New Society for Ethnomusicology Website Features Musicians in America during COVID-19

News from the Field

The Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) is pleased to announce the launch of a new website: Musicians in America during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Thanks to the award of a CARES Act Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in June 2020, SEM hired three ethnomusicologists (Dr. Holly Hobbs, Dr. Raquel Paraíso, and Dr. Tamar Sella) to investigate the consequences of the pandemic and social distancing directives for musicians and their communities. Between August and November 2020, the researchers conducted 240 online video interviews with musicians in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 U.S. territories. 

SEM’s collection of short interview videos features musicians working in a wide range of genres, such as Native American traditions, jazz, blues, gospel, country, zydeco, norteño, mariachi, salsa, rock, hip hop, klezmer, and Western classical, as well as traditions from such countries as Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Ghana, Ethiopia, Turkey, Iraq, India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. In addition, the researchers co-authored a website essay that highlights several themes in the interviews: the musicians’ reexamination of the significance of music in their lives and communities, their loss of employment, illness and death of community members, and new directions in the creation and presentation of music.

Collectively, the interviews offer a snapshot of what it was like to live in a society in which, for the first time in a century, concert halls, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, and other music settings largely turned silent.

SEM thanks Holly Hobbs, Raquel Paraíso, and Tamar Sella for their extensive work on this project and Adriane Pontecorvo for designing the website.

For more information about the project, contact Stephen Stuempfle, SEM Executive Director, at [email protected]. Website:

“Musicians in America during the Covid-19 Pandemic” has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. SEM also gratefully acknowledges support from the Indiana University Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities and Indiana University Libraries. Digital preservation and access to the video collection is made possible through the Libraries’ Media Collections Online.

We sometimes make mistakes, and we are happy to correct any errors that you may come across on our site. If you find an error, please let us know using the “submit a correction” link.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share your news

Have some important news to share? We can help you get it out there! Fill out the submission form and send it our way.