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James Gutierrez

James Gutierrez is an Assistant Teaching Professor and Coordinator of First-Year Experience in the Department of Music. He is an interdisciplinary educator, researcher, and musician whose overarching mission is to investigate and realize the potential of music-making as a force for social change, community building, and personal wellbeing, with a particular interest in the more hidden outcomes of musical engagement.  

James has a PhD in Music: Integrative Studies from University of California, San Diego, where he was a Cota-Robles Fellow, as well as degrees in music composition and music theory from Azusa Pacific University, following several years as a Los Angeles-based composer, arranger, and keyboardist. His work has been featured in independent films, games, recordings, and live theater.

Published in Frontiers in Education and College Music Symposium, his ongoing research adopts a systems inquiry approach to investigate experiential pedagogy, embodied cognition, and secondary effects of musical engagement, such as resilience, emotional regulation, community building, and individuation. 

James has been teaching at the university level since 2011, currently teaching courses in Music in Everyday Life, music theory, and 40,000 Years of Music Technology, and has previously taught Psychology of Music, Film Music, Hip Hop Music and Culture, Music Business, Introduction to Music Technology, keyboard, and composition.

Outside of the academy James serves as Managing Director for Cambridge Common Voices, a neurodiverse choral collaboration between Harvard and the Threshold Program at Lesley University, and was previously in leadership at the Center for World Music, leading programs that continue to improve the visibility of refugee communities in San Diego through the promotion of their musical cultures. He also directs a choir in Winchester, and plays ultimate frisbee when weather permits.




  • Ph.D. Music: Integrative Studies,  UC San Diego
  • Master of Music Composition,  Azusa Pacific University
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory, Azusa Pacific University


  • 2023: CAMD High Impact Teaching Award
  • 2021: Distinction in Teaching at Harvard University
  • Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars Fellowship
  • Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship

Research Focus

  • Integrative Studies
  • Music Psychology
  • Music and well-being
  • Music Theory Pedagogy
  • Music History
  • Composition
  • Community Music

Research/Publications Highlights

  • Gutierrez, J. (2020) “Everyday Music Motivations for Adults 18-25 During the Pandemic.” Front. Psych. (under review)
  • Gutierrez. J. (2019) “An Enactive Approach to Learning Music Theory? Obstacles and Openings.” Front. Educ. 4:133. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2019.00133
  • Gutierrez. J. (2018) “Students Evaluate Music Theory Courses: A Reddit Community Survey.” College Music Symposium. Vol. 58, No. 2.

Recent Presentations

  • Harvard Graduate School of Education. Children with Learning and Developmental Differences. Panel for community stake holders, presenting the Cambridge Common Voices Chorus. Cambridge, MA. April, 2024
  • Harvard University. Society for Mind, Brain, Behavior. Speaker: “Paradoxes in Harmony: Toward a Pedagogy of Mutual Transformation” Cambridge, MA. October, 2023
  • August, 2023. “Resilience, Personality, and Musical Reward”. International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition. Tokyo, Japan.
  • July, 2022. “The Role of Music in Mood Regulation During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Conference for the Society of Music Perception and Cognition. Portland, OR.

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