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David Harnish

Department Chair

David Harnish, PhD, is an ethnomusicologist, musician, and Chair of the Music Department as of 2011. He comes to USD from Bowling Green State University, where he taught for 17 years and served as Interim Dean and Associate Dean. He has traveled the world widely and twice served as faculty member on the Semester at Sea program.

As a scholar, he has researched music in Asia, Africa, and the United States, and is particularly interested in religion, festival, hybridity, pedagogy, composition, popular culture, and politics in music. In support of research, he has received grants from Fulbright-Hayes, National Foundation, Freeman Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Ohio Arts Council, United States-Indonesia Society, MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, and Partnerships for Community Action. As a musician, he has extensively performed Indonesian gamelan, Indian music, Japanese music, Tejano conjunto music, and jass, rock, blues, bluegrass, and country musics.


Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles, Ethnomusicology M.A., University of Hawai ‘i at Manoa, Ethnomusicology B.A., University of the Pacific, International Studies (Music Minor) Additional study at ASTI-Denpasar (gamelan, Indonesian music), Jochi Diagaku (Japanese studies), Sophia Quintero Center (Tejano music), Batish Institute (North Indian music), Dagbe Institute (Ghanaian music and dance), Cabrillo College (theory, strings, jazz), and University of California Santa Cruz (jazz, composition)

Scholarly and Creative Work

His research draws upon religion, politics, popular culture, and composition and performance. Harnish is author of Bridges to the Ancestors: Music, Myth and Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006), co-writer/editor of Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia (Oxford University Press, 2011), and has published monographs, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and 30 scholarly articles in major music journals. He is a former consultant for the BBC, National Geographic, Mtv-Fulbright Awards, Mid-Atlantic Arts Awards, and the Smithsonian Institute, and has recorded and/or performed Indonesian, jazz, Indian and Tejano musics with five different labels.

Teaching Interests

Harnish is fascinated with music around the globe and teaches world music cultures, interdisciplinary courses, and Indonesian gamelan ensemble. As a pedagogue, he synthesizes music and its creators, consumers, and contextualization. Previous to his appointment at USD, he taught Asian area studies, world popular musics, seminars in ethnomusicology, and led workshops to Bali (Indonesia) and Ghana.