Solis HeadshotGabriel Solis serves as Head of the Theatre Department, Professor of Music, African American Studies, and Anthropology.

A scholar of African American music and of Indigenous musics of the Southwestern Pacific, Gabriel Solis has done ethnographic and historical research with jazz musicians in the United States and with musicians in Australia and Papua New Guinea. After serving as chair of musicology he worked as a fellow in the office of the Dean for the College of Fine and Applied Arts and as a member of the Research Advising Taskforce for Arts and Humanities in the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.


Drawing on work in African American studies, anthropology, and history, he addresses the ways people engage the past, performing history and memory through music. Additionally, his work explores musicians’ and audiences’ interactions with and personalization of mass-mediated musical commodities in transnational circulation. He has received, among others, the Wenner Gren Foundation’s Hunt Fellowship, the Arnold O. Beckman Fellowship for distinguished research, the Madden Fellowship for research in technology and the arts, an Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities fellowship, a senior fellowship in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a fellowship for computational analysis of jazz recordings from the Trans Atlantic Partnership fund.  He received the honorable mention for the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Jaap Kunst Prize for “Artisanship, Innovation, and Indigenous Modernity in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea: Ataizo Mutahe’s Flutes,” and his articles have appeared in The Musical Quarterly, Ethnomusicology, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Popular Music and Society, Musicultures, and a number of edited collections. He is the author of a book on contemporary performances of Thelonious Monk’s music, titled Monk’s Music: Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making (University of California Press, 2007), and a book on John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s work together in the late-1950s (Oxford University Press, 2013), and co-editor with Bruno Nettl of a collection of essays on improvisation cross-culturally. He is currently working on a book on the history of connections between artists and activists in Australia and Papua New Guinea and their counterparts in the African diaspora, titled Black Pacific Blues: Music, Race, and Indigeneity. Dr. Solis is an active tenor saxophonist, playing blues, Afro-pop, and Salsa. He is currently in the band Timbalú.

B.A. (musicology), University of Wisconsin; Ph. D. (music history/ethnomusicology), Washington University in St. Louis