Michael Allemana

Michael Allemana
Teaching Fellow
BM, Northern Illinois University; MM, Northwestern University
Teaching at UChicago since 2020
Research Interests: memory in musical experience and practice; performance practice and the intersections of race, generation, gender, and sexuality; space and place in musical traditions; musical analysis of improvisational languages; storytelling as knowledge transmission


Michael Allemana was born in Elmhurst, IL. He received a BM in Jazz Performance from Northern Illinois University where he studied jazz guitar with Fareed Haque. Soon afterwards he became a respected guitarist on the Chicago jazz scene. Highlights from his career include performing and touring with the late tenor saxophonist Von Freeman (1923-2012) from 1997-2012 at his weekly New Apartment Lounge jam session; appearances on two of Freeman’s albums—The Improvisor (2002) on Premonition Records and Vonski Speaks (2009) on Nessa Records; forming a quartet with guitarist George Freeman (b. 1927) that performs annually in April at the Green Mill in Chicago with drumming legend Bernard Purdie; and releasing with George Freeman Live at the Green Mill (2017) on Ears & Eyes Records. After mentoring under several senior African American musicians and listening to numerous stories of past performing experience, Allemana began to develop a deep interest in learning more about the social and historical contexts of jazz and how these contexts shaped musical practice and social interactions on the local jazz scene. While earning an MM in jazz studies at Northwestern University, he mentored with Professor Inna Naroditskaya, who pushed him to pursue ethnomusicological research. Allemana is currently a PhD candidate under advisor Professor Travis A. Jackson in the Department of Music at the University of Chicago and a dissertation fellow at the University’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. In addition to performance and research, Allemana serves on the Chicago Jazz Festival Programming Committee and spends the rest of his time with his wife Maria, a social worker with an MSW from Loyola University, and daughter Gabriela, a rising junior at Whitney Young High School and singer with the Chicago Children’s Choir’s Voice of Chicago conducted by Josephine Lee.

Michael Allemana’s research studies how the musical past functions in the present among both musicians and audiences, how places focus pivotal experience, how historical spatial arrangements shape musical experiences, and how racialization processes inform connected musical and social practices. His dissertation investigates how past venues organize memory of live jazz performance on Chicago’s South Side through an innovative oral historical method he terms “the stroll,” interviewing practitioners while driving to past sites of pivotal musical and social experience. His work also researches how processes of racial and spatial construction have shaped and continue to shape musical and social contexts among professional jazz musicians who were members of the African American musicians’ union local 208, among individuals who frequented Von Freeman’s famous jam session at the New Apartment Lounge, and in a longtime musical relationship between two musicians of different racial and generational subject positions. His publications include “Trying to Get the Gig: ‘Ethnic’ Weddings from the Musician’s Perspective,” in Music in the American Diasporic Wedding, edited by Inna Naroditskaya for Indiana University Press, and three educational books for jazz guitar. Allemana has presented his research at numerous conferences including the annual meetings for the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Midwest Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Society for American Music.


2015 co-coordinator for Ethnoise!

Teaching Experience

Introduction to World Music, MUSI 10200 (lecturer, Spring 2017, Spring 2018)
Jazz Theory, DePaul University (lecturer, 2017-2018)