Julie Searles

Senior Professor of the Practice of Music


Phone: 508-286-3589


M.A., Wesleyan University
B.A., Wesleyan University


Main Interests

Ethnomusicology, World Music (particularly Brazilian Popular, Irish Traditional, Jazz, Contemporary Folk and Trinidadian music traditions), Dance Ethnography, Social dance history, Popular Culture…


Audio Recordings

2002 “Recollected”, a CD of original songs– recorded with Matthew Allen

2000 “Time & Again”: Brazilian Covers and Original songs– recorded with Matthew Allen and Armando Rivera

1994 “Cashews, Peppers and More”: Bossa Novas, Sambas and Jazz– recorded with Matthew Allen, Chris Brubeck and Eric Rosenthal

Teaching Interests

I very much enjoy teaching the perennial foundation courses for World Music at Wheaton. World Music: Eurasia in the fall, and Africa and the Americas in the Spring, are regionally based classes that serve to introduce ethnomusicological issues and concepts that can be applied to music cultures encountered at home or abroad. Students taking these classes come from all over campus: the result is a wide spectrum of experience and perspective that enlivens our class discussions on traditional, contemporary, and controversial musical considerations. These courses are part of the Global Music connection with Cultural Anthropology.

Dance history courses channel my enthusiasm for the ongoing consideration of dance traditions I find so fascinating. American Vernacular Dance focuses on social and popular dance traditions of the 20th century. We examine dance in the United States as an indicator of significant social trends, contextualizing dance in the contemporary social and cultural climate that both shapes and reflects influence of these dynamic expressive forms.

In Politics of Movement we explore the complicated histories of various dance cultures from around the world. We consider the impact of colonialism on the development of expressive forms and how controversies inevitably emerge through transformative shifts in ownership. We also look at how definitive dance styles materialize through negotiation and the appropriation of regional, often marginalized influences, and how people use dance and music to embody, define, reinforce and empower personal and shared identity.

West African Mande Dance and Music is a course I developed to enhance and broaden our relationship with master practitioners, led by Seydou Coulibaly from Mali. This course utilizes the integration of experiential and scholarly learning strategies, the representation of insider and outsider perspectives (with the Coulibalys and myself as co-teachers/facilitator), traditional and contemporary transmission practices (oral history and direct, acoustic interaction complemented with visual and audio recordings streamed through the internet), and the interplay of dance and live music as essentially symbiotic versus independent endeavors. The fusion of these different pedagogical approaches creates a rich learning environment that is dynamic, intense and exciting.

In 2007 I took the first group of students to Trinidad for the study abroad program, Innovative Music Traditions of Trinidad and Tobago. (I’ve taken additional groups in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018.) This course is designed to bring students to the communities that have created the inspired and uniquely innovative expressive forms of Trinidad. The historical variables that have brought people of diverse backgrounds together to create a variety of music genres and a celebrated Carnival tradition can be understood best by going to Trinidad, hearing the music on its home turf, experiencing the physical impact of live music performance, and talking with the people who have an intimate and passionate relationship with the music culture.

Student Projects

Wheaton’s steelband, the Lymin’ Lyons, grew out of the Trinidad program. The steelband is a student run organization on campus: I serve as consultant, #1 fan, and roadie. We’ve been making music together now since 2008 and are increasingly asked to perform for events around campus. The Lymin’ Lyons have played for the TRYBE Gala, Spring weekend, for various student functions in the Atrium, and for our participating music majors’ student recitals.

I strongly support student initiated movement/dance groups on campus. I’m currently working with S.O.L.E., Wheaton’s dynamic Step team, Paraiso Latino, the Latin dance company on campus, TRYBE, the multi-cultural/hip hop group currently in its 15th year and Tap Out Loud, Wheaton’s new Tap company. These groups are amazing– and contribute so much expressive exuberance to the community. Interest in Dance at Wheaton is off the charts! Dance is a stimulating and inspiring presence on campus that nurtures our community in profound and significant ways.