Music Ph.D. program receives loud
by Tom Cogill
Ph.D. student Peter Swendsen, who has an M.F.A. in electronic
music and recording media, is continuing his interdisciplinary
exploration of video and interactive performance projects
with an emphasis on dance.
By Jane Ford
a Ph.D. has been on Jeff Deckers mind since the early 1990s
when he received his masters in history from the University
his saxophone got in the way.
plays professionally and records with a number of jazz groups
in Charlottesville and on the road. He has no regrets.
he had continued his academic career, his sax would have
gone into the closet, he said. It was better for me
to continue playing.
when the opportunity came to combine his background in performance
and academics in U.Va.s fledgling Ph.D. program in music,
he was the first to be accepted in the program.
introduction to music was interdisciplinary. His masters
thesis focused on integration and race relations in the Swing
Eras jazz community. He was looking at music in a new way
examining racial, political and social issues and how music
operates in society.
Decker is continuing his interest in the relationship of music
and society in U.Va.s innovative program, which offers students
two areas of specialization that build on the departments
philosophy of music as a liberal art.
critical and comparative studies area draws on musicology, ethnomusicology,
criticism, theory and analysis, aesthetics and performance studies.
The specialization in composition and computer technology covers
both acoustic and computer techniques and includes composition,
analysis, critical studies, conducting, orchestration and performance.
long-standing reputation in fields such as gender studies, theory,
ethnomusicology, music history, performance studies and popular
music has played a major role in shaping the Ph.D. program.
discovering there are other programs changing to follow ours,
said Elizabeth Hudson, chairwoman of the McIntire Department of
for the Ph.D. curriculum took eight years before the State Council
of Higher Education for Virginia granted approval in 2000. It
is the first music Ph.D. program in Virginia.
program differs from those at most other schools across the nation.
Some emphasize a Euro-centric approach; others are structured
with separate programs for musicology and ethnomusicology, making
it difficult for students to work across discipline boundaries.
interdisciplinary aspect of the degree program, both within the
music discipline and in other University curricula, is proving
to be a draw.
they are doing here is unique and exciting, said Peter Swendsen,
who entered the composition program this fall. The interaction
of the two programs is unique in progressive composition programs.
Interacting with the people in the [critical studies] program
provides a perspective I might not get at another institution.
who has an M.F.A. in electronic music and recording media, is
continuing his interdisciplinary exploration of video and interactive
performance projects with an emphasis on dance. The Virginia Center
for Computer Music at U.Va., and the opportunity to work with
Assistant Professor Matthew Burtner, swayed his decision to join
Rubin, who is in his first year of the critical studies program,
said he felt lucky the department is receptive to different approaches
historical, ethnographical, analytical and that
he did not have to choose between musicology and ethnomusicology.
Ideally, he would have wanted a program with a track record, but
knew U.Va. and the faculty had highly respected reputations. Its
the only school I really wanted to go to, said Rubin, whose
masters in history from the University of Vermont was in
caliber and diversity of the candidates backgrounds has
impressed Scott De Veaux, director of graduate studies. Professionally,
he appreciates the opportunity to interact with the students both
in and out of the classroom. He is surprised how easy it is to
move from what he is researching and interested in to what the
Ph.D. students are doing, he said. They are very self-motivated.
program attracts the same applicants as other top music programs
in the country, Hudson said, and this year there was a huge waiting
list. She credits the structure as well as the size of the program
with drawing so many qualified people.
student is assigned a faculty mentor for the first two years,
and the department is able to offer two competitive fellowship
packages as well as other financial support.
Edgar Shannon Jefferson Scholars Graduate Fellowship and the Presidents
Fellowship have been crucial in attracting top candidates, she
Simonson, a Presidents Fellow, also was not deterred by
the newness of the program. A second-year student in the critical
studies program, she is taking a feminist literature course in
the English department to broaden the approach to her study of
dance and the role of the female in 19th-century French opera.
she first visited U.Va., she loved it and clicked with a number
of the faculty. I
was impressed with the diversity and accessibility of the faculty
here. When I visited other places, there were, maybe one or two
faculty I would want to work with. Here, I want to work with everyone.