Nicole Lee, a Baruch College senior in the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, was the only undergraduate to present a paper at the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MACSEM) in March. Held at Columbia University, the annual chapter meeting featured only 15 papers, the majority of which are by graduate students and faculty members.
Entitled “Protesting the Dixie Chicks in 2003: Gender and Politics in Country Music,” Lee’s paper examines the backlash against country music group the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines expressed shame that President Bush was a fellow Texan to a concert crowd in England, mere days before the start of the war. Public opinion was mostly negative, despite Maines’ right to freedom of speech, and the band’s albums were blacklisted by country music stations nationwide.
View Nicole Lee’s MACSEM presentation on YouTube here:
Part 1 – http://youtube.com/watch?v=SaRd0juv0sk
Part 2 – http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q_zcUFeaD5A
A Brooklyn native majoring in corporate communications, Lee did not feel as poised as she appeared during the presentation, worrying that her music clips may not work and having to deal with a microphone malfunction.
“I was so nervous, partly because I knew I was probably the youngest person there, but it was a wonderful experience, and I got great feedback from students and faculty,” she says. “The Q&A session was really dynamic and I was asked some great questions that I later incorporated into my paper.”
As a country music fan, Lee was inspired to examine the backlash through the lens of ethnographic gender constructs when the group won several Grammy awards in 2007, and began working on the paper last June. She originally planned to write it as part of her honors thesis in humanities, but was encouraged to submit it by her faculty advisor Kyra Gaunt, an ethnomusicologist and Associate Professor of Music jointly appointed in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the College’s Weissman School of Arts & Sciences. Her initial misgivings about the scholarly merits of the topic were assuaged by Professor Gaunt.
“I’ve advised undergraduate honor’s theses on Pearl Jam and the South-Asian pop group Cornershop as well as graduate theses on popular music in South Africa and jazz on public radio,” notes Professor Gaunt. “Studying the Dixie Chicks in the post-9-11 era was a perfect draw from my past experiences as an advisor.”
A writer for The Ticker and president of the College’s chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, Lee plans to pursue a Ph.D. in communications, with an eye to an eventual professorship. Academic writing certainly seems to be one of her strong suits: she also serves as a Master Tutor in English Writing in the College’s Student Academic Consulting Center, a job she says she loves. She recently returned from a National Tutoring Association conference in Dallas where she helped present the College’s leadership program in tutoring.
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