Downloadable CV: PDF
Carol Muller was born in Cape Town, South Africa, went to school in Cape Town and Durban; was a Rotary Exchange Student to Minneapolis after high school, and returned to the University of [KwaZulu] Natal for a Bachelor of Music degree in Ethnomusicology. Her mother established and led Stepping Stones Nursey School, which became the model school for training teachers in KZN; her father, a Presbyterian minister, early on urged that one’s faith had to reach beyond the limits placed on South Africans by apartheid. Love God and love your neighbor, whoever that was.
Carol co-researched and wrote her undergraduate honors thesis with Janet Topp-Fargion (World Music Curator at the British Library) on gumboot dance. They went into the Glebelands Hostel for Zulu speaking migrant laborers to learn to dance. Carol recognizes that it was a migrant worker who worked in a factory assembling household appliances (though he had no electricity and thus no appliances in his own home) that contributed to her gaining a fellowship for doctoral study at New York University in 1987. She married Eric Grau in both South Africa–where the gumboot dancers were present at the marriage, and Elkader, Iowa in 1987.
While studying at NYU, Carol began a small research project with South African jazz singer, then living in exile in NYC, Sathima Bea Benjamin–this would turn into a twenty year project and a co-authored book, Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Duke UP 2012). And she undertook doctoral dissertation research back in South Africa with Ibandla lamaNazaretha, the followers of Shembe. Her work focused on the lives, experiences, sermons, song and dance experiences of women in girls in that community. Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire: Nazarite Women’s Performance in South Africa (with CD ROM and published by U of Chicago Press 1999) was the book that came from that work. She would later edit the translation from Zulu to English of Shembe Hymns, a project she had begun with ethnomusicologist Bongani Mthethwa just before his death in 1991. It was finally published by UKZN press in 2010 with an accompanying Compact Disc.
While undertaking doctoral research in South Africa, Carol began teaching ethnomusicology at the University of KwaZulu Natal, in the music department, where she initiated a first year music history and culture core course that began in the Inanda Valley in KZN, and gradually spread out to cover all of Africa, and she also worked with colleagues to create a Masters in Music Education focused on South African music. Because there were so few resources for generating teaching materials, Carol spent months going to events around KwaZulu Natal documenting and interviewing musicians to generate the course content. Out of that research, she published Focus: South African Music (first with ABC-CLIO and a second more updated edition with Routledge in 2008, with an accompanying CD). She published four volumes of the International Library of African Music‘s ethnomusicology symposiae papers.
In 1996, Carol returned to the United States with her husband, who wished to pursue a PHD in Statistics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She taught for a year at UNC-Chapel Hill and then accepted an Assistant Professor of Music position at the University of Pennsylvania in 1998. Carol won a Fellowship to the National Humanities Center in North Carolina and adopted her son Zachary in 1999. In 2000 the family moved to a lovely old Victorian home in West Philadelphia, which they restored to its original beauty and sold in 2005. In 2003 they adopted their daughter Jasmine. The family moved to Yardley PA in 2005.
Since coming to Penn, Carol has embraced the wide range of opportunities that University like Penn offeres: in 2002 she taught her first Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) graduate seminar, a pedagogy out of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships that has given a language to the kind of research and teaching she was already doing as an ethnomusicologist in South Africa. Field Methods in Ethnomusicology has given about a dozen graduate students the opportunity to undertake a mini-dissertation research project as partnership research in West Philly, amongst Christian and Muslim communities of faith. They have created publicly accessible archives of the research drawing on web based platforms–first as websites now as blog formats. More recently, Carol has extended this work for undergraduates–who have undertaken small group research amongst gospel choirs and faith based organizations. In the last few years, Carol has extended her teaching to Freshman Seminars, first focused on World Music materials taught as Critical Writing classes; and more recently in a Provost Arts and Culture sponsored “Hearing Africa” seminar that takes students into the City to hear live performances of African and diasporic musicians performing live.
In 2003, the year she adopted her daughter, Carol was the faculty Topic Director for the Penn Humanities Forum on the subject of Belief, broadly defined. In that context she partnered with the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts to apply for a large grant from the then Philadelphia Music Project to initiate a series of African and American roots music that would draw in the African American audience from West Philadelphia. They also ran a Gospel College, with the Director of the Chester Mass Choir leading West Philly church choirs one weekend, giving training as a mass choir that performed at the Annenberg Center that Saturday evening. And out of that initiative, Aretha Franklin was awarded an honorary degree by Penn in 2007.
In 2003 Carol also ventured into the relatively unexplored realm of online pedagogy, teaching her first online class in the summer of 2003, An Introduction to World Music and Cultures, a class she has continued to teach each summer, and now throughout the regular school year. A few years later she created Music 51 for online instruction. Using Google Maps this class takes students into the heart of about 30 African countries to learn about their contemporary music, culture, and history, and the travel of African musicians to other parts of the world. In 2013, Carol ventured into the field of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCS) teaching one of the first Humanities courses with Penn/Coursera Listening to World Music, pulling in more than 36,000 registered students. She is doing her best to write the textbook that will accompany this course, to be published by Oxford University Press.
Carol was Penn’s representative to Imagining America for several years, was local arrangements for the IA conference in 2006, where we took conference attendees to church in West Philly on the Sunday morning! Three years ago she was made the first faculty fellow in digital engagement, and in 2014 was named the second Moorman Simon Faculty Fellow in Community Engagement. She has been Director of Penn’s Africa Center since July 2013, striving to transform it from an SAS Center into a university wide resource, exploring how to put African languages online, how to get Penn’s growing African undergraduate community more engaged with the African continent while at Penn, and pulling together the 150 or so graduate students engaged with doctoral work in and about Africa.