Thirty-Ninth Annual Conference – Call For Submissions

Little Rock, AR
6-10 March 2013

The Society for American Music invites proposals for papers, organized panels of 3-4 papers, concerts, lecture-performances, papers for the two seminar format topics, and scholarly posters for its 39th Annual Conference, 6-10 March 2013, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The online submission deadline for all proposals is 8 June 2012 at 11:59 PM Pacific.

We welcome proposals involving all facets of musical life throughout the Americas, and American music and aspects of its cultures anywhere in the world. We especially welcome proposals addressing the following themes:

Research Poster Sessions
The poster format provides an opportunity for SAM members to meet informally with authors and discuss research. Each author attends her/his respective 90-minute session, distributes abstracts, and answers questions. Supporting sound and/or video examples (on personal computers and utilizing battery, rather than A/C power) will be coordinated with other presenters once the Program Committee has formed sessions. Proposals are limited to 250 words. Learn more about creating posters.

Interest Groups
Interest Groups with a guaranteed slot for 2013 are requested to convey a brief description of their plans to the Program Committee using the online submission system not later than August 1 to ensure proper scheduling and room assignments. Interest Groups without a guaranteed slot for 2013 may submit panel proposals via the online submission system if they wish, but acceptance or rejection of these proposals will be at the discretion of the Program Committee. Proposals are limited to 250 words.

Concerts and Lecture-Performances
Proposals for concerts and lecture-performances of music from anywhere in the Americas are welcome. Proposals are limited to 250 words.

The seminar topics selected by the Program Committee for the 2013 conference in Little Rock are:

  1. "Musical Improvisation and Identity"
  2. In the past several years, a significant and growing body of scholarship on musical improvisation has coalesced into a new field of inquiry known as “critical improvisation studies.” This scholarship has encompassed a variety of musical genres and employed a diverse array of methodologies. Some scholarship has taken a philosophical or cognitive approach in order to investigate the question, “What is improvisation?” Other work has argued that improvisation can only be understood in relation to its historical and cultural contingencies. This seminar hopes to stimulate a dialogue between philosophical, cognitive, and phenomenological approaches to improvisation and historical and cultural ones. Is it possible or necessary to conceive of “improvisation” as a single entity with cross-cultural characteristics that can be located and described? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of doing so? On the other hand, when investigating how race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class and other identities may play through improvisation, is it possible to discuss the actual phenomenology of this practice?

    One impetus for this seminar is the work of Judith Butler on identity as an “improvisation within a scene of constraint.” If improvisation denotes a “relative domain of freedom in a rule-bound world,” as Butler says in regard to improvisation and identity, how does musical improvisation fit into this scheme? Some questions this seminar would like to consider, therefore, include the following (which could be approached via any genre, but with a focus on music as it relates to the United States in a transnational context):  Is improvisation an ontology that has ramifications for society beyond musical practice?  How might practicing, listening to, and performing musical improvisation function to produce culture? What is the relationship between improvisation, performance, and performativity? How does identity relate to improvisation and improvisation to identity? Can we speak of a “philosophy of improvisation” that also engages issues of identity, including race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and ethnicity?  

    In sum, this seminar invites scholars who have taken a more phenomenological approach to consider how improvisation then might intersect with race, gender, and other identity codes. Likewise, scholars who are tackling more historical and identity-based approaches can consider how phenomenological or cognitive approaches might inflect their work. The focus of the papers need not be to bridge this gap (although attempts are warmly welcomed); however, the intent of the seminar will be to put these different perspectives into conversation.

  1. "Music History Pedagogy"
  2. For the 2004 meeting of SAM in Cleveland, moderator James Deaville wrote in the abstract for a plenary session titled “Teaching Controversial Aspects of American Music” that covering genres such as minstrelsy, rap, and musicals “is often regarded as transcending the traditional boundaries of appropriateness within the academy.” He continues, “A teacher’s decision to include the topic in a course on American music runs the risk of offending students and facing censure by the university administration.”

    Much has changed in less than a decade; as Charles Hiroshi Garrett and Carol Oja observe, “A sense of destabilization—of living in a fundamentally different world, the dimensions and implications of which have yet to be discerned—is palpable. Our students arrive multimusical, performing their daily activities against the backdrop of playlists unfixed by national borders or genre boundaries, and their fluid and diverse identities prompt continually refreshed sets of expectations.” (Garrett and Oja, “Colloquy: Studying U. S. Music the Twenty-First Century,” JAMS 64/3 [Fall 2011])  Accordingly, the academy has changed; relativism is de rigueur, and new concerns have emerged. Yet Deaville’s essential question remains: how do we teach America’s musical history in ways that are truthful, practical, and equitable?

    This seminar will further the valuable discussion begun at the 2004 SAM plenary session, reconsidering long-standing challenges to teaching American music history responsibly and exploring issues that have emerged with the vast technological, historical, cultural, and social transformations of the last decade.  The committee welcomes proposals for both position papers based primarily on practical experience in teaching American music history and papers grounded in research in the growing field of music history pedagogy (which now has a dedicated scholarly journal, the Journal of Music History Pedagogy). Proposals may consider any aspect of teaching American music (and music of the Americas), including but not limited to:

    • questions about curriculum design and the place of American music in the academy,
    • questions concerning what musics should be covered in classes on American music, what is an appropriate balance between “cultivated” and “vernacular” traditions, and how to deal with under-represented repertories,
    • how to teach controversial or sensitive topics responsibly,
    • how to address both musical and social issues adequately (whether in classes restricted to music majors or in general enrollment classes),
    • innovative strategies and methods for teaching American music history,
    • characteristics of contemporary students (music majors and otherwise) and how best to serve them, and
    • the role of technology in teaching American music history.

All proposals should be submitted in the usual way by the regular SAM deadline, except that the specific seminar topic should be clearly specified. Unless the author specifies otherwise, the program committee will consider abstracts not accepted for either of the two seminars for one of the regular sessions. Proposals are limited to 250 words.

Although papers for the seminars will not be "read" in the traditional sense, the act of participating in the seminar as a presenter and defending the ideas of one's paper constitutes the same level of participation in an academic conference as a normal paper.  For this reason, those submitting abstracts toward a seminar cannot also submit toward a regular session. Learn more about the seminar format.

General Guidelines
Accepted presenters must be members of the Society and are required to register for the entire conference (membership is not required in order to submit a proposal!). The committee encourages proposals from those who did not present at the 2012 Charlotte meeting, but all proposals will be judged primarily on merit. An individual may submit only one proposal. All proposals must be submitted through the online electronic submission process.

Proposers for all except seminar papers, concerts, or lecture-performances must specify whether the proposal is for 1) paper, 2) poster, or 3) either presentation format, the latter to be determined by the Program Committee as it builds sessions. Individual or joint papers should be no longer than twenty minutes. Concerts and lecture-performances should be no longer than thirty minutes. For complete session proposals, the organizer must include an initial statement (250 word limit) explaining the rationale for the session, in addition to proposals and abstract files for each paper.

Include the following for all submissions:

  1. Proposer’s name, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation or city of residence
  2. 250-word proposal
  3. 100-word version of your proposal suitable for publication in the conference program (.doc, .docx, .txt, or .rtf format). Include proposer's name and email, and the proposal title in the body of this file.
  4. Audio and visual needs: CD player, DVD player, digital projector. Due to logistics and the high cost of renting this equipment, we cannot accommodate AV changes once a proposal is accepted.
  5. Specify whether you are a student (and therefore eligible for certain student grants or awards) or are eligible for the Cambridge Award

For concerts and lecture-performances please include the above-mentioned materials, plus:

  1. Either 6 copies of a recording related to the proposed concert or lecture-recital (CD or DVD) and an addressed, stamped mailer if you would like the recordings returned, or (preferably) access to an electronic file of the recording (emailed to the Program Committee Chair at the address given below).
  2. A list of special needs (e.g., piano, music stand, space for dance demonstration, choral risers, etc.)

All materials must be electronically date-stamped by 8 June 2012. Postal submissions for concerts and lecture-performance materials only should be addressed to: Steven Baur, Chair, SAM 2013 Program Committee, 6101 University Ave., Department of Music, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada.  Questions about the submission process may be sent to:

The Program Committee for the 2013 SAM conference is:

Click to submit individual proposal Click to submit panel, seminar, or interest group proposal


Please report any technical problems with the submission page to Glenn Pillsbury (