Current Music Theory and Cognition Students

Rosa AbrahamsRosa Abrahams

PhD candidate • rosaabrahams2011@u.northwestern.edu

Rosa Abrahams is from the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory from the Eastman School of Music and a master’s degree in music theory and cognition from Northwestern University. Her primary research focuses on issues of ontology, meter, and bodily synchronization in sacred liturgical music. Secondary research interests include the music of Gustav Mahler and Jewish identity, theory pedagogy, and philosophy of music. Rosa has presented her original research at conferences in the United States and internationally, including the Analytical Approaches to World Music International Conferences, Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, and "Magnified & Sanctified": the first International Academic Conference on the Music of Jewish Prayer.

Bruno AlcaldeBruno Alcalde

PhD candidate • brunoalcalde@u.northwestern.edu

Bruno Alcalde is originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil. He holds a bachelor's degree in composition from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) and a master's degree in music theory from Indiana University. Bruno's main instrument is electric guitar and he has performed with rock, jazz, and Brazilian music groups throughout the years. As a composer, his chamber music works have been performed several times in Brazil. In 2008 he released an album with the group of Brazilian composers Avante. Bruno taught music theory, composition, and arranging of popular music for two years at Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Brazil) before coming to the United States to further his studies. His main research interests are music style and genre, hybridity in music, and communicational issues of 20th-century music (concert and popular). Other interests include topic theory, situated cognition, and the study of record production in popular music. His work on these areas has been presented in the United States and abroad. Bruno is currently working on his dissertation, which develops an analytical framework for style and genre mixtures in the music of the post-1950s.

Anjni AminAnjni Amin

2nd Year PhD • anjniamin2014@u.northwestern.edu

Anjni Amin was born and raised in New York. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose and a Master of Music degree in music theory and cognition from Northwestern University. Anjni taught K-12 general and instrumental music before returning to Northwestern University to further her studies. Her primary research focuses on the development of music reading abilities influencing the understanding of structure, voicing, and texture in notated music. Other interests include cross-cultural music cognition, theory pedagogy, and the music of North India.

Sean CurticeSean Curtice

1st Year PhD • seancurtice2016@u.northwestern.edu 

Sean Curtice is from San Diego, California. He received his Bachelor of Arts in music and English at Wesleyan University, where his honors thesis included the composition of a piano concerto in the style of Mozart. He holds a Master of Arts in Composition and Music Theory from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied under Felix Diergarten and Johannes Menke. His master's thesis was a complete edition of the partimenti of Luigi Cherubini and a study of the Neapolitan-inspired teaching methods developed at the Paris Conservatory under Cherubini's directorship. He is also co-editor of a new German-English edition of Hans Peter Weber's Generalbass-Compendium, used for decades in ear-training classes at the Schola and other German-language conservatories. Sean's musical interests include period composition and historical music theory, particularly thoroughbass practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Sarah GatesSarah Gates

2nd Year PhD • sarahgates2015@u.northwestern.edu

Sarah Gates completed an Honours Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and contemporary composition at Wilfrid Laurier University (2011), as well as a Master of Music in saxophone performance at the University of Toronto (2013). She recently finished a Master of Arts in Music Theory at McGill University where she studied under Stephen McAdams and Robert Hasegawa. Her thesis project, which was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Award (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, investigated perceptual interactions of pitch and timbre by exploring the effect of timbre change on musicians’ ability to categorically identify melodic intervals. Empirical findings from her research projects have recently been presented the International Conference on Music and Emotion, in Geneva, Switzerland in October (2015) at, and the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception, In San Francisco in July (2016). Her primary academic research interests include auditory imagery, aural skills acquisition, multimodal interactions, musical learning, plasticity and literacy, and musical performance. Her current doctoral studies are supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Fred HoskenFred Hosken

1st Year PhD • fredhosken@u.northwestern.edu 

Fred Hosken is from London, England. He holds a BMus from King’s College London, where he most enjoyed studying the aesthetics of music and the analysis of performances on record, and where he was awarded the Purcell Prize for the highest degree result. From here, Fred went straight on to an MSt at Oxford University where he studied the perception and phenomenology of groove with Professor Eric Clarke. Alongside this main research focus, he also visited the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, Switzerland to view Steve Reich’s manuscripts and explore Reich’s earliest pieces as well as the experience of time in his music. He has spent the last few years teaching music in English schools and performing saxophone with swing and soul groups in venues as diverse as historic London halls, the Montreux Jazz Festival, and an Italian castle! His current interests center on the perception and enjoyment of rhythm, looking to develop theories of groove beyond micromusical phenomena and with an emphasis on ecological validity.

Stephen HudsonStephen Hudson

PhD Candidate • stephenhudson2018@u.northwestern.edu 

Stephen Hudson was born and raised in California. He graduated with a double major in mathematics and cello performance from the University of California, Davis in 2012, where he received the David S. Saxon Award for Early Music. Stephen is a perennial performer with Northwestern's Baroque Music Ensemble, and several campus and community orchestras. Recent activities include a presentation about gesture and development in progressive rock rhythm at Music Theory Midwest 2016, and a public masterclass performance at San Francisco Conservatory as part of the American Bach Soloists 2016 Summer Academy. Stephen is writing a dissertation about embodied beats and culturally-situated ontologies of meter, featuring music from the Baroque period, turn of the twentieth century chamber music, and present-day extreme metal. He recently bought a bicycle to celebrate finishing coursework, and may be found riding through parks in fairer weather.

Aubrey LeamanAubrey Leaman

1st Year PhD • aubreyleaman2021@u.northwestern.edu 

Aubrey Leaman holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with honors distinction from the University of South Carolina.  Her research focuses on how music evokes imagery and tells stories, and in particular the various ways in which musical and literary storytelling intersect. One of her goals is to use cognitive theories pertaining to the comprehension and enjoyment of literature in order to make classical music more accessible for listeners who are not classically trained. Along these lines, she has instigated various interdisciplinary projects including the production of a silent film based on the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” which she coupled with a Haydn piano sonata and performed live at her senior piano recital.  She has also worked with high school students to analyze The Great Gatsby by comparing its themes and emotions with the first movement of Ligeti’s Cello Sonata.

Olga Sanchez-Kisielewska

Olga Sanchez-Kisielewska

PhD candidate • osanchez@u.northwestern.edu

Olga comes from Madrid and is working with Vasili Byros and Robert Gjerdingen on a dissertation entitled "The Hymn as a Musical Topic in the Age of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven." She holds bachelor's degrees in clarinet performance (Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid) and economic science (Universidad Complutense), and master's degrees in musicology (Universidad de la Rioja) and music theory (Northwestern University). Her research gravitates around meaning and expression in music, embracing a variety of perspectives such as topic theory, schema theory, cognitive metaphor, corpus analysis, embodiment, and intertextuality. Her papers have received awards at the meetings of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, the Music Theory Society of New York State, and the Society for Eighteenth-Century Music. She has contributed with a chapter to the forthcoming volumes The Heroic in Music and Singing in Signs: New Semiotic Explorations of Opera

Melissa MurphyMelissa Murphy

PhD Candidate • liszt@u.northwestern.edu

Melissa Murphy’s research focuses primarily on issues of schemata for improvisation, piano music of the 19th century, and Franz Liszt’s oeuvre. Before her studies at Northwestern University, she earned a bachelor of arts in music and bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, from which she graduated in 2007. Melissa Murphy first developed her deep interest in the piano compositions of Liszt while studying piano performance as a teenager under Dr. Rachel Eubanks of the Eubanks Conservatory of Music & Arts in Los Angeles, California. She continued her piano performance studies with Dr. Betty Woo of the University of California, Berkeley, and now continues to study piano and improvise in her spare time.

Miriam PiilonenMiriam Piilonen

PhD Candidate • miriampiilonen2018@u.northwestern.edu

Miriam Piilonen specializes in the history of music theory and its scientific, philosophical, and social contexts. Her dissertation develops a historical understanding of the biological musicking body in late-Romantic music theory. She earned a bachelor’s degree in composition from the New England Conservatory and a master’s degree in human development from Virginia Tech. Her previous research was conducted with the Carilion Research Institute fMRI lab and the Child Development Center for Learning and Research. In summer 2016, she was Northwestern’s chosen participant in the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory. She has presented original research at national and international conferences, including the annual meetings of the Society for Music Theory, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and American Comparative Literature Association. Beyond her academic life, she is a composer and devoted fan of experimental electronic music and a rock climbing instructor.

James Symons

James Symons

PhD Candidate • jamessymons2012@u.northwestern.edu

James Symons graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2007, with a BM in a major of his own design. In his work as research associate at Harvard’s Mass General Hospital at the Institute for Music and Brain Science prior to coming to Northwestern, James was involved in several studies relating to music and brain injury, music and phonetics, music and nociception, and auditory psychophyics. More recently, James' research explores issues of similarity and patterning in music and the cognition of musical style, using computer algorithms to model these aspects of cognition.

Cella WestrayCella Westray

1st Year PhD • cellawestray2021@u.northwestern.edu 

Cella Westray was born and raised in the Minneapolis metropolitan area. She graduated from Grinnell College in 2015 with a double major in Music and Biology. After finishing her undergraduate degree she pursued a post-graduate fellowship at Grinnell, during which she researched Maurice Ravel’s compositional process. She is broadly interested in composers’ creative processes and in their relationships with pedagogy and performance practice. plays the viola da gamba and regularly performs in the Twin Cities Early Music Festival. 

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