Musically Sublime

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Feb. 1, 2013

Musically Sublime

Music historian Kimberlyn Montford gives students an appreciation of music, from 17th century sacred music, to opera, and African American music

Associate Professor of Music Kimberlyn Montford

San Antonio 
- It wouldn't be too hard to find Kimberlyn Montford, associate professor of music at Trinity University, when she is not on campus.  You could probably find her at whatever concert is taking place in the area.  Montford might be attending the San Antonio Symphony, where she holds a season subscription.  Or she might be at the annual Austin City Limits music festival.  And don't overlook The White Rabbit, a small club not far from campus that specializes in indie bands.

Her eclectic musical tastes also reach into the classroom where, as a music historian, Montford teaches courses on subjects as diverse as African American music, opera, and women in music.

In addition, she researches the lives and music of 17th century Roman nuns and is the Class Marshall for the Class of 2016.

Music Appreciation

Associate Professor of Music Kimberlyn MontfordMontford said the beauty of teaching at Trinity has been the opportunity to create courses that align with her musical interests.

For example, her course on African American music is related to her growing up with the genre.  In that class, Montford teaches that the music is not only an integral part of the African American community but with America as a whole.

"Although the music comes from within the African American community, it could only develop with a certain set of circumstances that only existed in the United States at a certain point in time. The music really reflects the ethos of the time and has become part of the culture," she said.

Montford also teaches Introduction to Opera and the Operas of Verdi and Wagner.  For those classes, Montford conveys the reason why opera is still an important art form. "I try to give students the experience of someone who enjoys it and loves it," she said. "I try to get across why some people live for opera and what are the things that make them listen to a certain opera again and again."

For her course on Women and Music, Montford talks about how music has been viewed suspiciously by some throughout history, in some cases, for the way it affected women.

"Women have been cut off from performing music in various cultures," she explained. "People were worried about the powerful reflective aspect of music and thought it caused women to lose all sorts of control."

"You see it in antiquity, in early Christianity, in the 16th and 17th centuries, and  today," said Montford. "The fact that music can cause you to feel without thinking is very problematic for a lot of people."

Research on 17th Century Nuns

Along with teaching different genres of music, Montford is also an active researcher on 17th century sacred music.  In particular, she has focused her research on the lives and music of Roman nuns from that era.

Montford said her interest is related to her classical training as a musician - she started as a young girl learning the piano and eventually learned to play the violin, cello, and organ.  In addition she is a mezzo-soprano.

For more than a decade, she has conducted research at the Vatican archives and at private libraries in Italy.  Many times she has had the thrill of looking through material that no one else has seen in more than 300 years.

She has become the world's foremost expert on 17th century Roman nuns.  

"In many cases I felt like I knew these women," Montford said on the nuns.  "I knew how much wax they ordered for candles. And when the bishops came to the church, how they would make scented, silk flowers for the visit." 

She said some of the nuns wrote about their life in a convent and reading through their personal reflections made her feel as though she were hearing from a pen pal.

"Their music was their only voice because they were cloistered," added Montford.  "The only way people knew these women existed was they could hear their voices coming out of their churches so their music was important." 

Class Marshall

Montford is also the Class Marshall for the Class of 2016. She describes her duties as helping first-year students navigate their way through college life, dispensing advice on what they need during the semester as well as suggestions on what to do outside of the classroom, like visiting the River Walk or going to the rodeo

"It is fun," said Montford.  "I get to be a cheerleader for Trinity, which I have become over the years. I feel I can give students some perspective because I have been here a while, but not so long that I have forgotten what it's like to be new to San Antonio and to Trinity."

Courses Taught

  • African American Music
  • Music Appreciation
  • Operas of Verdi and Wagner
  • Music and Religion
  • Hip Hop Culture

Selected Publications

  • "Convent Music:  An Examination," in Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, Allyson, Poska, Jane Couchman, and Katherine McIver, eds. (Forthcoming).
  • "Female Presentation and Agency in Nuns' Music of Early Modern Rome." In Early Modern Rome, 1341-1667, Proceedings, Portia Prebys, ed., 194-205.  Ferrara: Edisai, 2012.
  • "Holy Restraint:  Religious Legislation and Nuns' Music in Early Modern Rome."  Sixteenth-Century Journal 37/4 (Winter 2006): 1007-1026.

 - Russell Guerrero '83