SMR Member Bios

To contact a student at their University of Michigan e-mail address, follow their uniqname (in parentheses) with

Jake Arthur (jakeart) is a pre-candidate in music theory. Originally from Central Massachusetts, he holds an MA in Music Theory from the University of Minnesota. Some of his research interests include the music of Tom Waits and music and place. Jake is the founding member of several one-members societies.

Casper Chan (casperyh) is a pre-candidate in ethnomusicology from Hong Kong. He holds a B.A. in music from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interest includes Han-Chinese traditional instrumental ensembles and soundscapes in modern China. He also explores current Internet subcultures as well as Japanese popular music as secondary areas of interest. In his free time, he browses for/makes memes, rides the hoverboard, and watches animes.

NeeNee Chucherdwatanasak (neechu) is a candidate in historical musicology at the University of Michigan. She specializes in post-1945 Western-European and American classical music, with an emphasis on the current new-music scene in the United States. Her secondary research interest is contemporary classical music in Southeast Asia. In her master’s thesis at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, she discusses cross-cultural approaches in the orchestral music of Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen. Consequently, she has become interested in more in-depth interdisciplinary understandings of her native region and is now also pursuing a Graduate Certificate Program in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.

Kristen Clough (cloughk) is a candidate in historical musicology.

Lisa Decenteceo (lddece) is a candidate in ethnomusicology.

Josh DeVries (joshdev) is a pre-candidate in music theory.

John Edwartowski (jedwart) is a candidate in music theory. His dissertation research looks at textual change in Guys & Dolls. John holds a Bachelor’s degree in music and Master’s degree in music theory from Wayne State University. Prior to graduate studies, John spent more than a decade as the musical director for the improvisation and sketch comedy The Second City (Detroit), where he composed songs and incidental music for sketch comedy revues and where he extemporized soundtracks for nightly improvisations. He has written and produced several musicals, most notably Cancer! The Musical, which has received performances on both American coasts as well as in the Metro Detroit Area. John spends his spare time being a husband and father.

JessJessica Grimmer (jhgrimm) is a candidate in historical musicology specializing in 20th-century music, musical institutions, and the intersection of music and international politics. She is currently working on a dissertation on French provincial conservatoires under the Nazi Occupation and Vichy Regime. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Jessica earned a Bachelor of Music degree in music history and oboe performance and a Master of Music degree in music history from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. When not researching and writing, Jessica enjoys attempting French pastry recipes, attending the opera and symphony with her husband, and long runs with her mini goldendoodle Fozzie.

AnneAnne Heminger (akhem) is a candidate in historical musicology, also pursuing a graduate certificate in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. She holds a BA in Music from the University of Chicago and an MPhil in Musicology from the University of Cambridge (Clare College), where she was a Gates Scholar. Her research interests include early print culture, liturgy, music as ritual, sixteenth-century England and Livonia, and early modern sensory theory, with a specific focus on musical practice and religious belief. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Confession Carried Aloft: Music, Sound, and Religious Identity in London c.1540–1560,” investigates the intersections between music, officially sanctioned orthodoxy, and the religious heterodoxy that marked sixteenth-century English life. She has presented her research at the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, the International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, the Lutheran Music Culture Conference (Uppsala, 2017), and the Politics of Conversion III Workshop held by the Early Modern Conversions Project, for which she is a Graduate Student Associate. Anne is also the current musicology department student-faculty representative, a co-coordinator for MMF, a San Francisco native, and an avid cook.

Derek Jackson (jaderek) is a pre-candidate in ethnomusicology.

Cody Jones (codymj) is a pre-candidate in historical musicology

Michaela Judkins (mjudkins) is a pre-candidate in historical musicology. She completed her undergraduate work at Oakland University, receiving degrees in music education and vocal performance. Her research interests are 20th-century Russian music, politics and music, Prokofiev’s Soviet period, and the reception of Western music in China.

Meredith Juergens (mereannj) is a candidate in historical musicology. Her dissertation focuses on the performance of race and more generally, American identity, in works for the stage during the first half of the twentieth century. This interdisciplinary project draws upon Meredith’s interest and previous work in the fields of dance, performance studies, and visual culture. She has presented papers at annual meetings of the Society for American Music as well as the American Musicological Society. Her work has also been published in the the Society for American Music Bulletin and Music Research Forum. In her free time, Meredith enjoys cooking (with an emphasis on carrots), working out in her living room, attending live performance events, obsessively watching animal videos, and tending to her prized and adored houseplants.

Brenna Langille (blangi) is a pre-candidate in music theory.

Ho-Chak Law (hclaw) is a candidate in ethnomusicology. He is currently finishing a dissertation titled “Cinematizing Chinese Opera, Performing Chinese Identities, 1945-1971.”

Lena Leson (lleson) is a pre-candidate in historical musicology from Princeton, NJ. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in vocal performance from The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and the San Francisco Conservatory, where she received the Graduate Prize in Music History and Literature. Her primary research interests include 20th-century music for dance in the United States, Europe and Russia; the ballets of George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky; and the intersection of music and politics, particularly in the Cold War period.

SteveStephen Lett (slett), a native of Knoxville, TN, is a candidate in music theory. Previously he studied composition, earning a B.Mus. from the College of Wooster and M.M. from The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation, “The Psychedelic Listener,” puts the values of the contemporary music theory into stark relief by exploring practices with music that developed out of 1950s and 60s experiments in psychedelic psychotherapy. He has presented his research at conferences including Music Theory Midwest, Feminist Theory and Music, RMA’s Music and Philosophy Study Group, the Association for Music and Imagery, AMS-NYSSL, and the Association for the Study of Esotericism.

Kája Lill (lill) is pursuing a PhD in music theory and a concurrent M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. Originally from Grand Haven, Michigan, he holds a M.A. in Music Theory from the University of North Texas. Some of his research interests include 20th-century Czech music and the history of music theory in Central Europe. Kája enjoys learning foreign languages and playing bass in improvisation ensembles.


Vivian Luong (luongv) is a candidate in music theory. Her research interests include embodiment and Schenkerian theory, new materialisms, gender and sexuality studies, and experimental ethnographic writing. Her dissertation, “Rethinking Music-Analytic Loving,” weaves together these topics to contemplate music analysis as a loving, ethical practice. She has presented portions of this project at annual meetings of the Society for Music Theory, Feminist Theory and Music, and Music Theory Midwest. Vivian’s work was recently published in Music Theory Online’s special issue on feminist music theory in June 2017. Her research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.

Ryan McCulloch (ryangav) is pursuing a PhD in music theory and a concurrent master’s in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. His interests in music include the intersection of Soviet music and music theory, history of music theory, and intellectual history with an emphasis in sociology. He is currently conducting research in several Moscow archives on the music of Shostakovich and Boleslav Yavorsky’s Theory of Modal Rhythm. He holds a BM in Composition from Berklee College of Music and an MM in composition from Carnegie Mellon. He continues to perform and teach regularly as a guitarist.

Elizabeth McLain (eamclain) is a candidate in historical musicology.

Jimmy bio photoJames McNally (jemcnal) is a candidate in ethnomusicology. His research investigates popular and experimental music in Brazil and the United States, with theoretical focuses on questions of race and ethnicity, collaborative creativity, alternative and digital media, gender and sexuality, and urban geography. His dissertation, “São Paulo Underground: Creativity, Collaboration, and Cultural Production in a Multi-Stylistic Experimental Music Scene,” examines these issues in the context of an independent experimental music scene in São Paulo, Brazil. He has published articles in Popular Music and Society and the Journal for the Society of American Music, and has presented his research at national and international conferences including the general meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for American Music, and the International Council for Traditional Music. His research has received support from a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Fulbright-Hays Award, and Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. As a musician, he performs with the University of Michigan Vencedores Samba Bateria and Javanese Gamelan Ensemble and enjoys making hardware-hacked instruments in his spare time. Before beginning his PhD, he received a B.A. in Music from Amherst College and spent five years working as a public school music teacher in New York City.

Patricia Josette Moss (patjmoss) is a candidate in historical musicology.

Anna Rose NelsonAnna Rose Nelson (arnels) is a pre-candidate in music theory. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Theory/Composition from St. Olaf College (2012) and a Master of Arts in Music Theory from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (2015). Her research focuses on the musical fragment in string quartets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the writings of Theodor Adorno. She has recently a presented paper on Adorno’s influence on the theoretical writings of Arnold Schoenberg, and is currently working on a paper that will grapple with the theoretical writings of Brian Ferneyhough through the analysis of his string quartets. In her free time, Anna enjoys playing viola in contemporary music ensembles, working as a steward for SMTD with the campus graduate-student union (GEO), bartending on weekends, and playing with her cat, Edie.

RhiannaRhianna Nissen (rnissen) is pre-candidate in Historical Musicology who hails from Washington D.C. She holds an MM in Music History from the University of Cincinnati and a BM in voice performance from Shenandoah Conservatory. Her research interests are broad, but especially focus on German music and politics in the nineteenth century. Her master’s thesis dealt with Catholic and German identities in the music of Josef Rheinberger. In her spare time, Rhianna enjoys binge-watching Shondaland and serving at the altar of her dog.


Michael Schachter (bigaum) is a candidate in music theory and composition, and the Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Fellow at the UM Institute for the Humanities.

Christopher Sherwood-Gabrielson (cdsg) is a pre-candidate in music theory and composition.

RichardRichard Smith (rijsmith) is a pre-candidate student in ethnomusicology. Prior to entering U-M’s ethnomusicology program, Richard completed a BA in music at SUNY Stony Brook University, and an MMus in (historical) musicology at Northwestern University. His honor’s work into Reformation-era German sacred music and witchcraft helped him earn a Presser Award at the former. Richard’s current area of study is centered on 21st-century popular music in the Middle East, primarily Tel Aviv and Israel-Palestine. He actively engages with conceptions of sexuality and gender, the use of language, performativity, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and music and social media. Outside of academic life, Richard enjoys live-streaming atmospheric horror, and other story-based video games.


12509714_10106092371700093_387921959521880912_nAustin Stewart (ajstewar) is a candidate in historical musicology, and is pursuing a professional development certificate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through the Rackham Graduate School. He researches opera and civic identity in the American West during the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on the theatres, performances, and artists encountered by the citizens of Denver. His dissertation,  “Opera, Democracy, Race, and Civic Boosterism in Denver, 1864–1893,” is advised by Prof. Mark Clague.


ConnerConner Singh VanderBeek (csv) is a pre-candidate in ethnomusicology from Salida, California. He holds a BA in South Asian Studies and a BM in Music Composition and Musicology from Northwestern University. His research focuses on media cultures of the Punjabi-Sikh diaspora, and on experimental and electronic artists in urban India. VanderBeek also works on Sikh religious music, Sikh political history, and music in US celebrity culture. In his spare time, he composes music, films and edits videos, sews stuffed animals, and watches cartoons.


Sylvie Tran (sytran) is a pre-candidate in theory.

WilliamVanGeest242-275x0-c-defaultWilliam van Geest (vangeest) is a candidate in music theory. He holds a B.A. from Calvin College (majors in philosophy, music history, and piano performance), Master’s degrees from the University of Ottawa (piano performance) and McGill University (music theory), and a certificate in Medieval and Early Modern Studies from U-M. His areas of research interest are the history of music theory, medieval grammar, rhythm and meter, and early-20th-century music. William has presented papers at several national and international conferences, including those of SMT, EuroMAC, the SMA UK, MusCan, and SysMus. William’s dissertation explores the intellectual context surrounding the emergence of mensural rhythm in 13th-century France. William’s work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. William enjoys running, swimming, and eating fine food made by the culinarily-gifted members of SMR.

AlyssaAlyssa Wells (abwells) is a pre-candidate in historical musicology and Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include: labor union and industry bands, protest music, the politics of sound and space, and communist and socialist composers. Before coming to the University of Michigan, she completed master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Musicology (M.M.) and German and Scandinavian Studies (M.A.). While at UMass, her research on Hanns Eisler and music festivals in the German Democratic Republic received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Alyssa also holds a B.A. in Music (trombone) and German Studies from Western Michigan University. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, telling terrible jokes, and making annoying puns.

Kai West (kaiwest) is a pre-candidate in historical musicology from San Luis Obispo, CA.  He holds a B.A. in double bass performance from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and an M.M. in the same from the University of Michigan, and has worked extensively as a classical bassist, performing with ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony. Kai’s research interests include American and British popular music, the works of George Gershwin, and nineteenth-century opera, and he currently works as an editorial assistant for the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition at U-M. In his free time, Kai enjoys cooking food and drinking wine, losing often at chess, and collecting stringed instruments.

ChuYi Zhu (chuyizhu) is a pre-candidate in ethnomusicology.