How I got into this music research thing.
I grew up on a small cattle farm in rural Missouri, about 90 miles southwest of St. Louis. As a kid my parents and brother were really into sports. I was not. Thankfully, my grandmother who lived in St. Louis was always taking me to places around the city, including the St. Louis Zoo and the Children's Museum. One day she got us tickets to the St. Louis Symphony for a concert featuring space music and to close the program they played the Star Wars main theme. Chills.
Our farm outside of Cuba, MO.
From then on, I was just completely hooked on music. I conducted along with movie soundtracks in my bedroom before joining band in 6th grade. I started on trombone. Then in high school I was thrown in a room and told to learn baritone for marching band. Then I played euphonium for concert band. Then I started teaching myself electric bass. My third (!) band director (in three years) amazingly procured me a double bass, which I also started teaching myself. Fast forward to my senior year and I was ready to start my undergraduate degree in music education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL.
After graduating from UMSL, I was tapped to be a long-term elementary strings substitute in the Parkway School District. I began apply to grad schools for music theory at the time. I remember calling the office to make sure it was okay that I took time off to fly out for interviews. Shortly after, I got an offer from UMass Amherst. A year later Chris White was hired and I started helping out with his donut studies on meter and chord stability. That's when the whole interdisciplinary music research thing really kicked off.
I soon met David Huron when helping out with Gary Karpinski's Workshops in Music Theory Pedagogy. On our drive from Hartford Airport to the valley, about 90 minutes, Huron thoughtfully probed me about my interests in music. Fast forward two years and I'm deciding between McGill and OSU for my PhD studies.
You might laugh, but I had this dream of getting my Ph.D. before I was 30 and OSU's three-year program appealed to me. Also I had taken a pedagogy workshop with Anna Gawboy and I was just floored at how much of a badass she was. I knew that if anyone could give me the tools to get a job in music theory, it was her. And that bet ultimately paid off. Huron retired two years into the program, but Anna and Dan Shanahan put their full support into my dissertation research. Nicole Biamonte also graciously agreed to be a co-chair of my document, so in a weird twist I got to work with the one person I would have been extremely excited to study with at McGill.
Just before graduating, at SMPC 2019, Kristina Knowles approached me about a job at ASU. I applied, interviewed, and secured the position in February 2020, right before all hell broke loose with Covid. I've been at ASU since then and have had the luxury of working with Kristina and Lindsey Reymore to build up the ASU Music Cognition Lab with support from some internal grants. We've since rebranded to the ASU CACTUS (Cognition, Analysis, Computation, and Theory Under the Sun) Lab, coined by Dan Shanahan. Now I'm (finally) running motion-capture experiments, collaborating with the McGill Actor Lab, thinking hard about how we can take concrete action against discriminatory forces in popular-music research, and getting more involved in regional, national, and international music research societies. It's been awesome.
Thanks for reading.
The harmony-meter-style perception research crew celebrating after our SMT presentation. From left to right, Chris White, Bryn Hughes, Dom Vuvan, and myself.