Paul Feller-Simmons, a musicology PhD candidate in the Bienen School of Music, has been named a Northwestern University Presidential Fellow—the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern.
The Presidential Fellowship is highly competitive, with fewer than 12% of nominated students appointed each year. All recipients become members of the Northwestern Society of Fellows and participate in society functions, including dinners, an annual retreat, and other special events. Presidential Fellows are students who promise to combine outstanding intellectual or creative ability with the capacity to play an important leadership role not only in the Society of Fellows, but in their respective disciplines and beyond.
In addition to the Presidential Fellowship, Feller-Simmons has recently been awarded the Crown Fellowship from Northwestern’s Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. The award is given annually to a Northwestern graduate student or group of students whose research bears on some aspect of Jewish history, culture, or religion.
Primarily an early modernist, Feller-Simmons’s work engages with interdisciplinary approaches to Jewish-Christian musical exchanges, music in the Spanish colonies, and musical othering. His dissertation investigates how musical experiences mobilized culture between Jewish and Christian communities and social and territorial borders in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Northwestern Europe. Bringing together tools from varying fields—music studies, early modern and medieval studies, Jewish studies, social theory, historical anthropology, and philosophy—he considers the spaces for cross-cultural exchanges that the performance, composition, economics, and consumption of music opened in the Dutch Republic and the German-speaking lands. His research demonstrates the dynamism and interconnectedness of historical Jewish cultures while shedding light on the musical mechanisms through which their communities would uphold their identities.
Feller-Simmons’s work has been supported by awards and grants from the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music and the American Musicological Society. His work on colonial villancicos in Chile was recognized with an honorable mention for the 2023 Otto Mayer-Serra Award. In 2022, he obtained the American Musicological Society Noah Greenberg Award with Cesar Favila for their contribution to the performance of music from nunneries in New Spain.
Feller-Simmons holds a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in musicology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a master's degree in musicology from Northwestern University. He is also a member of Northwestern's Medieval and Jewish Studies clusters and serves as a lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is advised by Bienen Professor Linda Austern.
Previous Bienen School recipients of the Presidential Fellowship include Luis Fernando Amaya (composition, 2019), Jason Rosenholtz-Witt (musicology, 2017) and Susan Agrawal (music theory/musicology, 2002).