John D. Spilker, Ph.D.

Faculty/Staff profile

Contact information

John D. Spilker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Music
jspilke2 [at]

Rogers Fine Arts 304

Fall 2018
Mon, Tues, Wed: 1-2pm

Thurs: 10-11am


Feel free to stop anytime. If I'm by my office, I'm always happy to help. You can also email me to setup an appointment.

(402) 465-2291

“The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy.”

--bell hooks

Dr. Spilker enjoys learning alongside engaged students. In 2014 NWU awarded him the annual Exemplary Teacher Award and in 2017 he won the Margaret J. Prouty Teaching Award. His teaching focuses on project-based inquiry and using course content to help students develop research, writing, discourse, and public speaking skills, along with perspectives on diversity and inclusion. 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. Dr. Spilker has participated in student/faculty collaborative research projects utilizing fieldwork to investigate (1) the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. and (2) music and drag culture in New York City. Together with sociology and gender studies professor Susan Wortmann, Dr. Spilker co-designed and co-led a study abroad course to Cuba where students applied fieldwork methods to study Cuban Youth Music Culture. Prior to his arrival at NWU in fall 2011, he 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.

Dr. Spilker specializes in American music, twentieth-century musical modernism, counterpoint, musical analysis, pedagogy, and the interactions between music and larger social and cultural topics (e.g. gender, sexualities, the environment, power, race, death). His research on Henry Cowell’s contribution to the development and dissemination of dissonant counterpoint are published in the Journal of the Society for American Music and American Music. His articles about musical works based on the biblical texts of King David’s laments for Absalom and Jonathan can be found in College Music Symposium and Essays in Honor of Dr. Jeffery T. Kite-Powell. His pedagogy research explores new approaches to music history course design, teaching writing, integrating courses with liberal education, assessment, and the facilitation of student-centered classroom activities. He 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.

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.

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

Senior Capstone Seminar

Music History: Gender & Sexuality

Music History: Environment

World Music Cultures

Sex and the Arts

Film Music

American Music

Archway Seminars:

  • Musicals as a Platform for Taboo Sexual Topics
  • Social Media and Wellbeing
  • Courage, Compassion, & Connection
  • Ru Paul's Drag Race & Self-Acceptance
  • Dead Poets Society & Vocation
  • Rising Strong

Society for American Music
American Musicological Society
Society for Music Theory
College Music Society
Pi Kappa Lambda
Mu Phi Epsilon