Gretchen Carlson, Ph.D.


Gretchen Carlson

Contact Info

CA 2106


Ph.D., Critical and Comparative Studies in Music
McIntire Department of Music
University of Virginia (2016)

M.A., Jazz History and Research
Rutgers University (2011)

B.A., Music, Psychology
Sunderman Conservatory of Music
Gettysburg College (2009)

Areas of Expertise

Jazz Studies
Film & Media Music
Contemporary Music
Music & Social Activism
Bibliography, Research, and Writing


Dr. Gretchen Carlson is a Lecturer of Music History and Culture, where she teaches diverse courses on music in the United States of America, jazz history, contemporary music, media music, and music research/bibliography. She has developed and teaches original seminar courses on Duke Ellington, film composer John Williams, film music, and jazz in American culture. Her interests and teaching areas also include world music, music cognition, women in music, and culture studies.

Dr. Carlson specializes in jazz, American popular music, and film music, focusing on the music’s intersections with media, popular culture, and sociology, and examining topics of agency, creativity, reception, and musical meaning. She has authored several articles focusing on jazz and film, featured in the Journal of the Society for American Music and Jazz and Culture. Her recent book, Improvising the Score:Rethinking Modern Film Music Through Jazz (University Press of Mississippi, 2022) provides a vivid investigation of innovative collaborations between renowned contemporary jazz artists and prominent independent filmmakers, exploring how these integrative jazz-film productions challenge us to rethink the possibilities of cinematic music production. Her current research interests include jazz’s collaborative intersections with contemporary media, jazz and social activism, and historically informed jazz performance practice. She has presented her research at both national and international conferences, including annual meetings of the Society for American Music, the American Musicological Society, the Jazz Education Network, and Rhythm Changes.

Dr. Carlson earned her Ph.D. in Critical and Comparative Studies in Music from the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia. She also holds a M.A. in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University, an undergraduate degrees in music and psychology from Gettysburg College, where she graduated summa cum laude. An active pianist, Carlson balances her research and teaching with solo and collaborative performance and maintains a private piano studio.

In the Media:

  • "Lights, Camera, Swing!" Jazz in the Movies: Carlson discusses her book, Improvising the Score, with Eugene Holley, Jr. of Publisher's Weekly (June 2022).
  • "Free Jazz in Film:" Carlson features as an invited panelist on "The Buzz" - a podcast run by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). The 2-part podcast focuses on "free jazz in film," featuring Carlson, jazz author/critic Kevin Whitehead, arts journalist Don Palmer, and JJA president Howard Mandel. Part 1 was released February 1, 2023, and Part 2 on February 15, 2023.