Jennifer Fraser

  • Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology


  • BA, University of Sydney, 1996
  • MA in ethnomusicology, Brown University, 1998
  • PhD in musicology, University of Illinois, 2007


Ethnomusicologist Jennifer Fraser has taught at the Oberlin Conservatory since 2007. She also holds a courtesy appointment in Oberlin College’s Department of Anthropology in recognition of the common ethnographic basis of inquiry.

Exposing students to new and diverse musical and cultural worlds, Fraser’s classes are designed to challenge students to engage with music as both a sonic and social act. As an ethnomusicologist, she encourages students to think critically about why music matters to individuals and communities around the world, thus providing tools to engage with music in their own world in new ways.

Fraser’s classes cover geographical regions (e.g., Music of Indonesia), specific themes (e.g., Music and Ecology), ethnographic research methods, and analysis of musics from around the world.

At Oberlin, she also teaches the Central Javanese gamelan and the only ongoing talempong (West Sumatran kettle gong and drum ensemble) on a U.S. campus. Her pedagogical approach uses a range of techniques that require students to be engaged participants in their own learning. Believing deeply in the pedagogical power of visceral, onsite learning, she has taken students to Indonesia during winter term.

  • Teaching Excellence Award, Oberlin College, 2009-10
  • Research Status, Oberlin College, 2010-11
  • International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), 2003-04
  • Presser Music Award for Graduate Students, 2003-04
  • University Medal, University of Sydney, 1996 

  • Sounding Minangkabau: Gongs and Pop in Indonesia. Ohio University Press. 2015
  • ‘‘The Art of Grieving: West Sumatra’s Worst Earthquake in Music Videos,’’ Ethnomusicology Forum. 22(2): 129-159. 2013.
  • ‘‘Pop Song as Custom: Weddings, Entrepreneurs, and Ethnicity in West Sumatra.’’ Ethnomusicology 55(2): 200-228, 2011.
  • “Hybridity and Emergent Traditions: Gongs, Pop Songs, and the Story of Talempong Kreasi in West Sumatra.” Proceedings of the 1st Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia. ICTM Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia. 31-36. 2011.
  • “Talempong Transformations: Cultural Politics and Aesthetics,” in Mambangkik Batang Tarandam, Kumpulan Makalah Seminar Internasional Kebudayaan Minangkabau 2004 (Collection of Papers from International Seminar on Minangkabau Culture), Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia.
  • “Discovering the Music of Indonesia,” CD Series Review, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-en Volkenkunde. 160 (1): 160-175, 2004.
  • “Talempong: West Sumatran Music,” Swara Bendhe, 6 (March 2004): 8-10.
  • “Tracing Talempong in West Sumatra,” Latitudes, 44 (September 2004): 50-56.

Fraser’s research focuses on the music of the Minangkabau, people who populate the province of West Sumatra, Indonesia, in relation to issues of ethnicity, education, gender, Islam, media, and natural disasters.

Her work has appeared in journals such as Ethnomusicology and Ethnomusicology Forum, and she regularly presents at international and national ethnomusicology conferences.

Her book, Sounding Minangkabau: Gongs and Pop in Indonesia, on the ways Minangkabau people use radically different sounding talempong ensembles to negotiate community, ethnicity, and their place in the world, was published by the Ohio University Press in 2015.

She currently serves on the Oberlin Shansi Board of Trustees and the Council for the Society for Ethnomusicology.


Karla Hubbard and Jennifer Fraser co-author article on experiential learning trip to Indonesia

April 23, 2021

Professor of Geology Karla Hubbard and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthroplogy Jennifer Fraser co-authored an article about a 2018 winter term trip that was supported by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment and Oberlin Shansi. The article, “'Natural'” Disasters, Cultural Framings, and Resilience in Indonesia: Transdisciplinary Engagements in an Immersion Program" is published in ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts

Jennifer Fraser presents at Society for Ethnomusicology conference

November 12, 2020

On October 23, 2020, Jennifer Fraser presented a paper titled “Teaching as Scholarship or, How My Students Have Made Me a Better Ethnomusicologist,” as part of a panel, “Ethnomusicology as a Liberal Art: Pedagogy, Disciplinarity, and Institutionalization at the Educational Crossroads” at the annual Society for Ethnomusicology conference. Fellow panelists included Jeffers Engelhardt at Amherst College, Morgan Luker at Reed College, and Whitney Slaten at Bard College. Several Oberlin alumni participated as part of the audience, including Alicia Lola Jones, faculty at Indiana University and Christian James, graduate student, at Indiana University. 

Jennifer Fraser Presents Paper

July 25, 2019

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser presented the paper “Building Community through Music: Working at the Interface Between Applied Ethnomusicology, Community Music, and Community-Engaged Learning Pedagogy” at the 45th International Council for Traditional Music World Conference held July 11-17, 2019, at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jennifer Fraser Presents at Conference

November 19, 2018

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser presented the paper “Dangers of Fieldwork & Dangers of Sex Work: Erotics in/of/and Ethnomusicology” as part of an organized panel called “Access, Risk, Safety, and Gender in Ethnomusicological Fieldwork: Reflections, Analysis, and Directions in the Age of #MeToo” at the 63rd annual Society for Ethnomusicology conference in Albuquerque, NM. Fraser's paper was about her #MeToo moments of sexual abuse and harassment part of ethnomusicological research in Indonesia during the past 24 years and the ways it shaped her professional career. 

Bautista, Fraser, and Kerchner Present at Conference

October 23, 2018

Three faculty members presented "Transformative Imaginations: Decarceration and Liberatory Futures" at the October 2018 Imagining America National Conference in Chicago. The faculty were: Jody Kerchner, professor of music education, director in the division of pedagogy, advocacy, and community engagement, and community-based learning/research faculty fellow; Jennifer Fraser, associate professor of ethnomusicology and anthropology; Adrian Bautista, comparative american studies and senior associate dean for strategic initiatives.

Jennifer Fraser Gives Talk at Indonesian University

August 5, 2016

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser will deliver the talk “Playing with Men: Female Singers, Porno Lyrics, and the Male Gaze in a Sumatran Vocal Genre” on Wednesday, August 10, at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Fraser has been conducting research in Sumatra, Indonesia, for approximately five weeks.

More information about her talk can be found on the Gadja Mada University website.

Jennifer Fraser Publishes Book

July 1, 2015

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser's book "Gongs & Pop Songs: Sounding Minangkabau in Indonesia" has been published by Ohio University Press. In the book, Fraser explores a little-known gong tradition from Sumatra called talempong, long associated with people who identify themselves as Minangkabau.

More information can be found on the Ohio University Press website.