EVANSTON, Ill. —- Elissa Harbert, a PhD candidate in musicology at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, recently received an Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowship from the American Musicological Society. Harbert will receive a 12-month stipend that will help her complete her dissertation.

Harbert’s dissertation, titled “Remembering the Revolution: Music in Stage and Screen Representations of Early America during the Bicentennial Years,” focuses on depictions of the Revolutionary era, such as the 1970s miniseries Roots and the more recent series John Adams. She is studying the anachronistic use of music in those television productions and how the United States of America has used that era to construct its national identity.

Harbert is excited about the prestigious award and the prospect of delving deeper into her dissertation topic. “I think [the fellowship] will give me the time and space to let my ideas mature.” She recently presented her work at the conference of the Society of American Music and will be delivering more papers related to her dissertation in the upcoming months, including a presentation this month at the British Association for American Studies in Manchester, England.

“Equally at home as a scholar of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, Elissa is revealing how 1970s culture used music to evoke, remember, and re-invent the American past,” said Drew Davies, assistant professor of musicology and Harbert’s advisor. “Her dissertation makes an original and interdisciplinary contribution to American cultural studies.

This is not the first time a Northwestern student has won an AMS 50 Fellowship. In 2002, Julie McQuinn, also then a musicology PhD candidate at Northwestern, received the award. McQuinn is now an assistant professor of musicology at Lawrence University; Harbert studied with Professor McQuinn as an undergraduate.


  • Drew Davies