John Kapusta

Assistant Professor of Musicology

Office location:
203 Messinger Hall
Office of Communications Suite




I received my PhD in music history and literature from the University of California, Berkeley and my AB from Harvard College. Before completing my PhD, I studied voice at the New England Conservatory, received a Fulbright grant to study singing in Paris, was a National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and performed solo roles with the Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, and other companies. My performance background has made me particularly interested in the lived experience of music, and my approach to musicology has been influenced by ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. I try to understand and teach my students, in Bonnie Wade’s words, “how people make music meaningful in their lives.”

My research focuses on voice and opera studies and musical life in the twentieth-century United States. I’m currently writing a new musical history of the US counterculture. Research for the book has been supported by grants from the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the Northwestern University Libraries, and the Eastman School of Music. A portion of the book appears in my article “The Self-Actualization of John Adams,” which was published in the summer 2018 issue of the Journal of the Society for American Music. Another article, forthcoming in Cambridge Opera Journal, examines the history of voice type in Belle Epoque France. I am also currently working on a handful of other articles, which examine how Pauline Oliveros’s tai chi-inspired music of the 1970s prefigured the new musicology of the 1990s, how theater diva Ethel Merman deracialized the Broadway “belt,” and the myth of Beethoven the “antivocal” composer.

Aside from my work, I enjoy running, cooking for my family, and being a parent. I am also involved with antiracism work at Eastman and in greater Rochester through the social ministry committee of St. Anne and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

Works / Publications


“Pauline Oliveros, Somatics, and the New Musicology,” Journal of Musicology. (Forthcoming)

“Towards a Critical History of Voice Type: Ravel, L’heure espagnole, and the baryton-Martin,” Cambridge Opera Journal. (Forthcoming)

“The Self-Actualization of John Adams,” Journal of the Society for American Music 12 no. 3 (2018): 317–344.


Review of What I Will Be: American Music and Cold War Identity, by Philip Gentry (Oxford UP, 2018). American Music. (Invited)


Music Since 1900

Music in the Nineteenth Century

Music in the Classic Period

The Idea of Early Music

Music and Cultural Hybridity

Music, Gender, and Suffrage in the Long Nineteenth Century

Making Music Postmodern