Meet Our Grad Students 2

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Photo of Olivia Adams

10 Questions for: OLIVIA ADAMS

Program: MA in Music, with a specialization in Feminist and Gender Studies: Year 1


1. Can you tell us a little bit about you why you chose to study at uOttawa? 

I chose uOttawa for the uniqueness of the program, my incredible supervisor, Dr. Lori Burns, the city of Ottawa, and a full scholarship with a TA position sealed the deal.


2. What is your favourite part of the program so far? 

I enjoy being a part of two faculties. I love being a part of the uOttawa music community, but it is also refreshing to take courses in Feminist Studies and step out of the music faculty a few times a week and have my colleagues challenge me in other areas of research.


3. What is the most surprising or unexpected part of the program so far? 

The most unexpected part of the program is the shift in my research. I thought I had a clear direction of where my research would go, but through my course work and the encouragement and critique of my professors I have adjusted my research to be more encompassing and inclusive.


4. What is your current research focused on? 

My current research is focused on piano pedagogy. I am working on a project that examines music conservatory piano syllabi for gender and racial inclusivity. The second half of my project is working on developing resources for piano teachers. For example, one of the curriculum resources. I am creating is a piano syllabus of music composed solely by women. 


5. What got you interested in this line of research? 

In my first year of undergrad I performed Alexina Louie’s “I leap through the sky with stars” and it was the first piece I ever played composed by a female. From then on, I wanted half the music on my program to be composed by women. Now in my master’s, I am performing music written exclusively by women. I am not playing women’s music, I am just playing music!


6. Can you tell us more about your research at the process and approach? 

At the moment I am in the refining my proposal which I will defend this spring. In the beginning I spent months reading, taking notes, and making charts of each source’s thesis point, core arguments, methodology, and theories. I put everything on colour coded recipe cards and spread them out on the floor, piecing together my proposal like a giant game of Tetris. In the fall I will do data collection in conservatory archives, and work on developing curriculum resources.


7. What is the most surprising part of conducting this research or engaging in the research process in general? 

To me, the most surprising part is what I am learning through my readings. There are so many brilliant authors and researchers. I have the opportunity join my voice with other researchers doing the same work. I am also excited to do curriculum development to help provide a solution to a problem.


8. What do you hope to do with this research? What impact would you like for it to make? 

I hope that my research provides accurate numbers for the lack of representation of female composers, mainly female composers of colour, in piano curriculum. I also hope that through the resources I develop, piano teachers will have access to additional resources that help fill a void.


9. What is your top piece of advice for future students entering into the music research field? 

Hold your ideas with loose hands, allow them to be flexible and change as you grow as a researcher. Follow your curiosity.  Read lots and lots of books. Finally, interact with other researchers outside of your specific field. My colleagues in the Feminist Institute challenge me and my research in a new way.


10. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

The closing of University libraries is hard to swallow. I don’t have access to the resources I need to continue with my data analysis, and my archive research is put on pause. I am focusing on what I can do right now which means developing a piano syllabus and playing with graphic design for some resource booklets.



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