Wilder Voelker

Wilder Voelker, Undergraduate student, music

Amplifies diversity in music composition

“Wil’s project is fairly unique. They want to pursue a graduate degree in ethnomusicology with an emphasis on gender studies or music in world cultures. They are strongly motivated by issues of representation, which is also an area of interest for the mentor.” -Melinda Licht, program coordinator, Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Faculty mentor/advisor: Dan Moore, PhD, professor, percussion, School of Music

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Bachelor of Music in percussion performance, 2023

Please describe your research: To put it broadly, I’m studying cultural diversity in percussion, and devising a way to bring attention to composers from various racial, ethnic, and social groups in the United States. I’m currently analyzing the demographic makeup of all the music within the percussion library at the University of Iowa. Percussion—especially percussion composition—in the U.S. is majority white and male, so I want to highlight composers in marginalized communities in addition to analyzing social standards over time within percussion composition. Eventually, I’d like to expand the project to include other universities, and beyond that, other musical disciplines.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? Minority groups are incredibly underrepresented in western percussion. Increasing diversity in the composition space will only help to open more minds to other cultures, and to avoid the standard of white and American when it comes to what music “should” sound like.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? During the spring 2020 semester, I conducted a personal research project, advised by interim professor Dr. Ben Yancey, which helped me foster my love for ethnomusicology. Since then, I’ve done other personal projects and, in summer 2022, I was awarded an ICRU (Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates) fellowship for both the summer and academic year cycles to continue my research.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research at the University of Iowa has helped me to foster invaluable connections, as well as learning easily transferable skills and expanding my resume to help me feel more prepared for furthering my education and career.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduating, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and possibly continue to a doctoral program. Once I’ve completed my formal education, I aim to have a career in research, fieldwork, and activism pertaining to ethnomusicology, and to continue percussion, whether through composition, performance, or otherwise.

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