Isidora Miranda, Ph.D. – July 2022 Postdoc Feature
Written by Isidora Miranda, Ph.D.
Preparing to move to Nashville in August 2020 was both nerve-wracking and thrilling for me. I was excited to move to Nashville, to be around a famed music scene, and to teach at a place like the Blair School. On the other hand, the pandemic had created a great deal of uncertainty, and I was unsure of what life in the American South would be like. As someone who grew up in the Philippines, my conception of the United States before coming to the cornfields and dairy lands of the Midwest to pursue graduate school was primarily informed by coastal influences.
I moved to the United States in 2010 to pursue an M.M. in Violin Performance and Musicology at Western Illinois University and then a doctorate in Musicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I had performed in quartets and orchestras at WIU and in the Philippines, and performance was a big part of my life. As a doctoral student, I continued to play in klezmer and Brazilian forró bands. As I became more acquainted with musics from around the world, I found my intellectual questions returning to the Philippines. In 2020, I completed a dissertation on the Philippine musical and theatrical stage during the U.S. colonial period in the first half of the twentieth century. I am now writing a book on the Tagalog sarsuwela, an operatic form that traces its legacies to music all over the world including Spain, a former colonizer of the Philippines. In this book project, I argue that the history of the sarsuwela provides a lens into debates about nationalism, imperialism, and the question of vernacularization in the Philippines and beyond.
I was excited to take this experience in teaching and research to Vanderbilt. In my first semester here, I was able to teach a Freshman Seminar in Music, Identity, and Diversity. I was thrilled to be in the classroom with sharp and inquisitive students. We explored the roots and routes of particular musics, discussed how to think about our listening practices, and pondered how music might help us understand and navigate both history and the present.
During my two years as a postdoc at Vanderbilt, I have benefited from an array of opportunities. I have been able to engage with world-class faculty who have graciously mentored me. I have taught four different courses at the School of Music, ranging from small seminars to large lectures. I have attended and presented at over half a dozen conferences around the world. I have even had the opportunity to learn a new instrument, the Daf, an Iranian and Kurdish frame drum that is also popular in other parts of the Middle East. These opportunities have all helped me grow as a teacher and as a researcher. I have also enjoyed building connections in the Nashville community with my family. Nashville has been an amazing place for me to pursue my research passions and my personal ones as well. In my free time, I enjoy exploring local parks with my son and husband and taking care of my indoor plant babies. I have not yet given up on growing a garden on the rocky soil of our backyard.
These last two years have been such a rewarding postdoc experience for me at Vanderbilt. This past year I published a peer-reviewed article on the Filipina diva, Atang de la Rama with the Journal of Musicological Research. I have also recently been named a fellow for the American Council of Learned Societies for the 2023-24 academic year, which will allow me to continue working on my book. And what I am most excited about is that upon the completion of my postdoc, I will be joining the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor of the Practice in Musicology and Ethnomusicology. I am so excited to continue my career here and I am grateful for the opportunities that the Academic Pathways Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs have provided.