John D. Spilker, Ph.D.

Contact Information

John D. Spilker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music
Music, Gender Studies, & Interdisciplinary Studies
Office location

Rogers Fine Arts Building, Rm. 107 (bottom floor, back hallway, sharing w Prof. Olivieri)

or RFA Rm. 304 (top floor, across from the elevator)

Office hours

By appointment during these times:

  • MW 11:30am–1:50pm
  • T 11:40-1pm
  • F 11:30-1pm
  • Also, talk with me after class to schedule an appointment at another time.

Feel free to stop anytime. If I'm in my office, I'm always happy to help.

The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. ...we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. ... It affirms healthy self-esteem in students as it promotes their capacity to be aware and live consciously. It teaches them to reflect and act in ways that further self-actualization, rather than conformity to the status quo.” —bell hooks


Black lives matter! Black, brown, and indigenous lives are a human rights issue, not a partisan political debate. What can we do together to take the next step to learn about the legacy of racisms and white supremacy and transform our communities? History is not a thing of the past…it built the thrives today. I pledge to take action to achieve equity through policy change. I pledge to learn from and follow the antiracist leadership of people of color. I’m learning how to see and disrupt: 1. my racisms, 2. my active participation in and complicity with “white supremacy culture” (a culture that privileges white people), 3. my socialization and choices to remain in segregated white spaces established by U.S. law, and 4. the debilitating and deadly impact of the “imperialist capitalist white-supremacist patriarchy” (interlocking systems of oppression). Lifelong learning, uncomfortable inner work, and accountability can help me recover from my incentivized historical, social, and political illiteracy and deeply embedded dominance. Together, we can decenter whiteness and focus on black voices, experiences, perspectives, and achievements.


Ph.D., Musicology, The Florida State University, 2010
Certificate in Early Music, The Florida State University, 2008
M.M., Musicology, The Florida State University, 2006
B.A., Music, Brigham Young University, 2004

Courses taught

2017: Study Abroad Course to Cuba (together with Dr. Susan Wortmann, sociology & gender studies)

Senior Capstone Seminar (MUS 4980)

Music History I: Gender & Sexuality (MUS 2830/3830)

Music History II: Antiracist Liberation (MUS 2860/3860)

World Music Cultures (MUS 2810)

Resilience & Wellbeing (MUS 2750)

Soundtrack of Life (MUS 1820)

Sex and the Arts (GEND 2850)

Archway Seminars (IDS 1010):

  • 2020: Lynching: Honesty and Racial Healing (Sherrilyn Ifill)
  • 2019: Racism & Mass Incarceration (Bryan Stevenson)
  • 2018: Rising Strong (Brené Brown)
  • 2017: Dead Poets Society & Vocation
  • 2016: Ru Paul's Drag Race & Self-Acceptance
  • 2015: Courage, Compassion, & Connection (Brené Brown)
  • 2014: Social Media and Wellbeing
  • 2012 & 2013: Musicals as a Platform for Taboo Sexual Topics

Justice: An Introductory Experience (IDS 1300)

Music History II: Environment (MUS 3840)

Film Music

American Music

Prior to his arrival at NWU, Dr. Spilker taught undergraduate and graduate courses in music history, research methods, and world music at Oklahoma State University and undergraduate courses in music history, analysis of music literature, and music appreciation at The Florida State University.

Research and academic interests


Social Justice: Antiracism, Gender, Care Ethics

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Curriculum Revision, Project-Based Learning, Critical & Inclusive Pedagogies, Adaptive Leadership

  • Article“Adventures in ‘Survey Adjacent’ Music History Courses,” Musicology Now (16 November 2017). 

Care/Equity Pedagogy, Wellbeing, Vocation

  • Book: Colleen Renihan, John Spilker, Trudi Wright, eds. Sound Pedagogy: Radical Care in Higher Education Music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press [under contract]
    • Essay: "Integrating Wellbeing and Social Justice Across a Revised Music History & Culture Curriculum," in Sound Pedagogy.
    • Essay: "Radical Care" (co-authored with Colleen Renihan an Trudi Wright)
  • Essay: "Transdisciplinary Antiracism Research and Teaching As A Foundation for Revising and Creating Music Coursework," in Teaching Difficult Topics in Music, ed. by Laura Pruett and Olivia Lucas. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. [forthcoming]
  • Book Review: "Just Vibrations by William Cheng" Journal of the Society for American Music 13/1 (2019): 110–113.
  • Essay: "The Transdisciplinary Nexus of Care, Antiracism, and Equity in Teaching and Learning." [in process]

U.S. Ultramodernism & Dissonant Counterpoint

  • Article: "The Origins of Dissonant Counterpoint: Henry Cowell's Unpublished Notebook" Journal of the Society for American Music 5/4 (2011): 481–533.
  • Article: “The Curious Afterlife of Dissonant Counterpoint: Jeanette B. Holland’s Class Notes from Henry Cowell’s 1951 Advanced Music Theory Course,” American Music 30/4 (2011): 405–25.
  • Book Review: "Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music by Joel Sachs," American Music 32/1 (2014): 117–19.
  • Book Review: "The New York Composers' Forum Concerts by Melissa J. de Graaf," Journal of the Society for American Music 10/4 (2016): 511–14.
  • Book Review: "Johanna Beyer by Amy C. Beal," Journal of the Society for American Music 12/3 (2018): 354–57.

King David's Laments for Absalom and Jonathan

  • Article“Oh My Son!: The Musical Origins and Function of King David’s Lament,” College Music Symposium 49-50 (2009–2010): 410–33.
  • Essay: “Desperately Seeking Absalom and Jonathan: A Re-Evaluation of Seventeenth-Century English Anthems Based on King David’s Laments,” in Essays in Honor of Dr. Jeffery T. Kite-Powell, ed. by Allen Scott (Ann Arbor, MI: Steglein Press, 2012): 264–90.

Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grants

Dr. Spilker has presented his research at the International Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, the International Association of Music Libraries, national meetings for the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the Society for Music Theory, the College Music Society, the American Culture Association, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Service interests

Dr. Spilker served as the faculty co-coordinator for NWU’s Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning, a project sponsored by the Higher Learning Commission. He was chair of the Pedagogy Study Group for the American Musicological Society and founding chair of the Pedagogy Interest Group for the Society for American Music. He also co-founded the latter society’s Forum for Early-Career Professionals. He served on the editorial board for the Journal of Music History Pedagogy and co-organized the annual Teaching Music History Conference. Informed by his experiences working as the faculty co-coordinator for New Student Programs, his teaching approach honors the rich connections between wellbeing, vocation, and personal development alongside intellectual development.