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Three major awards received by WVU music community

Three members of the West Virginia University School of Music faculty and an alumnus have taken home awards at the American Musicological Society-Society for Ethnomusicology-Society of Music Theory's joint annual meeting.

H. Robert Cohen/RIPM Award 

Jennifer Walker

“Sacred Sounds, Secular Spaces: Transforming Catholicism Through the Music of Third-Republic Paris” by Jennifer Walker, assistant professor of musicology, received the H. Robert Cohen/RIPM Award.

The H. Robert Cohen Award honors each year a publication related to the goals of Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals, a long-standing enterprise internationally recognized as one of the primary tools for research in music and musicology. 

While she was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Walker took two seminar courses with Annegret Fauser, which led her to make a career studying French music in the late nineteenth century.

Cover of Jennifer Walker's book

“As I began research on the project, I realized that the historiographical narratives that I was reading repeatedly in published texts did not always align neatly with what I was finding in the archives,” Walker said. “The story that the archives told was that otherwise ‘secular’ musicians, composers, and critics found an overwhelmingly underplayed value in utilizing French Catholicism as a mode of cultural expression.

“I wanted my doctoral research and, later, my book, to tell a new story that revealed the importance of Catholicism in the formation of an ideology of musical and cultural French identity, even as the nation moved toward the legal separation of church and state.”

American Musicological Society Teaching Award

Travis Stimeling and Kayla Tokar

The AMS Teaching Award honors an exceptional pedagogical resource for musicology by an AMS member or a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States published during the previous two years.

Travis Stimeling, professor of musicology, and School of Music Alumnus Kayla Tokar received the Teaching Award for their essay on anti-racist pedagogy in the music history classroom. 

“Kayla and I began collaborating through the university’s Research Apprenticeship Program and continued our work through the support of the university’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program,” Stimeling said. “Our work was initially focused on the policy debates surrounding the South Carolina Negro Act of 1740, which, among other things, prohibited enslaved Blacks from playing drums. The policy was implemented following the Stono Rebellion of 1739, which found enslaved people revolting against the very people who had control over the legislature.”

This aspect of the law’s history has seldom been taught in music history classrooms. Rather, most textbooks simply acknowledge the enslaved people were prohibited from drumming. 

“Through this work, we began to consider what might happen if we reframed this story around notions of Black resistance and white backlash,” Stimeling said. “We then extended these questions to much of the undergraduate music history sequence. In our article, we outline an approach to teaching the history of music in Europe, West Africa and the Americas through the dual lenses of white supremacy and Black resistance.”

The article has received overwhelming praise and according to Stimeling, colleagues from other institutions have begun assigning it to their graduate students and using it in their own work.

“To have done this work alongside a brilliant undergraduate researcher like Kayla is all the more special, because I’ve been given a chance to learn from her along the way,” Stimeling said.

Society of Music Theory prize for Outstanding Multi-Author Collection

Matthew Heap

Associate Professor of Composition and Theory Matthew Heap contributed a chapter in “The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy” which was awarded the Society of Music Theory prize for Outstanding Multi-Author Collection.

“I ended up being a contributor to this book when I saw a call for lesson plans for it,” Heap said. “I proposed an article on our just-completed Written Theory overhaul at WVU and it was accepted as one of the articles on curriculum design.”

The Society of Music Theory wrote, “this nominee for the Outstanding Multi-Author Collection stood out not only for its scope and depth of content, but for its diversity, and potential impact across the discipline. This book, which includes contributions by an astounding sixty-eight authors, focuses on practical tools and lessons for music theory pedagogy.”

Heap explains that the chapter details how he rethought the way that WVU organized Written Theory from both a content standpoint and a delivery standpoint to make it more engaging and accessible to students.

“I'm very honored that this very important book that I was excited to be a part of was recognized,” Heap said. “According to the editor, it is the first pedagogy-oriented scholarship to be awarded a Society of Music Theory scholarship award, which speaks to the quality of the work and of my fellow authors.”