The College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin has named Cuban and Latin American music scholar and administrator Susan Thomas as director of the Butler School of Music, effective July 1. Thomas joins the Butler School from the University of Colorado Boulder. She will hold the Florence Thelma Hall Centennial Chair in Music.
“Susan Thomas is an award-winning scholar who has advanced field-changing scholarship,” said College of Fine Arts Dean Ramón H. Rivera-Servera. “She started her life as a practitioner in voice, and in a complex organization like the Butler School of Music, she is well-suited to bridge our performers and our scholars. Her appointment positions us to make a bold argument about the role of music in society and across the Forty Acres.”
At UC Boulder, Thomas is the Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and the director of the American Music Research Center (AMRC). She also serves as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in UC Boulder’s College of Music. As director of the AMRC, she has worked to bridge gaps between campus units, across the community and around the state, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange, community outreach and engagement and research into the full diversity of American music.
“The Butler School of Music has long been a source of inspiration for me, not only for the outstanding musicians that it trains as performers and teachers and its commitment to scholarship and research, but also for its reputation as an institution that prizes innovation and creativity,” Thomas said. “I’m beyond thrilled to partner with faculty, staff and students in advancing the Butler School of Music as a national leader in musical education, research and performance.”
Thomas received significant grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for which she is leading research projects related to the music cultures of southern Colorado and photoplay music for silent film. While directing the AMRC, she also founded the journal, Americas: A Hemispheric Music Journal, for which she serves as editor-in-chief. Prior to coming to Boulder in 2018, she held a joint appointment in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and the Institute for Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia.
A researcher of Cuban and Latin American music as well as popular music and media, Thomas’s interests include performative and mediatized manifestations of and reactions to transnationalism, migration and diaspora, as well as the musical intersections of gender, race, embodiment and performativity. The author of numerous articles and book contributions, Thomas’s book, Cuban Zarzuela: Performing Race and Gender on Havana's Lyric Stage was awarded the Robert M. Stevenson Prize from the American Musicological Society and the Pauline Alderman Book Award from the International Alliance of Women in Music. Currently, she is completing her second book, The Musical Mangrove: The Transnationalization of Cuban Alternative Music, for Oxford University Press.