Jet-Setting Sabbatical

Associate Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski works with student choir members.

Associate Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski works with student choir members.

Professor receives international award for groundbreaking book

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Associate Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski is enjoying an especially global sabbatical. In November, she took a break from her research in Switzerland to accept an international award in Canada. In April, she’ll jet back to North America to deliver a high-profile address.

A former Fulbright scholar who holds a B.A. from Middlebury College (1997) and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Eastman School of Music (2006), Wlodarski teaches music history and musicology courses at Dickinson and conducts the College Choir. She was the 2015 recipient of Dickinson’s Constance & Rose Ganoe Memorial Award for Inspirational Teaching.

Last month, Wlodarski flew from Europe to Vancouver, Canada, to accept the Lewis Lockwood Award, presented annually by the American Musicological Society (AMS) to an emerging musicology scholar who published an important book in that field. The 2016 award recognizes the contributions of Wlodarski’s book Musical Witness and Holocaust Representation (Cambridge University Press, 2015), the first scholarly work to analyze the role of Holocaust music as secondary witness to, and representation of, World War II. The AMS also named the book as honorable mention for best Jewish Studies and Music Publication of 2015.

The awards arrive as Wlodarski prepares to write a second groundbreaking musicological book centering on wartime cultural and musical history. With the support of grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Paul Sacher Stiftung foundation, Wlodarski is digging into the Sacher Stiftung archives in Basel, Switzerland, to research George Rochberg, a composer and World War II soldier who served during the Battle of the Bulge. Her book-in-progress is the first book-length musicological study of Rochberg, whose work and worldview were deeply influenced by his wartime experiences.

The professor will travel again next spring—this time to New York City, to deliver an April 24 lecture on Survivor from Warsaw by Arnold Schönberg. Held in the iconic Lincoln Center, the lecture will immediately precede the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of the Austrian composer’s dramatic wartime work, along with Ludwig van Beethoven’s equally stirring Ninth Symphony. It will be part of the Philharmonic’s Insights at the Atrium series, a partnership between the orchestra and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

It's a whirlwind year for Wlodarski, whose interest in the subject stems from her grandparents' World War II experiences. As she continues to contribute to a burgeoning field in music history, she finds a timeless message in it.

"Cultural memory is a powerful force, and artistic representations have the power to transmit political and societal agendas, whether positive or negative, to their audiences. Becoming aware of those subtexts allows the listener to critically evaluate an artwork both aesthetically and ethically," she explains. That was important 70 years ago, and it's important today, she adds, because it lays bare "the consequences that arise when we create master narratives about history that have the potential to silence alternative voices and experiences."

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Published December 2, 2016