Dustin Chau

Dustin Chau
Cohort Year: 2020
Advisor(s): Steven Rings
Research Interests: jazz studies; improvisation; analysis of music videos; transformation theory; guitar; audio equipment; aural skills; art history; psychoanalysis; media studies; histories and technologies of listening
Education: MM, University of Kansas, 2019; BM, University of Kansas, 2017


Dustin is a jazz musician, guitar instructor, and violist pursuing a PhD in Music History & Theory. He has received degrees in music theory from the University of Kansas, where he studied with Scott Murphy, Alan Street, and Brad Osborn. His prior jazz mentors include Craig Owens, Randy Zellers, Danny Embrey, Jeff Harshbarger, and Jerry Hahn.

In addition to traditional approaches to music analysis, Dustin’s current studies are methodologically informed by media theory, psychoanalysis, and sound studies. Thematically, Dustin’s primary inquiry is in jazz studies—particularly on theories of arrangement, improvisation, and production. He is currently exploring the media and production practices surrounding the ECM record label. Along these lines, his guiding question is: is jazz a thermal media?

Dustin has given papers on transformational approaches to Gustav Holst’s late period compositions, jazz, and race at various music theory conferences at regional (Society for Music Theory Midwest, Southeast, West Coast) and national venues (Annual Conference for the Society for Music Theory: 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022).

Before matriculating into the UChicago Music Department, Dustin was a founding member of the Midwest Music Research Collective (MMRC) and has served in multiple roles, including Vice-President, Secretary, Communications Coordinator, and program committee duties. He was also an adjunct instructor at Washburn University, teaching beginning to advanced levels of guitar with an emphasis in jazz. During this role, he organized the Topeka Community Guitar Ensemble which served as a performing opportunity for all experience levels in the surrounding Topeka community. Additionally, notable jazz festivals performances include the Montreaux Jazz Festival, Vienne Jazz Festival, and Umbria Jazz Festival.

In his free time, Dustin does fantasy football research, crate digs at various local record stores, and goes on long bike rides.

Teaching Experience

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 Beginners
  • MU 254/454 Small Ensemble (Guitar)
  • MU 260/460 Applied Guitar