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Heather MacLachlan

Professor, Ethnomusicology

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: Music


Email: Heather MacLachlan
Phone: 937-229-3915
FH 471


  • Ph.D., Cornell, 2009


Heather MacLachlan is an ethnomusicologist whose research focuses on music-making among Burmese populations, both inside Burma/Myanmar and in the diaspora, and on LGBT musical advocacy in North America. In the Department of Music, she directs the Javanese gamelan ensemble.  

Dr. MacLachlan is the author of Singing Out: GALA Choruses and Social Change (University of Michigan Press, 2020), Anthology to Accompany Gateways to Understanding Music (Routledge, 2020) and Burma’s Popular Music Industry: Creators, Distributors, Censors (University of Rochester Press, 2011). In addition, Dr. MacLachlan has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in a variety of scholarly sources including Ethnomusicology, the Yale Journal of Music and Religion, Metal Music Studies, Religions, American Music, Asian Music, the Journal of Burma Studies and the Journal of American Culture. Her article "Music and Incitement to Violence:  Anti-Muslim Hate Music in Burma/Myanmar" was awarded the Article Prize by the International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance (ICTMD) and the Helen Roberts Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology; both of these prizes recognizes the most outstanding article published in the fields of music and dance scholarship during the previous year.

Dr. MacLachlan was a Visiting Professor at Parami University in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar in 2018. She is the past Chair of the Society for Ethnomusicology's Gender and Sexualities Task Force and the SEM's Religion, Music and Sound Section. She also works as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem in the Montgomery County Juvenile Court. Prior to commencing her academic career, Dr. MacLachlan spent a decade teaching music in the public school system in her native Canada. She speaks English, French and Burmese and has taught in each of these languages at various times. Before coming to the University of Dayton, Dr. MacLachlan taught at Cornell University and Syracuse University.

Faculty perspective

"I believe that everyone is a musician and that everyone can engage in researching the many answers to an endlessly interesting question: 'Why do human beings make music?' As a faculty member at the University of Dayton, I am committed to supporting students in making music and in pursuing music research."

Research interests

  • Burma/Myanmar
  • Christianity
  • Buddhism
  • LGBT musicking
  • Power dynamics and political resistance
  • Popular music/country music
  • Music pedagogy

Courses taught

  • World Musics and Faith Traditions
  • Music and Buddhism in Southeast Asia
  • Appalachian Traditions
  • Ethnographic Research Methods

Selected publications


2020: Singing Out:  GALA Choruses and Social Change.  Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 256 pp.

2020: Anthology to Accompany Gateways to Understanding Music.  Co-authored with Samuel N. Dorf and Julia Randel. New York, N.Y.:  Routledge, 503 pp.

2011: Burma’s Pop Music Industry:  Creators, Distributors, Censors.  Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology. Rochester, N.Y.:  University of Rochester Press, 221 pp.

Articles and Book Chapters

2024: “Music as an Element of Contemporary Courtship in Burma/Myanmar,” Journal of Burma Studies

2023: “Church Music Leaders in the USA: Prioritizing Technical Competence and Inclusion,” Yale Journal of Music and Religion, Vol. 8 (2): 60-84

2022: “Revolutionary Songs from Myanmar: Reconsidering Scholarly Perspectives on Protest Music,” Music and Politics, Vol. 17 (1), article 3

2022: “Music and Incitement to Violence: Anti-Muslim Hate Music in Burma/Myanmar,” Ethnomusicology Vol. 66 (3): 410-442.

2022: “Burmese Buddhist Monks, The Seventh Precept, and Cognitive Dissonance,” Asian Music Vol. 53 (1): 34-55

2021: “Introduction to special issue, Music in World Religions: A Response to Isabel Laack,” Religions Vol. 12 (12) 

2021: “‘Jesus Is Not a Foreign God:’ Baptist Music-Making in Burma/Myanmar,” Yale Journal of Music and Religion, Vol. 7 (1): 92-109

2019: “Myanmar’s Pop Music Industry in Transition,” in Myanmar Media in Transition: Legacies, Challenges and Change, ed. Lisa Brooten, Gayathry Venkiteswaran and Jane McElhone. Singapore:  ISEAS Publishing, pp. 267-286

2016: “(Mis)representation of Burmese metal music in the western media,” Metal Music Studies, Vol. 2 (3): 395-404

2016: “The Transnational Flow of Music from Burma to the United States,” Journal of Burma Studies Vol. 20 (1): 31-62

2015: “Sincerity and Irony in the ‘Gay Music’ of GALA Choruses,” Journal of American Culture, Vol. 38 (2): 85-101

2014: “Singing, Dancing and Identity in the Karen Diaspora,” Asian Music, Vol. 45 (2): 58-83

2012: “Creating Pan-Karen Identity: The Wrist Tying Ceremony in the United States,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 21 (4): 459–482

2011: “Teaching Traditional Music Theory With Popular Songs: Pitch Concepts,” in Pop Culture Pedagogy in the Music Classroom: Teaching Tools from American Idol to YouTube, ed. Nicole Biamonte.  Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, pp. 73-94

2008: “The Greatest Rock Star Who Never Was: Garth Brooks, Chris Gaines and Modern America.” American Music, Vol. 26 (2): 196-222

2008: “Innovation in the Guise of Tradition: Music Among the Chin Population of Indianapolis, USA.” Asian Music, Vol. 39 (2): 167-185

2006: “The Don Dance: An Expression of Karen Nationalism.” VOICES:  Journal of New York Folklore, Vol. 32 (3-4): 26-32