Professor doesn’t only teach music, he lives it

Butler University professor James Briscoe helps the American Musicological Society find a spot to put on the midwest chapter’s annual event.

This year, Briscoe, music history teacher, helped Butler host the event, which had more than 2,300 people in attendance.

The event featured performances by the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and the Indianapolis Choir.

“The performances were much enjoyed,” Briscoe said.

He is  also involved with more than just this annual event.

Being involved with music from a young age, Briscoe is a member of the midwest chapter of the American Musicological Society, which Briscoe calls his “silo.”

“In the past the AMS looked at manuscripts and first additions and second additions [to analyze music], but that day has passed and I’m glad for it,” Briscoe said. “I think we need to look at the context of music and music in society. I’m glad the AMS is taking that direction.”

Briscoe has also published books, served as a member of the College Music Society and worked with the American Musicological Society.

Briscoe has taught at Butler for 31 years. In that time, he has done much more than grade papers and administer tests.

According to the College Music Society’s website,, Briscoe is the author of 11 articles in the “New Grove Dictionary of Music” and is also the editor of the recently published “Vitalizing Music History Teaching.”

Briscoe said he genuinely loves all sorts of music. He said he enjoys Classical for its obvious art form, but that he also loves Dixie Land Jazz and French music.

“I am particularly fascinated by French music of the 1800-1900s,” Briscoe said. “My particular specialty is Debussy, the French composer who worked around 1900.”

Briscoe said he has a book published through Yale University Press called “Debussy in Performance,” which is a series of essays discussing Debussy’s attitudes towards performing music.

According to, the London Times praised the book “for its abundant documentation and sensitive readings.”

Briscoe also has a book titled “The Debussy Research Guide,” which he said is more scholarly.

Briscoe said he finds French music fascinating because of its rich culture. As Americans, he said, we are fast-paced and obsessed with growth and expansion.

French culture, Briscoe said, stabilizes that notion by providing calm, elegance and depth.

This extensive knowledge of music history granted Briscoe membership in the College Music Society when he was a graduate student.  According to its website, the society, “promotes music teaching and learning, musical creativity and expression, research and dialogue, and diversity and interdisciplinary interaction.”

Briscoe said he joined because of its “interdisciplinary nature,” meaning that it approaches music and its history from multiple perspectives, which Briscoe said he appreciates.

Although Briscoe finds himself involved in many things, he said there is no need to separate them.

Briscoe said instead he chooses to view them all as tools for a well-rounded existence because they foster continuous learning.

“If you’re not a good scholar, you’re not going to be a good teacher,” he said.

Above all else, Briscoe said he wants people to understand that there is always room for music in one’s life.

“Love it,” he said. “Listen all you can, and read what the composers have thought. Music energizes society.”