Sunderman Conservatory of Music

Gretchen Carlson

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Sunderman Conservatory of Music



Campus Box 0403


B.A., Gettysburg College
M.A., Rutgers University-Newark
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Gretchen Carlson is a musicologist, musician, educator, and interdisciplinary music scholar. She holds a Ph.D. in Critical and Comparative Studies in Music from the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia. She also holds an M.A. in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University-Newark, and undergraduate degrees in music and psychology from Gettysburg College. She specializes in twentieth and twenty-first-century American jazz and popular music, focusing on the music’s intersections with film, advertising, and popular culture, and examining topics of agency, creativity, perception, reception, and musical meaning. Her research has been recognized and well-received at both national and international conferences, and has been published in the Journal of the Society for American Music. She is also presently adapting her Ph.D. dissertation for book publication.

Her current manuscript, “Jazz Goes to the Movies:” Contemporary Jazz Musicians’ Work at the Intersections of the Jazz and Film Art Worlds,is a “behind-the scenes” investigation of contemporary jazz musicians’ work within the film industry from a sociological and ethnographic perspective. Specifically, she examines how jazz soundtrack artists negotiate the clash of their own creativity and practices with the reality of film industry conventions and hierarchies. Her work is comprised of a number of ethnographic case studies analyzing recent soundtrack work developed and produced by several prominent jazz composers, arrangers, and musicians – including Terence Blanchard, Mark Isham, Antonio Sanchez, Vince Giordano, and Dick Hyman. Within each case study, she examines the relationships and tensions between the jazz artists’ creative autonomy and their “work-for-hire” statuses within film industry hierarchies, read alongside critical examinations of their relationships with particular directors, filmmaking risk ideologies, and the artists’ own musical productions and self-identification as part of a jazz “art world.” This work provides a resource that directly engages with the creative endeavors and experiences of working musicians, positioning jazz studies in an interdisciplinary dialogue with the fields of film studies, labor studies, business, and sociology – and contributing new insights into the tensions between creative agency and labor in culture industry work.

Beyond her research, Dr. Carlson is committed to the craft of teaching, and strongly values her career as an educator. She has over five years of experience as a university-level instructor, having taught courses in music history, music theory, music fundamentals, and keyboarding at The University of Virginia and Rutgers University. She also teaches regular private music lessons in piano and saxophone performance. In addition to her educational experience in academia, she has also worked as a teacher supervisor and educator with The Institute of Reading Development, a leading national educational company specializing in reading skill development for children and adults. In this position, she designed and implemented curriculum and training programs, enhancing the company’s development as an effective educational institution, responsible for over 100,000 students. In addition, she directly trained, mentored, and supervised nearly two hundred teachers across the United States in developing and executing successful teaching methods in varying settings (i.e., traditional classroom and online formats), for students ranging from kindergarten through graduate and professional school. In teaching teachers how to teach, she had the opportunity to expand her own knowledge and experience in the craft of instruction, as well as cross-disciplinary educational and advising efficacy. Dr. Carlson looks forward to continuing her teaching career at the Sunderman Conservatory and working with both students and faculty at Gettysburg College.

Dr. Carlson is a member of the Society for American Music (SAM), American Musicological Society (AMS), and American Musicological Society – Capital Chapter (AMS-CC).


Gretchen Calrson