Anne Elise Thomas

Assistant Professor of Performing Arts: Music

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o: Babcock Fine Arts Center 125

B.A. in Music, College of William and Mary

Studies in Arabic at Middlebury College and American University in Cairo

M.A. in Ethnomusicology, Brown University

Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, Brown University

Professor Thomas is an ethnomusicologist and performer with professional experience in education, arts management and community outreach. With expertise in cultural anthropology, Arab music, and Appalachian music and dance, Professor Thomas teaches in both the music program and the Leadership Core Curriculum at Sweet Briar.

Courses Taught

CORE 130: Women and Gender in the World

MUSC 115: Daisy’s Harp (ensemble course)

MUSC 135: Creative Practice for Wellbeing

MUSC 139: Music in Global Context

MUSC 163: Musicianship

MUSC 243: Special Topics in Musicology

Whose Music? Culture and Identity in an Interconnected World

Music Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa


2019 “Green Light Sonata: Improvisation at the Intersection of Art and Science.” Co-authored with Montasir Abbas, Charles Nichols and Qichao Wang. GroundWorks, Online Journal of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru). Debut edition.

2018 “Salaam: Transforming Individuals and Communities through Arts-Based Intercultural Learning.” Journal of Performing Arts Leadership in Higher Education, 9.

2001 “Practicing Tradition: History and Community in an Appalachian Dance Style,” in special issue on Dance and Community. Western Folklore 60/2-3, 163-181.

Anne Elise Thomas is an ethnomusicologist with expertise in Arab and other Middle Eastern musical styles. Her research for the Ph.D. included several years of fieldwork in Amman, Jordan and Cairo, Egypt. She is an accomplished performer on multiple instruments, including qanun (78-stringed Arab zither), violin/fiddle, harpsichord and piano. Her professional activities have also included grantwriting, outreach and program evaluation for community arts organizations.

Thomas’ research interests include music, identity, and community; discourses of music and development; transmission of musical styles; Arab music pedagogy and non-heritage learners of traditional music and dance. She has presented at conferences and universities around the U.S. and internationally, and has published articles in journals including Western Folklore and the Journal of Performing Arts Leadership in Higher Education.

A native of Blacksburg, Virginia, she founded Itraab Arabic Music Ensemble at Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center in 2014, which she continues to direct. She is a committed educator and actively seeks to promote understanding of Arab arts and cultures through presentations, workshops, university lectures and K-12 school programs.

When she’s not at Sweet Briar, she enjoys spending time with her two young daughters, outdoor recreation, social music-making, and dancing with a traditional clogging group (where she and her husband met).