Meet the Musicology PhD students at CU Boulder:
Cali Alexander is a PhD student in ethnomusicology with both a bachelor's and master’s degrees in Flute Performance from the University of Arkansas; raised in a small town in Arkansas. Her research interests include traditional Japanese music, noh theatre, poetry, art, and aesthetics. Cali studies the honkyoku repertoire of shakuhachi (the Japanese bamboo flute of Zen) under the tutelage of David Kansuke Wheeler II of Boulder. Cali is also interested in shamanism, altered states, trance, and how music affects and heals the brain in these processes. Also, relating these practices and methods to people in the current day by exploring escapism through music. Cali also practices Zen Buddhism.
Electronic music composition is another of her interests, in creating electronic pieces described as “hauntingly beautiful” and “hypnotic” with added effects achieved by the implementation of live instruments like flute and shakuhachi. Cali plans to become a performing artist once her academic goals are achieved. She started performing in orchestra at the age of fifteen and has always had a fervent passion for orchestral performance.
Cali is also currently the Treasurer for the Society of Ethnomusicology’s Student Union. Cali’s lifestyle hobbies include swimming, hiking, gardening, suminagashi (water marbling), cooking, rockhounding, and spending time with her dog, an English Bull Terrier named Wiggy (von Beethoven).
Brian Casey is currently an assistant professor in Jazz Studies at the University of Northern Colorado where he specializes in jazz history and pedagogy at the graduate and undergraduate level. He holds a DMA in jazz studies from UC Boulder and an MM in jazz studies from the University of North Texas and is currently approaching PhD Candidacy in Musicology at UC Boulder. As jazz bassist based on the West Coast and in the Plains States for over thirty years he has performed and/or recorded with Eric Skye, Henry Butler, Annette Lowman, Pink Martini, MaryLynn Gilaspie and many others. Dr. Casey has presented original research in jazz-related fields at many national and international conferences including those of the College Music Society, the Jazz Education Network and the International Society of Bassists. Brian’s research interests include the intersection of jazz and American literature, politics and society and the role of jazz in the civil rights struggle in America as well as jazz as a cultural phenomenon in New Orleans.
Benjamin Pongtep Cefkin
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Benjamin Pongtep Cefkin began studying traditional Thai music and dance at the age of four. His studies initiated a lifelong passion for Thai culture and performing arts. As a member of Colorado’s Thai community, Benjamin has served as the Featured Country Community Liaison for the Colorado Dragonboat Festival (2013) and as the Assistant Chair of Arts and Culture on the Board of Directors for Wat Buddhawararam of Denver. He has performed internationally as a bassoonist with the Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra and the Bangkok International Community Orchestra, as a Thai musician with the Thai Harmony Traditional Arts Ensemble, and as an active member of Denver’s Balinese Gamelan Tunas Mekar. Benjamin is currently a doctoral student in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he holds a BA in Musicology with Emphasis in World Music.
Kelsey A. Fuller
Kelsey A. Fuller is a PhD Candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado Boulder, and holds a Certificate in College Teaching from the CU Graduate Teacher’s Program. Her research explores political sentiments and gender identities in Indigenous Sámi popular music from Scandinavia, as well as Swedish folk-jazz and cultural exchange between Sweden and the United States. Kelsey has taught courses and held teaching assistantships in both the College of Music and the Nordic Studies program (Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature Department). Her research has been published in the American Music Research Center Journal and the Journal of Scandinavian Cinema.
Originally from Connecticut, Kelsey graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from Eastern Connecticut State University, studying ethnomusicology, music theory, and composition, while also performing in numerous ensembles. Her Honors Senior Thesis, Cultural Cohabitation: Swedish Jazz and the Folk Revival, was awarded the Outstanding Honors Thesis Award. Kelsey also completed a minor in Women and Gender Studies, focusing her research on contemporary intersectional discourses of gender, sexual politics, race, class, and social equality activism.
Benjamin Kammin is a PhD student in ethnomusicology. He holds a MM in Finger-Style Guitar Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MM in Musicology/Ethnomusicology from Northern Arizona University. His research interests are rooted in the guitar-based vernacular traditions of American music. He is particularly interested in the variability of performance practices in these traditions, and the cultural and musical aesthetics than inform this phenomenon.
He has presented research at the Southwest Chapter of the Society of Ethnomusicology conference and received the 2013 Joann W. Kealiinohomoku Prize for Outstanding Student Paper. Numerous examples of his transcription and typesetting work of finger-style guitar repertoire have been published by Stropes Editions. He continues to do primary research on the music of composer and guitarist Leo Kottke, and is closely involved with the Leo Kottke Archives Project.
Benjamin has an extensive background performing and teaching the music of stylistically diverse finger-style guitar artists, from Mississippi John Hurt to Michael Hedges. He currently works with students worldwide and is an instructor for the annual Music of Leo Kottke Workshop.
Teresita Lozano is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado Boulder. A native of the El Paso, Texas – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua borderland and daughter of Mexican immigrants, Teresita engages in music research that explores the relationship between music, Diaspora and inherited memory in the construction of transnational identities. Her current research is based on the post-Revolutionary Mexican corridos (ballads) from the 1926 armed religious rebellion, La Crisiada, and their contemporary appropriation to expressions of Mexican identity in both Mexico and the United States, including the undocumented Mexican immigrant community. Other relevant research, presentations and publications include Latino popular groups’ influence on American immigration politics, such as Grammy award-winning "La Santa Cecilia," as well as the significance of religion, ritual and religious spaces in the musical expressions and negotiations of transnational and diasporic identities. Teresita has a strong interest in applied ethnomusicology, including civic engagement, public education and work in museums and archives. In 2013, Teresita was awarded a graduate fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where she worked in residence as a Latino Museums Studies fellow conducting field work and music research for the Latino D.C. History Project. Teresita has presented several papers in the United States, Canada and Mexico, including the annual Society for Ethnomusicology national conferences and La Transnationalisation du Religieux par la Musique international conference.
Teresita is an active flutist and vocalist at the University of Colorado and in the larger community. She has performed in a variety of ensembles, including world music (Mariachi, Japanese, African Highlife) and Early/Baroque music (flauto traverso). Teresita also participates in multicultural recording projects and has performed as a flute and vocal soloist with local orchestras and community artists. She is currently a member of the Doina Romanian folk choir, as well a founding member of the Colorado-based traditional Mexican women’s trio, Las Dahlias, with Valeria Carlos and Roberta Maldonado.
Teresita graduated summa cum laude from Baylor University where she studied flute with Helen Ann Shanley and was awarded the Presser Foundation Award in performance and academia. She is currently an instructor of ethnomusicology at CU, and also holds a graduate assistantship for the American Music Research Center where she works in both archival work and exhibition creation with the support of the University of Colorado museums. She is an advocate for musical activism in the community, and utilizes her academic and performance background for diversity outreach, public education and human rights movements. When Teresita is not living the academic life, she spends her time performing with her amazing friends and colleagues, embarking on travel adventures and attempting to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming Indiana Jones.
Dan Obluda is a PhD Candidate in historical musicology. In addition to his teaching appointment in Continuing Education, he is currently working on his dissertation project titled, “Topics in the Hollywood Score: Neo-Riemannian Analysis as a Bridge Linking Topic Theory and Film Music Scholarship.” Before studying at CU, Dan taught a wide variety of undergraduate courses at the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned a Masters in Music History and Literature, as well as a Bachelors in Music Education. In the Fall of 2017, Dan’s edition of Anton Reicha’s Die Harmonie der Sphären was published by A-R Editions, and his article on pentatonicism in Japanese and American folk musics appeared in the 2018 issue of the American Music Research Center Journal. An active performer, Dan is a percussionist in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony and he has performed with the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra since 2007.
Jenna Palensky (BA in Music from Nebraska Wesleyan University, MM in Music History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is a fourth-year PhD student in ethnomusicology. Her areas of specialty include music of the Republic of Georgia and the Balkans with interests in cultural policy, tourism, ethnochoreology, diaspora and applied ethnomusicology. Jenna is active in the Boulder-Denver area as a frequent performer of Balkan music with the group Planina and as the music director and co-founder of a Romanian folk choir, Doina. Jenna has performed abroad twice in the Republic of Georgia with the group, Village Harmony where she plans to conduct her dissertation fieldwork. She has given research presentations for the College Music Society, the Colorado State University Kodaly Institute, the UNL Czech Komensky Club, Society for Ethnomusicology national and regional conferences and Music and the Moving Image.
Jenna is currently working on a collaborative studio album of Macedonian and Serbian folk songs with members of Planina. In her spare time, Jenna teaches voice lessons, arranges choral music, enjoys playing her two Georgian instruments (the panduri and chonguri) and occasionally participates in international folk dancing and ballet.
Megan Quilliam is working toward a PhD in Ethnomusicology with an emphasis in South African music. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Megan completed her undergraduate work in Australia at the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music, receiving a Bachelor of Music (musicology) with honors. While there, Megan co-founded and co-edited the Undergraduate Journal of Musicology, the Sydney Conservatorium’s first student-run journal. Currently in her third her, her research interests at Boulder center on the blending of art music customs with the traditional music of South Africa, as well as the musical activities of South African composers living abroad. She has presented research at conferences in Oregon and Colorado and recently received the 2015 Joann Kealiinohomuku Prize for Outstanding Student Paper at the regional SEM conference. She spent the summer of 2015 as a FLAS Fellow learning to speak isiZulu at the University of Florida.
Megan enjoys teaching beginner’s lessons in piano, Celtic harp and voice. As a singer and instrumentalist she has performed with Regis University’s Collegium Musicum and the Sydney Conservatorium Choir, recordings of which were broadcast live in Australia. She is currently a member of the University of Colorado Boulder’s World Vocal Ensemble, a group that has been able to perform with two legends of South African music: Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Johnny Clegg Band. When she is not reading, performing or writing about music, Megan looks forward to travel of any kind, watching Springbok rugby and playing with her dog, Coda!
Melanie Shaffer is a PhD candidate in the exploratory stages of a dissertation. Her research interests center around the relationships of music and text and music and visual art, especially in the late medieval era and early twentieth century. She is a regular presenter at the regional meetings of the American Musicological Society and has also presented research at the national conference for the Society of American Music and the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Her first article, "Paul Robeson's Iconic Timbre: the Negotiation of Signification,” was recently published in the Journal of the American Music Research Center. She currently serves as the Rocky Mountain student representative to AMS.
Shaffer is also a lead TA in the College of Music for CU's accomplished Graduate Teacher Program, in which she organizes a series of workshops on teaching and career development and consults with fellow graduate students on their classroom teaching.
In non-scholastic life, Shaffer stays busy as a church musician and avid runner, hiker and rock-climber who is very distracted by Colorado.
Brandon Stover is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology. He holds a BM in Music Education from Millikin University and an MA in Ethnomusicology from Goldsmiths, University of London. Before coming to Colorado, he was a middle school music (band/choir) and social science teacher for nine years in Illinois. He has presented at the Illinois Music Education Association Conference.
His research areas focus on Japanese music and cultural borrowing in music making as well as gender issues with Shakuhachi performance and practice. His research dives into the motivation to perform music of other cultures and how both the performer and culture barrer react, placing a focus on female practitioners and obstacles they must overcome. Other research interest areas include music’s ability to preserve language specifically looking at how music can help language preservation.
Brandon is an active performer in the University of Colorado Japanese Music Ensemble and is an active member of the Highlands Lutheran Church Handbell Choir. He plays the shakuhachi and the saxophone as well as being proficient in almost all band instruments at a middle school level (he only needed to be slightly better than his students for them to awe and wonder at his skill!)
In his free time, Brandon enjoys playing board games and traveling with his wife, Emily.
Kelsey Thibdeau is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder who is currently conducting field research in Jordan on a Fulbright fellowship that will contribute to her dissertation, a transnational study on how displaced Syrians participate in a larger, global network of activists who employ music and the arts to mobilize support and advocate for peace, human rights and international aid.
Thibdeau’s primary areas of research interest are music and conflict, music in Diaspora communities and Applied Ethnomusicology for education. She has presented research and conducted workshops at academic and music education conferences including the Society for Ethnomusicology national conference, the Colorado Music Educators Conference and the Syria Now Global Engagement Academic Conference. In 2014, Thibdeau received the Joann Kealinohomoku Prize for Outstanding Student Paper at the SEM Southwest Region Conference, and has previously been awarded two Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) for Arabic language study and the Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship. She has served as a teaching assistant for several CU music classes and as the primary instructor for World Musics.
In 2015, Thibdeau studied the Arabic nay with ethnomusicologist Scott Marcus and performed with the UC-Santa Barbara Middle Eastern Ensemble. During that time, she also worked as the Programmer at the UCSB Multicultural Center, conceptualizing and acting as a liaison for all academic speakers and performance events.
Previously, Thibdeau received a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in music education from CU with an ethnomusicology emphasis, completing a research project on multicultural music education curriculum in the U.S. state-sponsored international schools. In addition to her academic work, she has taught general and instrumental music for six years in public schools and overseas at the American School of Kuwait. In her spare time, Thibdeau enjoys hiking, camping and traveling with her husband John.
Charles Wofford is pursuing a PhD in historical musicology. He received his B.A. in music in 2012 from Northern Arizona University, having studied classical guitar with Tom Sheeley, a student of Manuel Lopez Ramos. Charles’ research interests engage with the narratives surrounding the “classic rock” era, particularly the aesthetics of spontaneity and improvisation in bands like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin. Other interests include the ways normative values may be coded in music, the role of music in social and political revolution, historiography, and hermeneutics. Charles maintains an active performance practice in the guitar, both within the Ramos-Sheeley classical tradition and in an improvisational electric rock tradition.
Following the 2016 presidential election, Charles lead local opposition to an “Alt-Right” presence on CU Boulder campus. As an activist, Charles has been published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Hampton Institute, and has been interviewed by The Guardian, Colorado Public Radio and others.