, Cuba) Director of Jazz Ensembles and Senior Lecturer on Music, Department of Music and the Office for the Arts at Harvard. Jazz performance and theory; Cuban music; West African music.

Financial Support

Financial aid is provided to undergraduates on a need-blind basis. All graduate students are funded for the first five years of study. Graduate financial aid packages include fellowships to support coursework during the first two years of residency, summer stipends, professional support, subsequent teaching assistantships, and dissertation completion fellowship; a minimum of five years of funding are guaranteed.  Fellowships are available from both the Music Department and Harvard Graduate School to support summer research, doctoral research, and write-up period. There are additional fellowships available from many centers and other sources on campus depending on specific area of study. A limited number of Presidential Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis to outstanding graduate students in any department in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Further Information

Prospective undergraduates should contact:

Undergraduate Coordinator Mary Mackinnon

Department of Music, Harvard University

3 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA  02138



Prospective graduate students should contact:

Professor Kay K. Shelemay

Advisor in Ethnomusicology

Department of Music, Harvard University

3 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA  02138



Program Website


Ethnomusicology Student Group



The content for Harvard University was last updated September 11, 2017.

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