FSU music grad student, expert on Andean music, wins Fulbright Hays Award for research in Peru

Holly Wissler

Holly Wissler, a doctoral ethnomusicology student in the Florida State University College of Music, has been awarded a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award.

The prestigious prize, valued at more than $24,000, will enable Wissler to conduct research for her dissertation—"Musical Tradition and Change in the Quechua Community of Q’eros, Peru"—on site in Peru for one year.

Beginning next fall, Wissler will spend extensive time both in the city of Cusco and in the remote Quechua community of Q’eros recording, transcribing and translating the Q’eros’ indigenous pre-Spanish Conquest music. She also will meet with Peruvian scholars and conduct archival research.

Ethnomusicology examines the music of the world, with an emphasis on its geographic, racial and cultural context. The Fulbright Hays award is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and supports a year of dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies for students who are planning a teaching career.

"I’m grateful for this award, which helps me feel supported in my research and inspires a sense of responsibility in my scholarship," said Wissler, 46, an Iowa native.

"I hope to honestly represent the Q’eros people by sharing with the world what they’d like it to know about their music and musical rituals. The Q’eros have become the emblematic culture-bearers of indigenous Andean culture in southeast Peru. In the midst of modernization, the significance of changes in both the current Q’eros songs and the ones that are dying need to be documented."

"Holly Wissler is one of our most distinguished doctoral students. She is a wonderful teacher, an accomplished musician and performer of Andean music, and a great intellect," said Dale Olsen, FSU’s Distinguished Research Professor of Ethnomusicology and a Guggenheim Fellowship winner in 2005.

"She has lived and worked in southern Peru for more than 20 years as a mountain trek leader, and her present research with the Q’eros native people at 14,000 feet is the first of its kind from the perspectives of gender roles, musical change and cultural adaptation. She has received praise from Peruvian and American scholars alike."

Wissler said she hopes to earn her Ph.D. in 2008. As for adventures after that: "I envision designing and leading treks in Peru for young ethnomusicologists and anthropologists or heading a college summer program in the Andes, which has become like home to me. I’ll also look for a more permanent teaching position in a college or university."

"Holly’s accomplishments, insights, research talents, compassion and communication skills through music, language and action, are truly amazing," Olsen said. "FSU will forever be proud of her. She is one of the best."