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University of Alberta
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University of Alberta

Type of Program and Degrees Offered

MA Music, specialization in Ethnomusicology (thesis or course based)

PhD Music - specialization in Ethnomusicology

  • Bachelor of Music
    A rigorous musical training program with specialized routes in General Studies, Performance, and Composition and Theory.
  • Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Education 
    Our combined degree that prepares students for careers in music education within an elementary or secondary school setting.
  • Bachelor of Arts 
    A flexible and liberal arts-oriented degree, available as an Honours program or with a Major or Minor in Music.
  • Certificate in World Sound Arts 
    Our innovative diploma program focusing on sound arts, techniques and disciplines that stretch beyond standard western music: electroacoustic music, popular music, jazz, world music, music technology, ethnomusicology, and the sociology of music.
  • Minor in Music
    Explore your vital passion for music with a blend of courses from across the academic spectrum.
  •  Master of Arts
    A liberal arts-oriented program that allows students to explore broad and complex subjects in theory, musicology, ethnomusicology, and the human connection to music.
  • Master of Music 
    A rigorous musical training program with specialized routes in Performance, Choral Conducting and Composition.
  • Doctor of Philosophy 
    An interdisciplinary program that supports work in the areas of music theory, musicology and ethnomusicology.
  • Doctor of Music 
    An in-depth training program concentrating on the areas of Choral Conducting, Composition, and Performance (piano, voice, violin & viola), and offered on an individual basis on other instruments and in other performance areas. 

Program Statement

Both the thesis-based and course-based MA programs strive to produce outstanding scholars and teachers who deal both critically and respectfully with a variety of musical traditions while engaging in scholarly conversation beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. 

Students encounter a broad spectrum of approaches to music. Members of the faculty have published on topics ranging from medieval Islamic musical iconography to the history of the concerto; from studies of oral transmission of music among Canadian ethnic groups to explorations of the class and gender issues that shaped the reception of music in eighteenth and nineteenth century Germany.

Variety permits a wide range of thesis and dissertation topics, from style-historical, analytical or local history studies to investigations of the social construction of music and musical activity.

In music theory courses, students participate in focused investigations of music in the classical, popular and other traditions. The theory faculty also presents topical seminars which may range from African-American musics to post-structuralist approaches, to Schenkerian Analysis. The theory faculty encourages students to develop a well informed, critical approach to musical theory and its practices.

The Department’s offerings in ethnomusicology address the issues of music as performance, music and power, and the meaning of music and musical activity. Study cross-cultural and socially grounded musical processes through courses in the theory and methodology of the field, area studies and work in anthropology. Regional strengths include Southeast Asia, South Asia, Islamic areas, the Middle East, and West Africa.

The Department of Music Ph.D. requires at least 18 credits beyond the M.A., including MUSIC 699 Directed Research. The student's particular selection of courses may exceed 18 credits and will be determined in consultation with the student's advisory committee. MUSIC 699 has as its goal the production of a potentially publishable, article-length paper; students who have completed a master's thesis may be exempted from this requirement if the student's advisory committee confirms that the thesis is acceptable as a substitute.

The program culminates in the dissertation, a substantial work of original scholarship written after successful completion of candidacy examinations. Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in two approved languages other than English before taking candidacy examinations.

Special Resources

The Department houses the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE), whose  primary mission is to work towards musical sound for the public good, including five primary ethnomusicological activities: archiving, presentation, research, teaching, and outreach - all contributing towards human development: improving the world through music, building and sustaining community through expressive sound. Here "music" is defined as broadly as possible, to denote "humanly meaningful sound, transcending mere information, along with associated behaviors, discourses, social organizations, meanings, and materialities."

Thus "music" includes music, but also chant or speech, as well as associated rituals, performances, gatherings, movements, texts, musical instruments, concepts and theories, and all talk about music. (Dance and poetry are a kind of "music" using this broad definition, as are ritual chants and musical aesthetics; in fact "ethnomusicology" itself is a kind of music, leading to "metaethnomusicology": the ethnomusicology of ethnomusicology itself!)

CCE activities go beyond the ordinary duties of faculty and students (to teach, learn, research), by working collaboratively, outside the usual scope of university practices, to address (directly or indirectly) the larger social issues of our times.

At the hub of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE), housed under the Department of Music and University of Alberta Museums, is a world music archive (both digital and physical) serving as a research and teaching resource for musical and cultural traditions, locally and internationally.

Revolving around this hub is a range of research, teaching, and outreach projects, including Music for Global Human Development (m4ghd.org), K-12 education, and world music ensembles. CCE connects to a broad spectrum of academic disciplines across the Faculty of Arts, but extending also to Education and the health sciences, through the initiative entitled Songs for Sustainable Peace and Development, which has resulted in ongoing global health projects in Liberia, Ghana, and Ethiopia. CCE projects may result in printed texts (books and articles), exhibitions, conferences, symposia, concerts and workshops, or in a variety of media, including audio, video, websites, and virtual reality models.

The archival collection includes diverse instruments and more than 4000 titles in audio/video recordings. World music groups include the Indian Music Ensemble, West African Music Ensemble, and Middle Eastern and North African Music Ensemble, all functioning as teaching centers as well as providing outreach to local Edmonton events. We also run a Summer Study Abroad Program in Ghana, and a weekly noon series of lectures, activities, and workshops, every Wednesday noon - 1 pm in 3-47 Old Arts. The Centre helps students, staff, faculty and the general public at large to understand how people use music to connect, express, and create community and identity, and helps to effect positive change through such activities. Working locally, nationally, and globally, the CCE is of value to students and faculty in the social sciences, humanities, education, and fine arts.

The Department of Music's long-standing World Music Ensembles provide students with access to the rich musical traditions of India, West Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. With particular emphasis on song, dance and culture, our World Music Ensembles strive to preserve Eastern musical forms while sharing them with local students and audiences in an inclusive and community-oriented environment.

These for-credit performance courses are open to both Music and non-Music students. Ensemble performances are held at Convocation Hall and the Winspear Centre. Our World Music groups often perform together as part of the Department of Music's annual World Music Sampler concert event, which has featured prominent guest artists from Egypt and West Africa, amongst others.

Currently, the Department offers the following World Music Ensembles:

Full-Time Faculty in Ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicology Area

Full-Time Faculty:

  • Dr. Julia Byl (Assistant Professor, Ethnomusicology). PhD University of Michigan, 2006
  • Dr. Michael Frishkopf (Professor, Ethnomusicology; Director, Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology) PhD UCLA, 1999

Affiliated Faculty

Sessional Faculty:

  • Dr. Wisdom Agorde (Co-Director, West African Music Ensemble)
  • Robert Kpogo (Co-Director, West African Music Ensemble)
  • Sharmila Mathur (Director, Indian Music Ensemble)
  • Shruti Nair (Indian Music Ensemble)

Adjunct Faculty:

Further Information

Kimberly Arndt

Graduate Advisor
kimberly.arndt@ualberta.ca   |   (780) 492.0603

Contact Kimberly for: Graduate student and FGSR inquiries or concerns; graduate admissions, scholarship and research opportunity information; graduate payroll and course timetabling; graduate program completion paperwork; FOIPP Liaison Officer.

Program Website



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The content for University of Alberta was last updated December 12, 2019.

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