Northwestern Events Calendar


"Singing like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms" Featuring Kira Thurman (University of Michigan)

When: Thursday, May 26, 2022
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Harris Hall, 108, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Courtney Essenpreis   (847) 491-7249

Group: Department of German

Co-Sponsor: Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


Kira Thurman is a highly-sought-after and award-winning historian and musicologist. A classically-trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Thurman earned her PhD in history from the University of Rochester with a minor field in musicology from the Eastman School of Music. Her research, which has appeared in German Studies Review, the American Historical Review, Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), Opera Quarterly, and Journal of World History, focuses on two topics that occasionally converge: the relationship between music and national identity, and Central Europe's historical and contemporary relationship with the Black diaspora.

She is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including a Fulbright fellowship to Germany, the Berlin Prize from the American Academy of Berlin, and a residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Her article, "Black Venus, White Bayreuth: Race, Sexuality, and the De-Politicization of Wagner" won the German Studies Association's DAAD prize for best article on German history in 2014. 

Her book, Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms (Cornell University Press, 2021), traces the history of Black classical musicians in German-speaking Europe across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross praised it as "one of the most original and revelatory books to have been written about classical-music history in many years...An instant classic that deserves the widest possible audience." NPR named it one of the Best Books of 2021. 

A firm believer in public engagement, Thurman has written for outlets such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, Frieze Magazine, and the New York Review of Books, and has appeared on PBS documentaries and public radio programs in Germany and the United States. She has written historical materials for orchestras such as the Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), BBC Proms (London), the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, and the New York Philharmonic. Together with colleagues across the United States and Europe and with the support of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., she runs the public history website,

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