Discovering Ethnomusicology

Music major Jeremy Reed '14 says he will play music until his limbs stop working.

The classically trained pianist and heavy metal drummer has a similar interest in anthropology.

“Earlham offered me the opportunity to do both,” Reed says. “I have a music major with an ethnomusicology concentration. The major required me to take enough courses in anthropology to keep things interesting.”

Reed completed a Ford/Knight research semester studying Arabic music and also spent a semester in Jordan doing ethnomusicology research. Both projects will prove useful in his senior project focusing on political expression in alternative rock in the eastern Arab world.

“I came to Earlham with an interest in Middle Eastern music, but that interest was in its infancy,” he says. At the time Reed enrolled, he didn’t know that Assistant Professor of Music Bill Culverhouse, D.M.A., is a specialist in the music of the Arab world and has recently completed several tours of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine, exploring traditional and contemporary vocal and instrumental music.

“Bill had been doing research with musicians there and put me in contact with them,” Reed explains. “I attended 20 different performances in about 15 weeks, I took music lessons and played with some of the musicians. It was a ton of fun.”

An Epiphany

He discovered his calling through a meeting Culverhouse set up between Reed and Indiana University Professor David McDonald, who studies the role of hip-hop in Palestinian identity.

“We struck up a conversation, and I quickly realized that this is what I need to do,” he says. “I understand that it is not like this for everyone, but it came very clear to me in that moment.”

Reed intends to attend graduate school at either Indiana University at Bloomington or the University of Chicago to study ethnomusicology.

“Ethnomusicology is the intersection of anthropology and music or the role music plays in culture,” Reed explains. “This could conceivably lead me to teaching and doing research, or another option would be to organize cultural festivals as a field specialist in the Middle Eastern/North African cultures.

Reed credits Culverhouse as “an amazing force in my life.”

“I come in with all sorts of dreams and ambitions with no idea how to carry them out,” he says. Among other things, Culverhouse has helped him filter and refine these ideas.

“I have never been a fan of public speaking or presentations, but Bill forced me to become more comfortable so that now the idea of shepherding people through a long process is not totally alien to me,” he says. “At this point, I could conceive of doing that.”

Growing Up With Music

Growing up, Reed’s conversations were littered with musical references.

“My brother and I have grown up as musicians but on opposite ends of the spectrum,” he says. “He only listens to classical music. We used to be very encyclopedic about it, and we wanted to know everything. Dad liked to say that between the two of us we knew the entire history of Western music.”

Reed, whose brother is studying music at Yale University, began piano lessons at age four and nine years ago switched to percussion.

“I like to say that my parents pushed me into classical piano, but my mother corrects me to say that I begged my way into it,” he says. “Music was always around when we were growing up, and there was always the notion that music could be a central part of my life.”

Reed played in rock and metal bands throughout high school and is a member of the popular campus group The Funkaholics, which is recording an album at Lazy Wild World Studio in nearby Hagerstown, IN. He also has started to play weekly with a local group of musicians at the studio.

“I still practice and gear that practice toward increasing my ability,” he says. “Music is a means of self-expression for me and ultimately a way for me to communicate. Drumming is the rhythmic clock of my body. It’s the way my head, heart, feet and hands express what is going on inside my body.”

Choosing the Liberal Arts

Prior to a 2008 summer program at the Berklee College of Music, Reed had anticipated attending a music conservatory.

“Berklee was like a musical Disney World,” Reed recalls. “If you needed cymbals, you simply checked them out. There was a library of every instructional video that exists and practice rooms with equipment. A lot of my idols had gone there. I was like a kid in a candy store.”

Although he made friends with whom he remains in contact, Reed made an important decision after the Berklee program.

“I realized that I did not want to spend four years being graded academically on the progression of my drumming,” he says. “Music is a shared experience, but it is still a very personal one.”

Jeremy Reed
Jeremy Reed 2014

Hometown: Chapel Hill, N.C.

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