Notes of Change: How Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is Helping Shape the Conservatory


After hearing Dr. Alisha Lola Jones speak about racism, diversity, and inclusion at a virtual book club meeting, Scott Skiba, the director of opera studies at BW, wanted to connect her with the Conservatory of Music to help enact positive change and address issues of equity and inclusion within the school.

Skiba, who went to college with Dr. Jones, introduced her to the Dean of the Conservatory, Susan Van Vorst, and from there they began to set plans in motion to train faculty on diversity issues, revise curriculum, and form important relationships that will foster real change in the program. “I have to tip my hat to Dean Susan for getting it and being open,” said Dr. Jones, explaining that Dean Van Vorst and other board members were enthusiastic about these plans. “They are positioning themselves for systemic change,” said Dr. Jones.

Dr. Alisha Lola Jones holds a degree in voice performance from Oberlin University, along with a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and a Doctorate of Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. Through her studies, Dr. Jones has conducted research on music and religion as it relates to gender, sexuality, and the African diaspora. Dr. Jones has multiple publications and is the Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Indiana University while serving on the board of multiple different music research organizations.

As an Ethnomusicologist, Dr. Jones works to diversify people’s thoughts on what music is and how it is taught in school. During her own undergrad experience, Dr. Jones explained that she had to do extra work to find repertoire that fit her culture: “I saw that it wasn’t given to us, repertoire by African Americans. I knew that it existed, but I had to do independent study without any credit to find it.” This, along with her love of culture helped shape her research interests.

Within the Conservatory, Dr. Jones is working to educate staff and faculty on issues of diversity within music and is equipping them with the training and resources they need to expand their curriculum beyond its Eurocentric roots. However, Dr. Jones’ work isn’t about just providing the faculty with resources, but helping them learn to do the required research themselves. “The faculty have been vulnerable. They have had a culture shock, but leaned in after their culture shocks, participated, been very supportive, and have even shown up for me outside of campus,” Dr. Jones said.

Revising syllabi, listening to student experiences, and reframing the way faculty members think about music and culture are all key components to enacting real change within the Conservatory. “The focus was a sustainable interaction and providing time each month to train [faculty] on research methods and pedagogy, with an eye toward a more just, diverse, equitable, and inclusive program.” Dr. Jones spends about six to eight hours minimum per month working with the Conservatory.

Dr. Jones’ work hinges on relationships. “It’s not about a book, not about a workshop, not about a course. It is about levels of accountability,  pushback,  personalities, and  institutional memory. All of these things are how you learn culture well and authentically, ” she said.

To hold themselves accountable and to continue instituting change, the conservatory will check in every six months to track progress and talk with Dr. Jones about how things are going.

Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is also serving as the Faith and Life lecturer for the 2021 series, speaking on topics of gospel music, masculinity, and her new book ‘Flaming.” The series is held virtually over Zoom. Tickets are free but registration is required. Please visit for more information.