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Newsletter June 2019

Class of 2019

Carmine Cella

Graduate Student Notes from the Field

In The News

Music Honors Class of Thirty-five Graduates in 2019 Commencement

Congrats to the class of 2019!

Rachel Colwell, Graduate Student Speaker

Thirty-five students were recognized as graduates of the UC Berkeley Department of Music class of 2019 on Sunday, May 19 in Berkeley, CA. Commencement ceremonies took place in Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus and recognized four Ph.D, five M.A., and twenty-six undergraduate degree recipients.  In the keynote speech, Professor and Chair Cindy Cox noted “I speak for the entire faculty when I say that we are genuinely proud of our students and their accomplishments. It is rewarding to watch students mature into performers, scholars, and composers over the course of their studies with us. We all gain from the music they make, the exchange of ideas, and the fresh perspectives they bring.”

26, 5, and 4: Number of Undergraduate, Masters of Art, and Doctoral degrees conferred.

37%: Percentage of Undergraduates who graduated with a second major other than Music. Majors paired with Music included Molecular and Cell Biology, Political Science, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Applied Mathematics, Statistics, Neurobiology, and Business Administration.

18 students plan on continuing their education or careers in music all across the world. Professions and emphases include ethnomusicology, vocal performance, education, composition, and music therapy. Other grads will move on to careers in engineering, computer sciences, and medicine.

Destinations amongst graduates include Grinnell College in Iowa, YouTube in San Bruno, Castro Valley Unified School District, and our beloved UC Berkeley.

21: Undergraduate students who are California natives and stayed in-state to earn their degree.

24: Students who were recognized by department faculty, instructors, and peers for special awards and prizes.


Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors
Parkorn Wanpaiboonkit
Antonio Juan Marcos Cavazos
Rebecca Lomnicky

Nicholas C. Christofilos, Jr.Memorial Prize
Jon Turner
Rebecca Lomnicky

The Eisner Prize in Music
Maija Hynninen
Bethany Lee
Rebecca Lomnicky
Andrew Chao Han Chen
Zachary Thomas Elsasser

The David & Diana Menn Memorial Prize in the Performing Arts
Ann Deng
Grady Lai

Departmental Citation & Matthew William Fisher Memorial Award in Music
Mariah Ronningen

The Nicola DeLorenzo Prize in Music Composition
Selim Göncü
Maija Hynninen
Clara Olivares
James Stone
Jeremy Wexler

Austin F. Williams Prize in Piano Performance
Andrew Chao Han Chen

George Ladd Prix de Paris
Oren Boneh

Mary Nuñes Souza Prize
Amy Hong Liu

Bernece B. Lyon Memorial Prize
Kimberly Kang

Musical Theater Prize
Trevor Van De Velde

The Apgar Award
Alessandra Jones

Carmine Cella, Composer and Scholar of Music and Applied Mathematics Joins UC Berkeley Music Department

Where does musical knowledge, signal processing, and artificial intelligence intersect?

Carmine Cella

It’s an ambitious question, and new UC Berkeley Music Assistant Professor Carmine Emanuele Cella’s research is at the center of it. Cella joined the Department for the spring 2019 term, and is also working closely with the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT).

“I have been very excited in accepting the position of Assistant Professor of Music Technology in the Department of Music at University of California – Berkeley,” said Cella. “This position is extremely interesting for me: my commitment to education, my transversal vision spanning from mathematics to musical composition and my interdisciplinary research background fit perfectly with CNMAT and I am honoured to collaborate with the faculty to expand its potential and to produce tools and algorithms freely available for the community.”

A native of Italy, Cella is both a researcher of applied mathematics as well as a composer. Born with a curious ear, Cella wrote his first composition at age 6. The piece was made in 4/4 time, but contained rhythm for 5/4. Puzzled by why this could not be done, he developed his first program on a Commodore 64 to generate all subdivisions of 4/4 in odd values. Cella was only 7 years old.

“More than thirty years later, I still compose music and write programs for it,” noted Cella. “In other words, my whole life has been about music and how to use science to understand it better.”

Cella studied at the Conservatory of Music G. Rossini in Italy, receiving his master’s degrees in piano, computer music, and composition. He earned his PhD in musical composition at the Accademia di S. Cecilia in Rome. He also studied philosophy and mathematics and earned his PhD in mathematical logic at the University of Bologna, with a thesis titled “On Symbolic Representations of Music.” Cella served as composer in residence and held a research position at Paris’ famed Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM) from 2007-2008. He has composed numerous pieces including Gia’ s’ottenebra il giorno for orchestra and was commissioned by IRCAM for a new work by the Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio France that premiered in June 2013 in Salle Pleyel. In 2015-2016, he conducted research in applied mathematics at École Normale Supérieure de Paris. In 2016, he served in residence at the American Academy in Rome, where he worked on his opera Pane, sale sabbia, that premiered in June 2017 at the National Opera of Kiev.

It is fitting that Cella would end up in Berkeley. Much of the research around the relations between music, science and cognition was pioneered by David Wessel (1942-2014), who taught at Cal for over 20 years and helped found CNMAT. “He has been a pioneer. The transversal approach of my research, moreover, resonates with Professor Wessel’s legacy,” said Cella.

Notes from the Field: Understanding Feminist Music and Organizing in Santiago, Chile

Christina Azahar
Ph.D. Candidate, Ethnomusicology

Christina Azahar

Since January 2018, I have been in Santiago, Chile on a Fulbright US Student Fellowship conducting ethnographic research for my dissertation, titled “Noisy Women, Imagined Spaces: Mobility and the Emplacement of Feminist Politics in música popular chilena.”

A bit about this title. What first interested me in studying feminist activism in Chilean popular music wasn’t just the ways women were “making noise” and speaking out more boldly about gender and sexual violence. I was also curious about the ways they were creating their own spaces to combat these issues. That’s why in my fieldwork, I’ve been asking how Chilean women artists are creating and intervening in spaces like music festivals and schools, political demonstrations, cities, and natural landscapes to re-sound and re-imagine colonial and patriarchal systems of power.  

As a feminist ethnomusicologist and US American academic, one of the most formative challenges of fieldwork has been learning to negotiate my own identity and politics in relation to the multiple spaces and artists I’ve been working with. During my first several months here, I found myself asking on a daily basis, “How can I keep from projecting North American and European ideologies onto Chilean feminist practices? How do I navigate participant observation and interviews with artists and organizations that have diverging or even contradictory feminist discourses?”  

Pascuala Ilabaca, one of my initial contacts and artist collaborators, is a singer-songwriter who blends Chilean folk traditions with Hindustani music, jazz, rock, and other Latin American genres. In our interviews, she has expressed that her sonic travels are meant to vindicate women’s role in traditional musics around the world, and that in her touring she uses her music to express feminine identities in their diversity and fluidity. For her, bringing women and women’s music more centrally into public spaces is a key aspect of her feminist practice.

Ilabaca’s feminism, however, is very different from that of Coordinadora Femfest, a queer anti-capitalist feminist music collective with whom I’ve been collaborating regularly since my first weeks of research. Formed 14 years ago, the collective holds annual festivals, concerts, and workshops to build safe spaces for women in underground rock scenes, and to promote sexual dissidence through counter-cultural expression. Less concerned with intervening directly in public spaces, Coordinadora Femfest develops a feminist musical practice from “under” – outside mainstream institutions and in solidarity with marginalized communities.

By contrast, for Ruidosa Fest and La Matria Fest, two new feminist music festivals led respectively by star alternative music singers Francisca Valenzuela and Mariel Mariel, mass communication about gender disparities and sexual harassment within pop music and cultural industries is the ultimate goal.

Finally, in my women’s cueca classes, I’ve experienced firsthand how women are re-appropriating the traditionally male-dominated national folk music and dance, and using it to help women through the process of “sacando la voz,” which means to raise, lift, or find one’s voice, in a musical or political sense.

Initially, I was so focused on understanding and fitting in with each of these artists and organizations, that I often discussed very little about the full scope of my work when I was with one group or another. For instance, why would I share with my punk rock musician friends and collaborators that I’m learning to sing folk music, or interviewing artists in mainstream festivals? I was so preoccupied with not losing people’s trust that I failed to recognize the uniquely multi-faceted perspectives I was developing.

It wasn’t until August, when I was invited to teach an M.A. class on Music, Gender, and Sexuality at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, that I began to step back and appreciate the potential I had for fostering meaningful dialogue across each field site. Though I understood this intellectually, writing a syllabus grounded in intersectional and decolonial feminisms and music throughout the Américas helped me remember in practice that feminist art and politics are built through coalition, not homogeneity. As a feminist researcher, I must not only recognize my role, but actively take responsibility for shaping the feminist musical coalitions in which I’ve been involved throughout this year.

As I come towards the end of my time in Chile, I can only hope that by continuing to learn from each space, share questions, and offer reflections, I can more fully support the loving labor and art being created by so many women I have come to know, respect, and admire.

Scholars In The News

Latest of faculty and students at UC Berkeley Music

John Kapusta


In January 2019, Assistant Professor Maria Sonevytsky’s article “Radio Meydan: ‘Eastern’ Music and the Liminal Sovereign Imaginaries of Crimea” was published in Public Culture 31(1):93-116. 


John Kapusta (PhD UC Berkeley, 2017) has recently been appointed to Assistant Professor of Musicology in the tenure track, Eastman School of Music.


Myra Melford premiered her piece for improvising piano soloist, chamber ensemble and fixed media: “Homogenous Infiltration,” with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players on May 11, 2019 at SFJazz.

Melissa J. Scott


Doctoral student Melissa J. Scott, graduate student in ethnomusicology, presented at ICTM’s Music of the Arab World Study Group conference in Cairo, Egypt in January 2019. In her paper, “Rethinking Jordanian Music: Perspectives on the Politics of Style,” she assessed the extent to which histories of Iraqi and Palestinian forced migration to Jordan inform local musical practices as well as musicians’ attitudes towards Syrian refugees.


Assistant Professor Emily Zazulia’s article “Out of Proportion: Nuper rosarum flores and the Danger of False Exceptionalism” was recently published in The Journal of Musicology 31 (1), 2019.


Cindy Cox has been commissioned to compose a new work for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.


Doctoral student Jonathan Turner presented “Exploring Shifts in the Material Production of Sustainable Instrument Manufacturing at Blackbird Guitar” at the conference titled “Sustainable Sounds: Interrogating The Materials of Music Making Technologies,” held on Saturday, May 11, 2019, at St. Cecilia’s Hall Concert Room and Music Museum, University of Edinburgh.


Melanie Gudesblatt has won the prestigious 2019 William F. Holmes / Frank D’Accone Dissertation Fellowship in Opera Studies, awarded by the American Musicological Society.


New opera by Graduate Student composer Curtis Rumrill titled “Her Holiness, The Winter Dog,” to premieres at the in May at the New Hazlett theatre in Pittsburgh, PA.


Doctoral student Rachel Colwell delivered a public lecture on “Listening Acts,” co-sponsored by the departments of Arabic, Music, and the Rohatyn Center for Global Studies at Middlebury College, on February 20, 2019.

Alessandra Jones has been awarded the inaugural Apgar Award. The award, made possible by the generosity of the Apgar Family, is made annually to a graduate student in Music Scholarship at UC Berkeley. The aim of the award is to encourage the development of skills and/or specific accomplishments outside the recipient’s primary area of expertise. Alessandra’s project is a pedagogical initiative entitled “Feminist Listening.”