Workshop to examine impact of global marketplace on Western classical music

by Dana Meeks

“At the Borders of Art and Power: Western Classical Music in the Global Marketplace,” the first in a series of workshops to be hosted by the GlobalVU initiative, will take place Feb. 10 and 11 at the Blair School of Music and Alumni Hall.

Douglas Shadle, associate professor of musicology, and Joy Calico, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Musicology, will lead the two-day event, which brings together prominent scholars and practitioners with varied perspectives on Western classical music from five continents.

The workshop will begin with the premise that Western classical music is “dying,” a widely accepted belief in the West, especially in the United States. Audiences are aging and dwindling, while music education programs are frequently on the chopping block. Meanwhile, audiences in other parts of the world, particularly in East Asia, clamor for the same music, and students around the world pour into Western-style conservatories.

Doug Shadle, assistant professor of musicology (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt University)
Doug Shadle, assistant professor of musicology (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt University)

“Over the past several decades, this global circulation has led to a wide array of cultural fusions, dialogues and interfaces that defy neat categorization,” Shadle said. “People might assume that the presence of Western classical music around the globe is a positive sign of its universality. But the music itself never exists outside the economic and political systems that shape other aspects of people’s lives. Scholars, musicians and music lovers everywhere need to ask questions about these relationships, and that’s what our workshop will do.”

The Feb. 10 program, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4 p.m. at the Blair School with a keynote roundtable moderated by Shadle. The other panelists are:

  • Rafael Payare, music director of the San Diego Symphony;
  • Rachel Beckles Willson, composer, multi-instrumentalist and research associate at SOAS University of London; and
  • Wu Fei, Nashville-based composer, vocalist and guzheng virtuoso.

A reception will follow at 5:15 p.m. Then chatterbird, a Nashville-based ensemble dedicated to exploring uniquely orchestrated chamber music, will take the stage at 6:45 p.m. They will perform excerpts from Wu Fei’s piece, Hello Gold Mountain (2019). The composition, which premiered at the Blair School last February, is a musical reflection on the migration of Jewish refugees to Shanghai during the Nazi era. The performance will include discussion from the stage and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

The programming on Feb. 11 at Alumni Hall is open to Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students who would like to listen to or participate in discussion on the workshop theme. An RSVP is required for attendance on Feb. 11.

Joy Calico, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Musicology
Joy Calico, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Musicology

“I was thrilled when my colleague and department chair, Doug Shadle, jumped at the chance to co-lead a global workshop,” Calico said. “It is a welcome opportunity to showcase and strengthen our collaborations with colleagues from around the globe.”

Other panelists and featured guests during the workshop include:

  • Misako Ohta, associate professor, Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University;
  • Silvia Glocer, professor of music, University of Buenos Aires;
  • Christian Onyeji, professor of music, University of Nigeria;
  • Nachaya Natchanawakulprofessor, Thai and Eastern Music Department,  Mahidol University; and
  • Yvonne LiaoLeverhulme Early Career Fellow, Faculty of Music, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, University of Oxford

The GlobalVU Initiative, which was formed in July 2019, aims to improve the university’s international research and engagement, bring more international scholars and graduate students to campus, and connect scholars with policy makers and public intellectuals from around the world.

Learn more about the GlobalVU workshop offerings.

Faculty can submit workshop ideas to

Ann Marie Deer Owens contributed to this story.