2020-2021 International Grant Winner (Doctoral Category — Music Research): Hester Bell-Jordan

Hester Bell-Jordan
Published: 18 June 2021

Congratulations to Hester Bell-Jordan, winner of the 2020-2021 International Grant Writing Competition for doctoral students — Music Research

Hester Bell-Jordan received $11,000 towards her doctoral studies for her grant proposal, "'Notorious ladies' and 'charming daughters': Gender and Work in Piano Making and Music Publishing around 1800."

Curious to learn more about Hester and her research, we asked some questions over email...

How has being a Schulich student influenced you and your research?

My supervisors’ expertise and the range of seminars I’ve taken here in musicology and feminist/gender studies have really shaped how and what I research. I’ve also found a supportive community at Schulich that has helped me navigate the challenges of graduate study.

What led you to this particular topic?

I’ve long been interested in gender and music in the nineteenth century, but it was a seminar with my supervisor Tom Beghin on Beethoven’s pianos that led me to the specific subjects of my thesis, the piano-maker Nannette Streicher-Stein and the Marcoux sisters, who ran the Mlles Erard music publishing company.

What are the practical implications of your research?

One practical implication of my research is that it helps readers to understand that women participated actively and successfully in every aspect of the nineteenth-century music industry, including areas like instrument building and publishing that might sound to us like exclusively “masculine” professions.

How does your research add to what was already known?

My research will be some of the first in English to look at both Nannette and the Marcoux sisters’ lives and work through a feminist lens. There’s also very little published work of any kind on the sisters and their business (or indeed women in music publishing generally!) so I’m exploring topics and primary sources that haven’t been examined before.

What are your next steps?

My next steps are to do archival research in Paris and Vienna and to continue writing my thesis.

What inspires/drives you in your research?

I love uncovering new (old) documents and exploring their contents and significance in new ways, especially when they demonstrate the existence and agency of marginalized historical figures.

What advice would you give to new students in your program?

Take as many different classes as you can manage, now is the time to broaden your knowledge as much as possible.

What is your earliest musical memory?

My earliest musical memory is of my dad singing The Seekers’ “Morningtown Ride” to me as a lullaby—it’s still one of my favourite songs.

If you hadn’t ended up in music, what would your alternate career path have been?

Maybe costume design. I’ve always been drawn to both the performing world and working with textiles, so I would have found that an engaging career.

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night — it’s a fun and well written murder mystery that paints an interesting picture of gender and academia in 1930s Oxford.

Hester Bell Jordan is a PhD candidate at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University studying musicology with a concentration in gender and women’s studies. She received her master’s in musicology (2015) and bachelor’s in violin performance (2013) from the New Zealand School of Music. Hester’s research centers on issues of music and gender in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European music culture. Supervised by Lisa Barg and Tom Beghin, her doctoral thesis is titled “Notorious Ladies and Charming Daughters: Gender and Labour in Piano-Making and Music Publishing around 1800” (in progress). It explores how members of two women-led music businesses—the piano making company Nannette Streicher née Stein and the music publishing company Mlles Erard—negotiated gender, identity, work, and family during this period. Hester is also interested in the intersections of music and settler-colonialism in the twentieth century.

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