Dustin Chau

Dustin Chau
Cohort Year: 2020
Advisor(s): Steven Rings
Research Interests: jazz studies; avant-garde aesthetics; transformation theory; guitar cultures; audiovisual media; histories of listening; aural skills pedagogy and praxis
Education: BA Music (jazz emphasis), University of Kansas, 2017; MM Music Theory, University of Kansas, 2019


I’m a jazz musician, guitar instructor, and violist pursuing a PhD in music history & theory. I have studied music theory at the University of Kansas while freelancing in the Kansas City jazz scene.

My current studies are methodologically informed by media, cultural, and sound studies. Thematically, my primary inquiry is jazz—particularly on theories of arrangement, experimental improvisation, and avant-garde aesthetics. In my dissertation project, I use analytical techniques to examine how thermal metaphors (such as “hot” and “cool”) that are ubiquitous throughout jazz, blues, and popular music discourse are framed by formal and vernacular storytellers, while historicizing the ways listeners have organized the thermal spectrum onto racialized and gendered bodies. Other interests of mine include post-tonal approaches to extended common-practice music, ECM Records, analysis of popular audiovisual media, and music theory pedagogy.

I’ve given papers on transformational approaches to Gustav Holst’s late period compositions, discourse analyses of jazz, and race at various music theory conferences at regional (Music Theory Midwest, Southeast, West Coast) and national venues (Society for Music Theory 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022). I’ve also served on the board for the Graduate Music Society (GMS) at UChicago, and am currently the Student Representative of Areas II and IV for Music Theory Midwest (MTMW). While in Kansas, I was a founding member of the Midwest Music Research Collective (MMRC) and have served in the Vice-President and Secretary roles. I was also an adjunct instructor at Washburn University, teaching beginning to advanced levels of guitar performance. In this role, I organized the Topeka Community Guitar Ensemble, which served as a performing opportunity for guitarists of all experience levels in the surrounding Topeka community.

Teaching Experience

Instructor, University of Chicago, Spring 2024

  • MUSI 14300 Music Fundamentals

Course Assistant, University of Chicago, 2022–2023

  • MUSI 15100 Harmony and Voice Leading I
  • MUSI 15200 Harmony and Voice Leading II
  • MUSI 15300 Harmony and Voice Leading III

Adjunct Guitar Instructor, Washburn University, 2020

  • MU 070 Performance Class, Strings Division
  • MU 111 Guitar for Beginner
  • MU 254/454 Small Ensemble (Guitar)
  • MU 260/460 Applied Guitar