Gabriel Solis

Associate Professor, Music, African American Studies, and Anthropology Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory Senior Fellow 2013-2015 

Gabriel Solis 01B.A. (musicology), University of Wisconsin; Ph. D. (musicology/ethnomusicology), Washington University in St. Louis

A scholar of African American music and of Indigenous musics of the Southwestern Pacific, Gabriel Solis has done ethnographic and historical research with jazz musicians in the United States and with musicians in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Drawing on work in African American studies, anthropology, and history, he addresses the ways people engage the past, performing history and memory through music. Additionally, his work explores musicians’ and audiences’ interactions with and personalization of mass-mediated musical commodities in transnational circulation. He has received the Wenner Gren Foundation’s Hunt Fellowship, the Arnold O. Beckman Fellowship for distinguished research, the Madden Fellowship for research in technology and the arts, an Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities fellowship, and most recently a Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory senior fellowship.  He received the honorable mention for the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Jaap Kunst Prize for “Artisanship, Innovation, and Indigenous Modernity in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea: Ataizo Mutahe’s Flutes,” in 2013. His articles have appeared in The Musical Quarterly, Ethnomusicology, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Popular Music and Society, Musicultures, and a number of edited collections. He is the author of a book on contemporary performances of Thelonious Monk’s music, titled Monk’s Music: Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making (University of California Press, 2007), and a book on John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s work together in the late-1950s (Oxford University Press, 2013), and co-editor with Bruno Nettl of a collection of essays on improvisation cross-culturally. He is currently working on a book on Tom Waits and the theatrics of masculinity, and on a study of the history of connections between artists and activists in Australia and Papua New Guinea and their counterparts in the African diaspora, titled The Black Pacific. In addition to jazz, Dr. Solis has studied capoeira with Contramestre Dennis Chiaramonte of Livre como Vento, Professor Doutor of ASCAB and Instructor Macaquinho of Capoeira Angola Palmares.

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that university-level education is a responsibility shared between teacher and students. Whether students are first-year non-majors or Ph.D. candidates, I am committed to helping them master course material, and in return I expect them to think critically and creatively about the ideas presented to them. I believe students learn best in an interactive environment, in which they are encouraged to actively participate in the discovery process. As students learn more, the balance shifts within the conversation and I expect them to bring a more extensive body of knowledge and more sophisticated analytical framework to the conversation. I strive to make my students’ engagement with ethnomusicology part of a broader humanistic study, challenging them to seek out the connections between musical sound and social processes. I want them to bring all of their knowledge about culture and history to bear on their musical learning, and in turn to be able to bring their understanding of music to bear on studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Finally, I encourage students to draw on and analyze their very personal musical experiences as listeners and performers, humanizing theoretical study with practical application.



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign