Charles McGuire

  • Professor of Musicology
  • Director, Division of Musicology

Areas of Study


  • BA, Oberlin College, 1992
  • BM, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, 1992 
  • MA, Harvard University, 1995 
  • PhD, Harvard University, 1998 


Charles Edward McGuire teaches the introduction to music history course all conservatory students take in their first semester at Oberlin, as well as courses on Romantic music history, Mozart, Beethoven, the symphony, and film music. In his classes, he strives to teach students how to use musicology to inform their interpretations of musical works, communicate with their peers and audiences about music, and build their own comprehensive knowledge of music history to aid their love of music.

His areas of scholarly interest include the music of Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, the British music festival, sight-singing techniques, and the intersection of choral singing and moral reform movements. His publications include the monographs Music and Victorian Philanthropy: The Tonic Sol-fa Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Elgar’s Oratorios: The Creation of an Epic Narrative (Ashgate, 2002) and The Historical Dictionary of English Music (Scarecrow, 2011), which he co-authored with Oberlin colleague Prof. Steven Plank.

He has published essays in volumes such as Vaughan Williams Essays, The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, Elgar and His World, Elgar Studies, Chorus and Community and in journals including 19th-Century Music, The Elgar Society Journal, and Musical Quarterly. His publications for reference works include articles in Oxford Music Online, The New Catholic Encyclopedia, and Oxford Bibliographies Online.

He has presented papers at numerous international musicological conferences, and is a frequent invited speaker for panel discussions and pre-concert talks. Mr. McGuire holds a B.A. and a B.Mus. from both Oberlin College and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and an A.M. and Ph.D. in music from Harvard University. He has taught in various capacities at Harvard University, Ball State University, the University of Maryland at College Park, and James Madison University. He returned to Oberlin in 2001.

Fulbright Scholar, 2012-13

Excellence in Teaching Award, Oberlin College, 2008

Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, 1994, 1995, 1996


  • A Historical Dictionary of English Music (coauthored with Steven Plank; Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011)
  • Music and Victorian Philanthropy: The Tonic Sol-fa Movement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Elgar’s Oratorios (Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2002)

Articles and Essays:

  • “‘An Englishman and a Democrat:’ The Large-Scale Choral Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams” (essay to be published in The Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams, edited by Aidan Thomson and Alain Frogley; Cambridge University Press, forthcoming in 2013)
  • “American Hymns, English Evangelism, and the Pastoral Temperance Cantata” (essay published in Musician Performance Culture in 19th Century Britian: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Temperley, edited by Bennett Zon; Ashgate Press, 2012, pp. 173-194)
  • “Christianity, Civilization, and Music: Nineteenth-Century British Missionaries and the Control of Malagasy Hymnology” (essay to be published in Music and Theology, edited by Martin V. Clarke; Ashgate Press, forthcoming in 2011).
  • “Edward Elgar: ‘Modern’ or ‘Modernist’? Construction of an Aesthetic Identity in the British Music Press, 1895-1934” (Musical Quarterly, vol. 91, no. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2008), pp. 8-38)
  • “Elgar and Acworth’s Caractacus: The Druids, Race, and the Individual Hero” (in Elgar Studies, edited by Julian Rushton and Paul Harper-Scott; Cambridge University Press, 2007; pp. 50-77)
  • “Measure of a Man: Catechizing Elgar’s Catholic Avatars” (in Elgar and His World, edited by Byron Adams; Princeton University Press, 2007, pp. 3-37)
  • "Music and Morality: John Curwen’s Tonic Sol-fa, the Temperance Movement, and the Oratorios of Edward Elgar” (paper published in Chorus and Community, edited by Karen Ahlquist; University of Illinois Press, 2006, pp. 111-138)
  • “Functional Music: Imperialism, the Great War, and Elgar as Popular Composer” (essay published in The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, edited by Julian Rushton and Daniel Grimley; Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 214-224; 240-242)
  • “From The Apostles to Sancta Civitas: Oratorios and Portraits by Elgar and Vaughan Williams” (essay published in A Special Flame: Proceedings of the International Conference on Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams (Albion Press, 2004, pp. 99-115; 168-175))
  • “Vaughan Williams and the English Music Festival, 1910” (paper published in Vaughan Williams Essays, edited by Byron Adams and Robin Wells; Ashgate Press, 2003, pp. 235-268)
  • “Elgar, Judas, and the Theology of Betrayal” (Nineteenth-Century Music, Vol. XXIII, no. 3 (Spring 2000, pp. 236-272)
  • “One Story, Two Visions: Textual Differences Between Elgar’s and Newman’s The Dream of Gerontius” (Elgar Society Journal, vol. 11, no. 2 (July, 1999), pp. 75-88; reprinted in The Best of Me: a Gerontius Centenary Companion, edited by Geoffrey Hodgkins; Rickmansworth: Elgar Editions, 1999, pp. 84-101)

Reference Sources:

  • Website bibliography: “Sir Edward Elgar.” In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Music (edited by Bruce Gustafson; Oxford University Press: July, 2011): 9780199757824/obo-9780199757824-0070.xml.
  • Encyclopedia Article: “Elgar, Sir Edward.” In The New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2011 Supplement. Detroit: Cengage, 2011.
  • Encyclopedia Article: “Johnson, John.” In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (revised edition; 2001)

Spring 2024

Music of the Romantic Era — MHST 255
History of Film Music — MHST 332

Fall 2024

Introduction to the History and Literature of Music — MUSY 101


Charles McGuire Presents Paper

August 6, 2020

Professor of Musicology Charles McGuire presented the paper, "Patti vs. Butt on the British Stage, or the Legacy of an Operatic Star versus a Festival Star” at the biennial conference of the North American British Music Studies Association.

Charles McGuire Launches Online Tool

June 2, 2017

Charles McGuire, professor of musicology, has launched the Musical Festivals Database (MFD), a online tool that allows users explore and research the performance history of British Musical Festivals between 1695-1940. The programming and implementation of the database is a collaboration between the Oberlin College Library, Oberlin College and Conservatory, the Five Colleges of Ohio, the Mellon Foundation, and Duke University’s Digital Scholarship Services. Due to the efforts of Oberlin and Duke student research assistants, one can use the MFD to search more than 500 festivals online, find out when and where a singer, instrumentalist, or conductor worked in Great Britain, and what was performed. The database is part of McGuire’s long-standing project to research musical festivals and the history of performance in order to implement within the Oberlin classroom a broader discussion of what music history was and is.

Charles McGuire Awarded Fellowship at Duke University

April 23, 2015

Professor of Musicology Charles McGuire has been awarded a Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellowship at Duke University for the 2015-16 academic year.

At Duke, McGuire will be working on a monograph, "The British Musical Festival, 1695-1940: A Social History of Taste." The monograph investigates the musical festival in Great Britain, which was one of the most important means of concert music production in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Through such festivals, the middle classes ultimately became arbiters of musical taste.

In addition to this work, McGuire will continue the development of the Musical Festivals Database, a fully searchable index of programs, personnel, ensembles, and venues of musical festivals held in the United Kingdom between 1695 and 1940. This will be important to musicologists, music theorists, and social historians because it will allow them to see the creation of the musical canon as we know it today; more importantly, it will show how malleable that canon has always been.

McGuire will be sponsored by Duke University Associate Professor of Music Philip Rupprecht, who will help him connect with Duke courses where he can interact with undergraduate students and with other members of Duke University's music department.


Semester Ends with a Packed Performance Calendar

December 8, 2023

Oberlin Conservatory’s student and faculty performers have been filling most concert venues throughout the campus over the last week. During these final five bustling days before students head into reading period and then exams, this explosion of activity feels something akin to the thrilling finale of a fireworks display on New Year's Eve. So, join in—even from a distance. All of these concerts are free and open to the public, and all but one of them can be streamed live at concert time at .

Writing to Be Read

June 8, 2020

An Oberlin collaboration with a Cleveland nonprofit helps students explore long-form writing—and expand their audience.

Beauty Amid the Brutality

August 31, 2018

Cross-campus collaboration celebrates artistic master works and hidden gems made in the shadow of WWI.