Maria Paula Survilla

Professor of Music

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More about Maria Paula Survilla

M. Paula Survilla, Ph.D.
Professor, Ethnomusicology/Musicology
Wartburg College, Waverly IA

Executive Director
Center of Belarusian Studies
Цэнтар Беларускіх Дасьледаваньняў
Southwestern College, Winfield Kansas

Dr. Maria Paula Survilla received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Her research interests include the role of contemporary music (urban rock and popular genres as well as rural ritual music) in the construction of personal and national identities in post-Soviet Belarus, a topic explored in her book Of Mermaids and Rock Singers: Placing the Self and Defining the Nation Through Belarusian Contemporary Music  (Routledge 2002). Her current research considers distinct locations for the mediation of Belarusian music, including Radio Free Europe programming, the web, and social media. Her latest research considers music and diplomacy and migration and memory.

Since 2008 Dr. Survilla has been the Executive Director of the Center for Belarusian Studies, an NGO dedicated to encouraging the growth of healthy civil society in Belarus though programs in higher education. The role of advocacy as a key component of being an engaged citizen is central to her work in the CBS, her scholarship, and her contributions to life on campus. As the Harry and Slife Professor for the Humanities between 2011-2016, Dr. Survilla introduced several initiatives on Wartburg’s campus including the Hearthside Project (see below) intended to increase an appreciation of the humanities in contemporary attitudes towards a broad and holistic education.  Dr. Survilla is also the Faculty Advisor for the French Club and for Peace and Justice.

In addition to the courses she offers at Wartburg College, Dr. Survilla is an active scholar pursuing research, publishing, and presenting in national and international conferences. Her most recent activities include (2015-2016):

“The Persistence of Memory and Formation of Identity: Migration and the Homeland in Belarusian Experience” Keynote, 32nd Convention of Belarusians of North America – Diaspora: National Consciousness and Development of Civil Society and Culture, September 3-5, 2016 Ottawa, Canada.

Team Editor/Consultant for “Special Jewish Issue,” of Belarusian Review in collaboration with the Center for Belarusian Studies, The Point Journal, Tel Aviv University (July, 2016).

“Retrospective Positions and Introspective Critiques: A Belarusist in the Academic Trenches” In The Point Journal (March 4),  2015

Sounding Diplomacy: Music and Mediation from the Embassy to the Underground in a post-Soviet Belarus” In Music and Diplomacy (Harvard/Tufts Universities), ed. Rebekah Ahrendt, Damien Mahiet, and Mark Ferraguto. London: Palgrave 2015.

“Bard” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music. ed. John Shepherd (London:  Oxford). Forthcoming in 2016)

A selected CV can be accessed here.

Ethnomusicology at Wartburg College
Ethnomusicology is a unique offering at Wartburg College. Student enthusiasm for the broad  globally-sensitive perspectives offered by this discipline has resulted in the student-generated (2016)  label for that perspective: Whoomahn Muziking. Dr. Survilla offers many in-class and out-of-class opportunities to explore the field as well as its relevance across disciplines


Student Comments

“Taking Ethnomusicology with Dr. Survilla at Wartburg College was one of the best decisions of my life.  The class made me a better student, feminist, musician, activist, researcher, leader, listener, and human – I could go on and on. A decent definition of Ethnomusicology is ‘an area of study encompassing different approaches to the study of the many musics around the world  that emphasize music curriculum at Wartburg gives a good foundation on the theory, history, and practice of Western Classical music, taking Ethnomusicology not only introduces students to musics of different cultures outside of the Western Classical Canon, but also teaches students how to begin to understand and appreciate all musics.  This is important for all stu-dents, but especially for those who will go on to graduate school or for those who will be music educators and who will be able to pass on their ethnographic and nuanced understanding of music to the next generation. 

Ethnomusicology at Wartburg is a perfect example of the goal of obtaining a true liberal arts education.  Taking this class pushed my boundaries of thinking about and interacting with different cultures, their music, and how music is used and consumed.  In taking this class, I learned about how my passion for music and for social justice and politics come together in meaningful ways.”

Kate Huffman
MA Goldsmiths, University of London, Arts Administration and Cultural Policy 2016
Bachelor of Arts in Music, Wartburg College 2015

““My experience in ethnomusicology class changed my perspective on how I approach the research, performance practice, and musical inter-pretations of each piece I study. This class has taught me that music is more than just notes on a page, especially since much of the music that is performed around the world is not formally written down, the folk music. I used to think that it was surprising to find folk songs in works by composers that Western Musicologists consider very important to Western classical music, such as Chopin, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dvořák, Copland, and many more. I learned that there is a hierarchal imbalance between western classical music and all other types of music. The most important aspect I took from this class is that all music is important because of the deep connections to our culture. Music is in every part of our lives. It is the cultural correlations to all types of music that give each genre a specific meaning and purpose in our daily lives. The knowledge I gained from ethnomusicology has given me a heightened respect of other cultures and their music. As I learn a new piece of music, I use this knowledge and respect to convey performance practices that are appropriate for that particular time period or culture. Ethnomusicology has given me the opportunity to become not only a better musician, but also a better ambassador for cultural awareness.”

Katie Rice
DMA Student, University of Texas
MA University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Clarinet Performance 2016
Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance, Wartburg College 2014

Hearthside Project: Encouraging the Exploration and Celebration of the Humanities at Wartburg College
Hearthside Dr. Survilla served two terms as the Slife Professor in the Humanities (2010-2016). During that time she developed and implemented the Hearthside Project  which continues to offer faculty and students the unique opportunity to connect around the virtual hearth. The program encourages student/faculty interaction outside the formality of the classroom based on the more intimate learning environments of graduate work, or of a European approach to readings and the discussion of texts often labeled “the directed reading model.” The program allows students to engage in the process of reading with a professor and to consider connections between their own course of study and the practical and philosophical ideas explored through each text. Texts chosen by faculty emphasize, by topic or implication, the key role of the humanities in contemporary thought. The program is in its sixth year (2016-2017).

Advocacy for the Humanities
Dr. Survilla, together with members of the Humanities Think Tank has steadily advocated for the arts and humanities as Wartburg College. Various events have been offered to the campus community that have included the bringing of foreign dignitaries to campus, as well as specialists able to speak to the value of languages in anthropology, sociology, and neurology.

Student Achievement: Undergraduate Research, Graduate Studies and Rice Day
Many of the courses, taught by Dr. Survilla encourage undergraduate research and preparation for graduate studies. Working with students is one of the most gratifying aspects of being a professor at Wartburg. In the last 10 years our students have been deeply interested in pursuing ethnomusicology and musicology both in the formal classroom as well as through independent studies. Many of these students have gone on to graduate programs and successful careers.  Several students have been accepted to present in the annual NCUR conference (National Council for Undergraduate  Research). The research for these presentations began in the Bachelor of Music Bachelor of Arts Capstone and required the development of ethnographic/field work as well as traditional research skills.

Emily Hogan (2014) “I” Want to See Some Leg?” The History and Development of Burlesque Dancing As Representation of Musical Culture.”

Emily is pursuing a Master of Public Administration at KU and working full time as a Management Analyst for the City of Lee’s Summit, Missouri in the Kansas City Metro

Andrew Tubbs (2016) “Cripface: Disability Narratives in Sound.”

Andrew is also the recipient of a 2016 McElroy Fellowship. He is currently studying musicology at the University of Iowa.

Rice Day
This list from Rice Day 2016 illustrates the variety of interests researched by students as a result of their experiences in Dr. Survilla’s courses such as Introduction to Ethnomusicology  (MU 252) , Music of Protest and Celebration (IS 201), the Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts in Music Capstone: Perspectives of Music (MU 461) and History of Music (MU 315).


2016 Participants presented on the following:
Life’s Healing Vibrations: Music and Humanistic Approach to Healthcare Music and Holistic Healing in Tibetan Buddhism
Moving to the Music: How Dance Music can Initiate Change
From Outlaws to Concert Musicians: The Changing Role of Steelband Over the Last Century
Haiti: Music and Disaster Relief
 Free Beer While Supplies Last: An Analysis of Bavarian Oktoberfest and its Transformation
Wildfire: Exploring Identity and Power through Flamenco
Women and Music: Operatic Deconstructions of Gender and Sanity
Mozarabic Chant and Musical and Spiritual Identities in Medieval Europe
Irish Harp and Nationalism
Lost in Translation: What We Lose in Cross-Linguistic Ethnography