Ellie M. Hisama

Ellie M. Hisama, Professor Emerita of Music, taught at Columbia University from 2006 to 2021 in the Theory and Historical Musicology areas. In 2021, she became Dean of the Faculty of Music and Professor of Music at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching have addressed issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and the social and political dimensions of music, with a focus on public engagement and university access for high school students. Hisama is Founding Director of For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound, a multi-year initiative with seed funding from the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research, which brings students from local public schools to Columbia to create, record, and reflect upon their work in sound. At Toronto, she is Founding Director of Future Sound 6ix, a program for racialized female-identifying and gender non-conforming youth to work at the U of T’s Electronic Music Studio, with support from the Nick Nurse Foundation. In her first year as Dean, she helped to secure a $7-million gift to the Faculty of Music in support of a new named recital hall, the Jay Telfer Forum. This gift was the largest ever received by the Faculty of Music, and one of the most significant in support of music in Canada. 

She served as Director of Graduate Studies and a member of the Executive Committee of Columbia's Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Women's Studies. Become coming to Columbia, she was Director of the Institute for Studies in American Music [now the Hitchcock Institute] at Brooklyn College. Sher has taught at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, Connecticut College, Harvard University, Ohio State University and Queens College, CUNY. She was nominated twice by Columbia College’s Academic Awards Committee for the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching. An alumna of Phillips Exeter Academy, Hisama bases her classroom teaching in Exeter’s Harkness Method of collaborative learning. Her research on hip-hop and a class she designed at Columbia titled Listening to Hip-Hop were featured in an article on the history of hip hop at Columbia

She is the author of Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon, which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and is co-editor of the volumes Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music and Critical Minded: New Approaches to Hip Hop Studies. In 2022–23, Hisama was the keynote speaker at Voz Dormida: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Alida Vázquez Ayala, University of California, San Diego and she delivered the American Musicological Society's Committee on Women and Gender Endowed Lecture in New Orleans. She chaired the closing keynote conversation with Farah Jasmine Griffin and Robin D.G. Kelley at Flowin’: Breakthroughs in Black Feminist Jazz & Literary Studies, Yale University, and gave talks in the Poetker Thinking About Music Lecture Series, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the Friday Forum, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, York University. 

Deeply committed to mentoring undergraduate students, graduate students, and junior faculty, Hisama is an inaugural recipient of Columbia’s Faculty Mentoring Award established by the Office of the Provost. She received a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; a Tsunoda Ryusaku Senior Fellowship, Waseda University (Tokyo); and a Faculty Fellowship from the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities. She received two Faculty Seed Grants to engage with issues of structural racism from the Office of the Provost (part of the initiative Addressing Racism: A Call to Action for Higher Education); a grant from the A&S Equity and Diversity events program; and two Public Outreach Grants from the Center for Science and Society. 

She served on the Governing Board of the Society of Fellows/Heyman Center for the Humanities and as a member of the Columbia Working Group of AFRE (Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity), an organization whose mission is “to build an enduring transnational network of leaders . . . to challenge anti-Black racism and build the institutions, policies and narratives for a more equitable future.” She chaired the Humanities Equity Committee of the Policy and Planning Committee and was the primary author of the Humanities section of its Equity report. In recognition of the work of Professor Marcellus Blount, a staunch advocate for equity at Columbia, she directed Agents of Change: A Symposium in Honor of Marcellus Blount, which featured a solo performance by Lloyd Knight, Principal Dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She is a member of Columbia’s Public Humanities Workshop, a forum founded in 2021 for imagining new ways for researchers, practitioners, and community partners to address urgent social problems together. With Zosha Di Castri, she co-directed the symposium Unsung Stories: Women at Columbia’s Computer Music Center and co-produced its podcast series. With Michael Heller, she co-directed the symposium Feed the Fire: A Symposium in Honor of Geri AllenShe organized the panel We Have to Reimagine: A Conversation on Anti-Asian Racism and Violence and the event Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston at 30: A Screening and Roundtable in Celebration of Queer Harlem. She directed the international symposium Women, Music, Power.

Outside the academy, she has served as an advisor for the Smithsonian Institution, The Annie Tinker Association for Women, established to support women in retirement; the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS; and twice as a respondent at the Center for Jewish History's Jewish Music Forum. Her intersectional anti-racist scholarly writing has been cited in  international publications including El País (Spain), Slate, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, NDTV (India), New Statesman (UK), Stone Music (Italy), and the Economic Times (India). Her projects amplifying the work of female, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ musicians have been highlighted by the Columbia NewsJournal of Blacks in Higher EducationBroadway WorldCanadian Broadcasting CorporationNational Observer, and U of T News Now.

Updated September 27, 2023