Brent Swanson

Title/Position: Lecturer, Musicology


What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments to date?
Serving as President of Mizero Children of Rwanda was one of the most personally rewarding aspects of my career. I was able to directly make a difference in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in Rwanda. In 2012, I was the keynote speaker at a conference on the East African music industry in Kigali, which was sponsored by the Rwandan Ministry of Sports and Culture. I also had the honor of writing, recording, and producing the song “Sing Out My Soul,” with British CCM producer and worship leader Andy Piercy.

What do you hope to pass on to your students?
I foremost hope to inspire my students to be socially engaged musicians. I have worked with many people groups in my professional endeavors who have been marginalized in a variety of ways, and I believe it is my responsibility to interact with broader cultural institutions to help bridge gaps in communication and influence public policy. Therefore, I want to encourage them to be as interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional as possible without letting it detract from their primary focus. In other words, I want to teach them that participating in socio-cultural activities outside their musical studies is nearly as important as practicing their instrument. Additionally, I hope to inspire them to explore different music-cultures of the world both intellectually and experientially.

Why do you enjoy teaching?
I love to see students’ eyes opened to new ideas. I also enjoy watching them grow from young pupils to colleagues and how the substance of our conversations changes over time. It’s an honor to be a formative influence in their lives. Moreover, I enjoy learning from students, especially about current cultural trends. I find that they have as much information to offer me as I do to them.

What would prospective students be surprised to learn about you?
I am a worship leader and senior warden at Anglican Church of the Word in Hollywood, a Scotch whiskey aficionado, and a Marvel movie and TV geek.

Brent Swanson is a lecturer in the Department of Musicology at the University of Miami and advises students in the Bachelor of Arts in Music Program. He holds a B.F.A and M.M. in musicology from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland. His research interests include various African music’s, Latin America, the United States, and the Caribbean. Mr. Swanson’s dissertation, “Rwanda’s Voice: An Ethnomusicological Biography of Jean-Paul Samputu,” is a multi-sited ethnographic study of Rwandan musical identity through the lens of international star Jean-Paul Samputu. Through biographical research and musical transcription and analysis, he demonstrates how Samputu’s use of four distinct vocal timbres and incorporation of various musics from East and Central Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean challenges nationalist discourse about Rwandan identity, and promotes reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. He is currently preparing a chapter on Mr. Samputu’s music for the book Arts, Music, and Social Healing: Experiences from the African Great Lakes Region and Beyond, edited by Helen Hintjens and Rafiki Ubaldo, forthcoming, 2017. Mr. Swanson is also a professional performer and songwriter, and he has performed with various artists including Bo Diddley, Marco Pereira, Hamilton de Hollanda, and Jean-Paul Samputu. Additionally, he served as President of the non-profit Mizero Children of Rwanda, which raises awareness about how traditional music and dance can facilitate peace and reconciliation in Rwanda.

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