Professor Emerita Victoria Levine receives the Society for Ethnomusicology's Highest Award

The Department of Music is pleased to announce that Professor Emerita Victoria Levine has received the prestigious "Honorary Membership" award, bestowed by the Society for Ethnomusicology at the annual conference in Ottawa, Canada, October 18-22, 2023. The award, the highest given by the SEM, is a lifetime achievement award, given in recognition of Vicki’s extraordinary service to the Society and contribution to the field of ethnomusicology.

Vicki began her musical studies on piano and harpsichord and went on to earn B.Mus. and B.A. (Anthropology) degrees, both with honors, followed by an M.A. in Music History, all from San Francisco State University. In 1980, Vicki went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to start her Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology with the late Bruno Nettl as her advisor.

In the early 1980s, Vicki was one of only a few people working with Native Americans in the Southeast, including the Choctaw in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. She became known for careful, sensitive, thorough fieldwork that included participant observation as well as studying recordings, archival materials, and secondary sources. She earned her Ph.D. in 1990, and thirty years later, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was able to use her dissertation research for an exhibit on the late removals in their new cultural center and museum, and she repatriated recordings of some 300 social dance songs for use by the Choctaw Nation Dance Troupe. In 1998, Vicki began work with the Yuchi (Euchee) Tribe near Tulsa, teaming up with Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University). Involving both her son, Scott (CC ’08) and daughter, Elizabeth, in her trips to Oklahoma, Vicki continues to be a welcome visitor at Yuchi ceremonial grounds. She currently plans to coauthor an article with Aubrey Skeeter (CC ’19) based on their 2017 faculty-student collaborative research with Yuchi shell-shakers and song leaders.

Vicki began her work at Colorado College in 1988, and spent her entire career there, retiring as Professor Emerita in 2020. She wore many hats, received awards, professorships, grants, fellowships, and served for five years as the Director of the Hulbert Center for Southwest Studies (1999-2004). Pursuing an early love of Balinese culture and enjoyment of playing in a gamelan as an undergraduate, Vicki collaborated with I Made Lasmawan and his wife, Ni Ketut Marni, to develop the College’s Indonesian performing arts program with contributions from Balinese dancers, composers, musicians, and others in the American gamelan community. The program, which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in May 2023, now houses five different Balinese gamelan ensembles and a Javanese gamelan.

Service work with SEM began in 1986, first helping with local arrangements. Over time, Vicki served on the Council, on the Board as a Member at Large, on program and prize committees, and as Book Review editor for the journal Ethnomusicology, while authoring articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and reviews for many publications. She actively participated in SEM meetings at the Chapter and National levels and became involved in the College Music Society and the International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance. In 1999, Vicki received SEM’s Ida Halpern Fellowship and Award, which funded research for a 2004 article co-authored with Jason Jackson, “Singing for Garfish: Music and Woodland Communities in Eastern Oklahoma,” as well as other work. In 2009, Vicki was among the first to consider forming a special interest group within SEM focused on Indigenous music and dance. Serving on the Board at that time, she facilitated the submission of the necessary paperwork, and the Indigenous Music and Dance Special Interest Group began in spring, 2010. At the group’s first meeting, Vicki was elected to serve as Chair, and did so for two years, from 2010-12.  Thanks to the efforts of Vicki and others, the group sponsored its first international pre-conference symposium, “Sound Alliances: A Celebration of Indigenous Music and Culture,” at Colorado College in 2017. 

Several publications are among Vicki’s significant contributions to her field. These include her 1990 co-authored book with James Howard on Choctaw Music and Dance, a work published in 2002 by the American Musicological Society (AMS) titled Writing American Indian Music: Historic Transcriptions, Notations, and Arrangements, the festschrift for Bruno Nettl she co-edited with Philip Bohlman titled This Thing Called Music (2015), and most recently in 2019, Music and Modernity Among First Peoples of North America, co-edited with Dylan Robinson. In 2020, this volume won two awards for excellence as an edited volume: the SEM Ellen Koskoff award and the AMS Ruth Solie award.

Congratulations, Vicki, on your accomplishments!

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