Michael Silvers

Assistant Professor of Musicology

Michael Silvers 01B.A. (music), Bates College; M.M. (musicology), University of Arizona; Ph.D. (ethnomusicology), University of California, Los Angeles

Michael Silvers’ primary research interests include the musical cultures of northeastern Brazil, music and the environment (ecomusicology), music and technology, musical sustainability, and soundscape studies. He is a 2015 American Council of Learned Socities Fellow and 2015-17 Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory Junior Fellow. He has received additional research funding from the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies, Fulbright-mtvU, and the UCLA Latin American Institute, among other sources. Silvers, who is currently writing a book called Voices of Drought: Forró Soundscapes in Northeastern Brazil, has a forthcoming article inEthnomusicology. His writing has also appeared in Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, the Yearbook for Traditional Music, and theEcomusicology Newsletter, and he is a contributor to the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. He has a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UCLA (2012), and previously has taught at UCLA and UC Riverside.

Teaching Philosophy:

I teach classes on the world’s musics and on ethnomusicological thought to encourage students to think critically about aesthetics and music’s role in their lives and in society. I hope music majors will learn to challenge their biases and boundaries through my classes as they gain a foundation in social thought, and I hope non-majors will learn to explore social formations and human behavior through the lens of sound. I believe students learn best when engaging directly with new concepts and content. From my largest lecture classes to my smallest seminars, I always emphasize student participation. I often begin large classes with a question or a short writing prompt that asks students to consider their own relationship to and knowledge of the day’s topic, and I call on a small number of them to share. This sort of participation positions each day’s lecture as a response to their questions, a challenge to their prior understandings, or a development of their own expertise. In other words, students find their own motivations for learning each day. I also periodically ask students to discuss material in small groups so those who are less inclined to participate in the larger class can have an opportunity to contribute, and so each group can feel a sense of ownership and mastery of a particular topic.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign