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by Audrey Ladele

“The music department provides an entirely unique and substantive perspective into all sorts of issues that have shaped people’s lives and cultures.” -Professor David Garcia

David Garcia
Professor and Chair David Garcia

As the UNC Department of Music prepares for the upcoming semester, we are excited for Professor David Garcia to begin his tenure today as chair of the department. While there are numerous challenges that the department and the full university community will have to face with the upcoming fall semester, we know that we are in great hands with Garcia.

Garcia received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and then joined the UNC Music Department in 2003. Upon joining the department as a fellow of the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, Garcia continued his research on Cuban music and taught classes on Latin American music. In the fall of 2005, he founded UNC’s Charanga Carolina. Garcia still directs this ensemble, one of the few university-based Charanga ensembles in the country. In recent years the focus of his research has shifted to include the nineteenth century history of Latin music in the United States.

Garcia has been an active faculty member of the department, holding numerous committee and administrative positions including serving as Director of Graduate Studies. He has received numerous recognitions for his published work awarded by groups such as the Society of Ethnomusicology, the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, and the Association of Recorded Sound Listening for Africa book coverCollections. Most recently, Garcia was awarded the 2018 Bruno Nettl Prize, presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology, for his book, Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins (Duke University Press, 2017). In 2014, Garcia was granted a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. Through his tremendous efforts in his teaching, directing, and research, Garcia worked his way up the tenure track to become a full professor within the department.

Garcia brings to the department an intense dedication to the value of music in a student’s education. “Music provides … an entirely unique and substantive perspective into all sorts of issues that have shaped and affected people’s lives and cultures,” Garcia said. “There’s nothing about our social world that we can’t learn about through music.” It’s clear that as chair Garcia will bring an energy into the department that will invigorate the music community at UNC to move in new directions while we continue to do what the department has excelled at for many years.

As Garcia begins his tenure as department chair, he is keenly attentive to global concerns that have arisen this year. In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic he stated, “the first and most important goal is to navigate this coming academic year, but especially the fall semester, in a way that ensures everybody’s safety.” He emphasized the importance of the department remaining dedicated to safety, and ensuring that the department is supporting its students and staff to the best of its ability.

On top of concerns about COVID-19, Garcia expressed the importance to also take into account the Black Lives Matter movement to bring awareness and change in regards to systemic racism, particularly against Black people, on our campus and in the state. Garcia explained how “there’s been a lot of work being done for many years in the department with respect to race and music, but there’s so much more that needs to be done.” He also expressed the need for the department to not only acknowledge but embrace the current social climate by “helping lead our own reckoning within the department of our own history.” He lifted up areas for possible change and education regarding systemic racism within the department, mentioning the lack of knowledge about the history of Black students and faculty within the music department.

“What we can do looking forward, not only in terms of history but also learning from that history, is to understand where we are now and where we need to be in the near future and how to get there,” Garcia stated in regards to the importance of understanding systemic racism as it persists in what and how we teach.

Charanga Carolina stands outside with their instruments, clustered together under a lamppost..
Charanga Carolina in spring 2019 (Photo courtesy of David Garcia)

With all these things to consider upon stepping into the role as chair of the UNC Department of Music, Garcia acknowledges the immense responsibility that he is taking. However, with the great team of faculty and staff within the music department, Garcia finds solace in the community around him. “Of course, I’m not alone and that has mitigated my nervousness with respect to taking on the chair’s position. We have an excellent and wonderful staff.”

Garcia also expressed excitement for current and incoming students saying, “We have a wonderful population of undergraduate and graduate students who are so motivated, so talented, and are in many ways leading the way.”

Even with the challenges that the upcoming semester presents, the department is excited to see where Professor David Garcia will lead us as chair of the department and for all the possibilities that his leadership presents.

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