Dani𝕖ll𝕖 Shlomit Sof𝕖r
viola - piano - voice - electronics
Date of Birth: June 11, 1984 (Ithaca, NY)
Nationality: USA, Israel
Residence: Ireland, Austria
photo: Randy Ahart
Department of Music
University Assistant in the Institute for Music Aesthetics at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG)
Hebrew Tutor Supervisor and fifth grade instructor at Temple Beth El in Madison, Wisconsin
Piano instructor for students of all ages, classical, jazz, and popular, at the Community School for Music and Arts (CSMA), Ithaca, New York.
I was born in Ithaca, NY and soon moved to Syracuse where my father had recently purchased a 500-acre plot of land with a dairy farm on it for a couple thousand dollars. Convinced that New York City would expand, after a few years tending to the farm, he decided to sell off the animals (sheep, cows, goats, chickens, etc.) and convert the buildings into housing for people. And Pond Hill Estates was born.
My mother by this time accepted a tenure-track job in theater at Penn State University, and I moved with her to State College. I was two-and-a-half years old and began my first piano lessons at the local music academy. An obedient child, I absolutely hated the structureless Waldorf school they enrolled me in. I rather loved counting and recited the alphabet approximately 537 times per day. I coordinated my life the way it suited me. One day at the music academy, I recognized a portrait of Mahler, and won tickets to a performance of his 5th Symphony. At the show, I sat in the first row and jumped up and down the entire concert.
Soon after piano, I quickly took to books, and between the ages of 6-30 you hardly found me without at least 4 books in my hand. I started with horror but, discovering the horrors of reality, I transitioned to non-fiction in my early teens. By that time, I was playing violin, too. I felt accomplished for having learned Pachelbel’s canon on two instruments, but I desperately wanted to play the viola—my friend Tia who introduced me to Salt ‘n’ Pepa played viola and I wanted to be just like her. Sadly, the opportunity didn’t present itself at that time.
When I was 12, my mother was denied tenure and we moved to her home country, Israel. I kept on with the violin, but my traditionalist Russian violin teacher refused to allow me to pick up a viola until I had “mastered” the violin. So, I diligently drilled Vivaldi and Bach’s A minor concerto, and was accepted to the music program at the Reut Middle School for the Arts in Haifa and finally began the viola! I commuted by bus 2 hours per day 5 days per week, clutching my portable CD player in hand, both violin and viola glued to my back. Full disclosure, I failed my first intervals test in 7th grade, but aced the final and never looked back. My father, still living in Upstate NY, was commuting to Israel for three months at a time. In every airport he would swing by the music shop inquiring about the best-selling albums for his musical daughter. So I had an eclectic collection of Destiny’s Child, Sheryl Crow, Backstreet Boys (who I didn’t listen to until much later), and my prized possession: a CD of Foreigner’s greatest hits I nabbed from my older brother. Around that time, I played in two orchestras, sang in the children’s choruses of the Haifa Opera and Haifa Municipal Theatre, and spent my summers “Playing for Peace” at the Apple Hill chamber music camp in New Hampshire.
I continued my musical studies in Haifa at the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) High School for Arts and Design (which sadly just closed its music department), where I worked with Haim Permont, Eitan Steinberg, Yinam Lif, and Daniel Akiva, honing my skills as a composer, performer, and budding music theorist. Like all Israeli children, I had to begin planning my army career. There was an option for “excellent musicians” to be forgiven their armed service, but I had very low self-esteem and didn’t believe I could prepare a recital of 5 contrasting works (something that now seems unbelievably misguided to me), so I went through the military exams and was placed in Agaf HaModi’in—Israeli Military Intelligence—because of my keen language and math skills. My parents grew concerned, and, according to my father, he had done enough military service. They sent me back to the US as usual that summer but this time I would not return.
This escape from the IDF garnered me the reputation of a fugitive, which I fought through official channels for 10 years, during which time I was not allowed to travel to Israel - even when my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. In the meantime, I went to college in America, studying music therapy and music performance at SUNY New Paltz. My parents wanted me to go somewhere cheap. They also wanted me to get a job, so music therapy seemed like an appropriate compromise.
I did my first music therapy practicum as a student at a preschool in Kingston, NY. Boasts of reviving Kingston’s Midtown resurface every so often in the context of Native American trade routes, racial and economic segregation, and in more contemporary accounts of urban renewal, so this practicum was framed to us university undergraduate students as a way of meeting the needs of an underserved population: inner-city youth, 2-4 years old. As part of this service, for which we paid tuition to the university, we led a variety of musically integrated activities with 10 children. We were tasked with recalling each child’s name, their particular dis/abilities, and with improving their participation in the sessions over the course of one semester. This meant that after each session we had to recall minutiae of how each child interacted (or didn’t), spending hours after each half-hour session at a computer documenting intimate details of each child’s physical movements, whether they made and maintained eye contact, how and to what extent they sang the songs, and so on. Implicit in this evaluative activity was the assumption that we, students, were contented to rest our own sense of self-worth on the unpredictable performances of toddlers, since, I had assumed at the time, if the children did not “get better” it was because I was doing something wrong. This may or may not have been an accurate assessment of the practicum exercise, but those were my feelings at 20 years old.
Eventually, in my third year of college, I dropped the music therapy major and transitioned full time into performance. I worked several jobs to pay my own tuition, an office assistant to the music department, a toy store clerk, Orchestra assistant/librarian and traveled home on weekends to manage my parent’s real estate business—remember Pond Hill Estates?
By my last year in college, I had no savings and could no longer afford to pay rent. I was homeless.
Squatting in my boyfriend's dorm - which accessed through the first-floor window - I had to graduate quickly, completing a degree in piano and viola performance with honors, summa cum laude, and recognized by the university as an “Outstanding Graduate.”
After graduating, I moved back to Ithaca, working in food service, then at a bank, and still practicing 3-4 hours per day (sneaking into practices rooms at Ithaca College). I planned to pursue a doctoral degree in performance—specifically I wanted to work as a collaborative pianist or chamber musician, and auditioned at a few places. Ultimately, though, I decided to stay with my then piano teacher who taught at Binghamton University. He insisted that I choose between my musical passions, so I stopped playing viola outside of orchestra. While pursuing my Masters at Binghamton, I took one musicology class and one music theory class and performed exceedingly well in both. The professors of both courses encouraged me in those directions so that when I graduated, I took some time to develop my essays from those courses into something I could submit to graduate programs, this time in music history and theory.
I had always wanted to study at Stony Brook—I had hoped to go there for undergraduate, but didn’t apply because my parents thought it was too far away—and was thrilled when I was offered a place there.
Those were grueling years, as MA degrees tend to be, but as someone who had been musical my entire life, I couldn’t understand why I needed to complete so many tests, languages exams, comprehensive exams, and so on. I was pretty resistant, nevertheless, I excelled. And then I moved far, far away from there to begin a PhD in music theory at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I had stumbled onto my dissertation topic at Stony Brook—sexuality in electronic music—however, this new PhD program required that I take all the courses and exams all over again. I actually enjoyed that aspect, but couldn’t really find anyone who wanted to work with me on my dissertation topic. The advisor I thought I would have, turned out not to read student work (a fact kept hidden from prospective students), so I took a long shot.
An ad came through the list-serv of the American Musicological Society for a paid PhD position in a music aesthetics department in Graz, Austria. I had never been to Austria, and my holocaust-surviving father was not very sympathetic to the place, but the money was very appealing and they seemed nice enough, and, most importantly, they would let me write the dissertation I was dying to get done post haste.
So I was offered the position and I booked my flight to Austria. I daydreamed of stepping off the plane into a black hole. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. On arrival, I met with my supervisor, Andreas Dorschel, at the coffee shop across the street from the university. He was a tall German man with distinguished bulging eyes, and a defined angular nose. I had seen his numerous books online, and I was intimidated. But when he opened his mouth, his voice was a soft nasally tenor, and right away he came out with a joke. He then presented me with a gift, it was a book detailing Janáček’s life in pictures and words. My father’s family was from Moravia, and I was simply delighted that he thought of these details. From day one he has been an incredibly supportive mentor, no nonsense, always a hasty reply and such praise! Still today, he writes lovely notes that keep me going.
In a stroke of luck, the year before my fellowship ended, I completed my PhD with distinction (“mit Auszeichnung bestanden”) and was offered a professorship at Maynooth University in Ireland, where I was happy to join my partner as I was already pregnant. Ireland has been my home for the past four years, but I still travel to Austria often to collaborate with music theorists, researchers of musical acoustics and electronics, and various scholars in the center for gender studies and diversity.
In my nine years as a researcher at the intersection of media and the history and anthropology of technology, I have attained considerable insight into the psychological and philosophical affects different kinds of media have both collectively and individually on users. I examined unintended socio-technical biases introduced by computational automation in my research into music databases, and my investigations of the hegemony (non-diverse) demographics of the field of music theory in the United States identified vulnerabilities at the design phase that consequently reinforced this hegemony of users to the exclusion of new accounts—especially LGBTQ+-identifying individuals and people of color. I published these findings, based on analysis of both quantitative and qualitative metrics here, here and here, and further in my forthcoming monograph from MIT Press.
My research has had far-reaching impact. For example, following my presentation to the Society for Music Theory in 2019, the Society founded an LGBTQ+ task force which has since become a permanent committee dedicated to ensuring retention of LGBTQ+ members. My investigation into the limitations of keyword assignation in music databases has influenced experts in the information literacy sector to evaluate and change how data is stored and accessed by library users at the University of Northern Iowa. And this research has also been translated into German and French.
I am currently living in Ireland and dividing my time between caring for my family, practicing viola, violin, and piano, reading, writing, and challenging and making visible the undisclosed, self-assumed invisible "white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy" (hooks 1997).
Proofreading / Editing
Social Media Platforms
PowerPoint (LinkedIn Top 5%)
Word (LinkedIn Top 30%)
19 publications within the fields of musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, sexualities, gender, hip-hop, electronic, and electroacoustic music;
Attracted €522,307 research funding;
Won 17 awards for outstanding scholarly research, including from the American Musicological Society (US), the Society for Music Theory (US), and the Orpheus Instituut (Belgium);
Taken leadership of 16 international conferences since 2011;
Research impact recognized with invitations for 11 speaking engagements and 8 publications, and at the inaugural Women and Gender Endowed Lecture of the American Musicological Society in 2017;
Established diversity and equality institutional bodies, including the Maynooth University Sexualities and Gender Research Network and Maynooth’s LGBTQIA Staff Network, and interdisciplinary LGTBQ+ Music Study Groups, a research body affiliated with the Royal Musical Association, the Society for Musicology in Ireland, the British Forum for Musicology, and the Society for Music Analysis;
Invited in 2016 as expert on gender and technology to ‘Klang (ohne) Körper: Körperrelation und technikkulturelle Praxis im zeitgenössischen Ästhetikdiskurs’ (‘Sound without Bodies’), EU research project spanning 3 German-speaking regions (DACH), lead researcher in the Gender Embodiment Project component ‘Engineering the Musical Body: User Demographics and Techno-Musical Innovation’;
Recognised for teaching excellence by nomination to serve as Education Officer to the Society for Musicology in Ireland (2018-2019) working toward the fair and equitable representation of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds;
12 years’ experience university teaching, 10 courses as instructor of record and 11 co-taught courses;
Supervised 13 undergraduate and graduate student theses to completion;
Elected Chair of the LGBTQ Study Group of the Royal Musical Association (2017-2019), the research committee of the key academic body for UK musicologists.