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Jocelyn NealThe department is pleased to announce Professor Jocelyn Neal as the next chair, beginning her appointment on July 1, 2023. Professor Neal specializes in music theory, analysis, popular music, country music and culture,  songwriting, and bluegrass. She has served as Associate Chair for Academics since 2015 and was instrumental in shaping many of the department’s recent accomplishments, including the curriculum revitalization effort led by outgoing chair Professor David Garcia.

Neal joined UNC’s music department faculty in 1999 after completing her graduate program at the Eastman School of Music. “I was particularly excited to be at a university with an established legacy of studying the American South, and a music department that was already doing progressive curricular work with popular music,” she noted. Since joining the faculty she has taught a broad range of courses from music theory to songwriting and analysis of popular musics.

“I love the students who choose to come to Carolina,” said Neal. “Our students are smart, creative, and interested in so many different aspects of music and culture!”

In 2016, she established the Carolina Bluegrass Initiative, of which she is still the director. “It’s hard to identify any one aspect of my work that I’m most proud of, but that list would definitely include bringing both bluegrass and songwriting into our curriculum,” she remarked.

In her own words, while her training is primarily as a music theorist, her research has focused on four main areas: “country music, broadly and inclusively defined to include many different traditions and styles; second, fan culture and especially the ways that dance connects to music; third, songwriting practices; and fourth, new frontiers in music theory pedagogy.” And she added, “I’m particularly excited about how my research interests intersect with my teaching at UNC.”

Neal has also served as Director of the Center for the Study of the American South (2012-13) and is an Adjunct Professor of American Studies. Her administrative experience, combined with her broad research and teaching background, makes her an ideal chair for the music department as it continues to expand its offerings.

“I’m excited to support our faculty in their teaching, research, and creative projects, and hope we can find even more synergy to build on the amazing work that is happening in our department,” she noted. “I want to see students from an even broader range of musical backgrounds find connections in the department and opportunities to grow as musicians in all sorts of genres and practices. This department is full of people for whom creating music and researching music and the arts is part of our core identities. What we offer to our students – both music majors and the larger Carolina student body—and to our communities both local and global is incredibly valuable!”

We’re excited to see all that Professor Neal will be able to accomplish during her tenure as chair of the department as we continue to work towards expanding the repertoire and broadening our communities’ understanding of what it means to study music at the collegiate level.

by Catherine Zachary, ’10