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Jeremy Day-O'Connell

Associate Professor of Music

At Knox Since: 2004


Yoo-hoo. Bye-bye.

The relationship between sing-song phrases like these and music is one of
Jeremy Day-O'Connell's
research interests, which led to his being named a
Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in 2009. That same year, he also received the Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Award for Distinguished Teaching. Day-O'Connell teaches music theory, music analysis, nineteenth-century music, music and language, and music psychology. He received his Ph.D and M.A. degrees in musicology for Cornell University and his bachelor's in math and mathematics from Swarthmore College.

Why Knox?
The educational ethos. I want to teach at a school where education is understood not simply as an imparting of knowledge, but as an immersion in a certain approach to the world -- a critical, attentive engagement with the richness of human thought and human experience. I believe that Knox students, faculty, and administration share that view of education.

What is your most memorable moment at Knox?
Playing the steel drums with my wife on the CFA patio, surrounded by deep snow banks on a freezing cold early-spring day. Despite the inauspicious weather, that performance -- of original compositions by my Music Theory I students -- has become a yearly tradition.

Describe your current research/creative work. What is most interesting about this work?
Recently I've been studying the intersections of music and language. I'm especially interested in the musicality of speech -- the ways we sometimes "sing" when we speak. What's most interesting about this line of work is the possibility that languages that seem to have nothing in common actually may have very deep commonalities in the realm of pitch and rhythm -- that is, in their musicality. The humanities and social sciences have long tended to emphasize differences between cultures, and rightly so; but I've grown very sympathetic to research that instead reveals our common humanity.

If you weren't a professor, you would be a . . . ?
A professor ... of mathematics. In college, I was a double major in math and music, and I sometimes regret having had to choose between those two fascinating subjects.

What is your favorite thing about Galesburg?
Big, old, beautiful houses and a short bike ride to and from campus.

What were the last three books you read?
Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry
Music, Language, and the Brain
by Aniruddh Patel
Bossypants
by Tina Fey

What did you do to celebrate receiving tenure?
I tore the roof off my garage (literally!). It was a coincidence, of course -- the end of the term seemed like the right time -- but it actually turned out to be strangely fitting: perhaps even more than receiving tenure, trying my hand at such grueling manual labor confirmed that I really belong in academia.

View Jeremy Day-O'Connell's faculty page

Learn more about Day-O'Connell's Fulbright Fellowship