Colter Harper

music - photography - scholarship


Colter Harper is a guitarist, photographer, and ethnomusicologist from the North Country of New York. In 2011, Colter completed a PhD in Music (Ethnomusicology) at the University of Pittsburgh, where his research focused on the city's vibrant jazz history. Colter's own music owes a great deal to Pittsburgh's musical community as well as his experiences traveling, performing, and studying in West Africa, Brazil, and Europe. In 2007, Colter joined the multi-platinum selling, world music influenced rock band Rusted Root as a guitarist, percussionist, and vocalist. He recorded on the band's latest albums; Stereo Rodeo and The Movement, and performed with the band nationally until the summer of 2013. As a photographer, Colter crosses between ethnographic and abstract subjects and seeks to relate creative processes to the locations in which they take place. While in Ghana in 2000 and 2005, Colter studied and photographed traditional music associated with funeral rites. From 2013 to 2015,  Colter returned to Ghana as a visiting lecturer in music at the University of Ghana. He is currently an adjunct teacher in Robert Morris University's Media Arts Department.



My research topics focus on jazz, popular music, and the musical traditions of Africa. I address the ways music and urban space shape one another and foster a global perspective of musical creativity so to address challenges of new music economies. As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, I received the Hewitt Pantaleoni Prize for the most outstanding paper presented at the 2011 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MACSEM), the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship in 2008, and an Outstanding Paper Award at the 2008 Pitt Arts and Sciences Grad Expo. My dissertation, The Crossroads of the World: A Social and Cultural History of Jazz in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, 1920-1970, is a local history of jazz performance and urban spatial identity based on in-depth interviews with musicians and framed by cultural theories of race, space, and place. I have presented papers at four Society of Ethnomusicology Conferences as well as the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MACSEM), and the 8th International African Theater Association Conference. I have also given lectures on jazz and West African music at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Instituto Chileno Norteamericano (Santiago, Chile), and Williams College.



As a producer, I have worked with artists including Osei Korankye (Akwaaba Music, 2016), Bridget Kearney & Ben Davis (Signature Sounds, 2015) and Dark Suburb (Dark Suburb Music, 2015). I have also produced four recordings of original compositions: Under a Quiet Sun (2003), Once Upon a Mind (2007), Fool's Resolution (2013), and Songs from the War Streets (2012). As a guitarist, I have appeared on Rusted Root's The Movement (Shanachie Records, 2012) and Stereo Rodeo (Touchy Pegg/Adrenaline/DKE Records, 2008), as well as with Lindsey Horner (ArtistShare Records, 2010; Cadence, 2005), Georgetown (Georgetown Records, 2010), Tony DePaolis (Tony DePaolis Records, 2009), Phat Mandee (Phatti-O-Phonic Records, 2007), and Jim Dispirito (Wichita Blue Records, 2003).


CV: pdf

© Colter Harper 2016