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John Kapusta

John Kapusta

Assistant Professor of Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

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I received my PhD in music history and literature from the University of California, Berkeley and my AB from Harvard College. Before completing my PhD, I studied voice at the New England Conservatory, received a Fulbright grant to study singing in Paris, was a National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and performed solo roles with the Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, and other companies. My performance background has made me particularly interested in the lived experience of music and my approach to musicology has been influenced by ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. I try to understand and teach my students, in Bonnie Wade’s words, “how people make music meaningful in their lives.”

My research focuses on musical life in the twentieth-century United States. I’m currently writing a book about music and social reform in the postwar period entitled The Creative Counterculture. The book traces the history of what I call the creative counterculture, a multiracial movement that championed the performing arts as the key to self-realization and social reform. A multidisciplinary study, the book enriches broader conversations about the social function of the arts, race in the United States, and the nature of activism. Research for the book has been supported by grants from the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the Northwestern University Libraries, and the Eastman School of Music. Portions of the book appear in “The Self-Actualization of John Adams,” an article published in the summer 2018 issue of the Journal of the Society for American Music, and in “Pauline Oliveros, Somatics, and the New Musicology,” which appeared in the winter 2021 issue of the Journal of Musicology.

I also work on voice and opera studies. In an article forthcoming in Cambridge Opera Journal, I examine the history of voice type in Belle Epoque France. In two related research projects, I explore how theater diva Ethel Merman deracialized the Broadway “belt” and historicize the myth of Beethoven the “antivocal” composer.

Aside from my work, I enjoy running, cooking for my family, and being a parent. I am also involved with antiracism work at Eastman and in greater Rochester through the social ministry committee of St. Anne and Our Lady of Lourdes Church and the Greater Rochester Community of Churches.