Neil R. Coulter, Ph.D.

Neil R. Coulter

Contact Info

Phone: (469) 249-0867
Office: Center for Excellence in World Arts

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About Neil

Neil came to ethnomusicology through a Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in English Literature degree at Wheaton College. Going on to graduate studies with Terry Miller at Kent State University, he was interested in musicological study and participant-observation fieldwork of lesser-known musics in the world. Ethnomusicology was a beautiful fit for his interests and skills. He planned to complete a doctorate and then return to the university setting as a professor. But early on in graduate studies, Neil came against questions that he knew would require extended field time to fully process—particularly questions about the complicated interactions between indigenous traditions, the Christian church, and globalization. As a professor, he would want experience-informed answers to offer students. So he turned to the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a sponsoring organization that fostered his applied ethnomusicology research and advocacy. After 12 years in PNG, Neil returned to the U.S. to join GIAL’s World Arts faculty.

Neil is both an avid writer and talented musician who continues to hone his skills. He has published numerous journal articles, presented at conferences, and reviewed a wide array of publications. He especially thrives when given the chance to edit academic writing for understandability and clarity. Neil’s appreciation for strong composition infuses his musicianship as well. He’s loved the saxophone since choosing to learn it in sixth grade. He had the privilege of studying the instrument with Greg Banaszak in graduate school and continues to practice regularly. Neil’s talents, knowledge, and discipline in the arts provide valuable leadership to students in GIAL’s World Arts program.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D., Kent State University, Musicology–Ethnomusicology, 2007  Dissertation: Music Shift: Evaluating the Vitality and Viability of Music Styles Among the Alamblak of Papua New Guinea.  Adviser: Terry E. Miller
  • M.A., Kent State University, Ethnomusicology, 2000
  • M.M., Kent State University, Saxophone Performance, 2000. Saxophone instructor: Greg Banaszak
  • B.M.  Wheaton College, With Elective Studies in English Literature, 1997


  • Senior Editor, Global Forum on Arts and Christian Faith,, (2013–present)
  • Editor and Proofreader, (2016–present)
  • Director for Language Services, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Papua New Guinea (2012–2015)
  • Ethnomusicology & Arts Coordinator, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Papua New Guinea and Pacific Area (2002–2015)


Book chapters

2018. Finding What They’re Looking For: Evangelical Teen Fans and Their Desire for U2 to Be a Christian Band. In U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher. Edited by Scott Calhoun. Bloomsbury Academic.

Journal articles

2013. Bamboo flutes, music shift, and the end of groove in an East Sepik community. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia 31(2): 27–42.

2011. Assessing music shift: adapting EGIDS for a Papua New Guinea community. Language Documentation and Description, 10:61–81.

2005. Signifying names and places on the Alamblak garamut: some initial observations of a traditional sign system. Ethnodoxology, 3(2):15–19.


2015. Review of Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, by Jeremy S. Begbie. Imaginatio et Ratio: A Journal of Theology and the Arts. (forthcoming)

2014. Review of Steep Slopes: Music and Change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, by Kirstie Gillespie. Pacific Affairs 87:4, pp. 914–916

2014. Review of Ethnodoxology Handbook and Manual, James R. Krabill, general editor. Seedbed 28:1, pp. 73–78.

2014. Review of Sung Tales from the Papua New Guinea Highlands, edited by Alan Rumsey and Don Niles. Anthropological Forum 24:1, pp. 90–92.

2013. Review of Re-counting Knowledge in Song: Change Reflected in Kaulong Music, by Birgit Drüppel. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 14(3):295–296.

2012. Review of Music of the Ancestors, by Gordon Spearritt. Musicology Australia, 34(2):341–342.

2010. Review of Songs from the Second Float: A Musical Ethnography of Takū Atoll, by Richard Moyle. Kulele: Occasional Papers on Pacific Music and Dance, 4:174–177.

2010. Review of The Theory and Practice of Music in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Papua New Guinea, by Jennifer J. Jones. Kulele: Occasional Papers on Pacific Music and Dance, 4:172–174.

2010. Review: The Value of Indigenous Music in the Life and Ministry of the Church: The United Church in the Duke of York Islands, by Andrew Midian. Connections: The Journal of the WEA Mission Commission, 9(2/3):15–16.



2012. Guest adviser in Intangible Cultural Heritage research design, PNG UNESCO Community-based Inventorying Workshop, Goroka, Papua New Guinea, October 22–27.

2012. Lecture: “Grass-roots Ethnomusicology: Observations from Papua New Guinea.” Presented to the Worship Arts majors at Corban University, Salem, Oregon.

2010. Lecture: “Music Shift: The Changing Musical Balance in an East Sepik Community.” Presented to students in the Expressive Arts Department, University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea.

2009. Colloquium: “Music Survey: Evaluating the Changing Musical Life of a Papua New Guinean Language Community.” Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, October 25.

2009. Presentation: “Thinking Deeply and Responding Creatively Through Distinctive Arts: A Vision for Papua New Guinea.” Interact Conference, Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea, March 13.

2007. Lecture: “Ethnomusicology and Missions: History and Personal Experience.” Simpson University, Redding, California.



2017. “Identity and orality meet theology: how indigenous arts intersect with local theologizing.” Evangelical Missiology Society National Conference, Dallas, Texas, September 16.

2017. “The right worship music: indigenous perspectives and questions.” Worship Music Symposium, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina, March 25.

2014. “Revitalization in unexpected places: music in the Urim Christian church.” Joint conference of the Linguistics Society of Papua New Guinea and the ICTM Study Group on Music and Dance in Oceania, Alexishafen, Madang, Papua New Guinea, September 18.

2013. “Revitalization in unexpected places: music in the Urim Christian church.” The 5th International Music Council World Forum on Music, Brisbane, Australia, November 21–24.

2013. “Bamboo flutes, music shift, and the end of groove in an East Sepik community.” Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea Annual Conference, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, September 24–25.

2011. “Making musical choices: the disappearing bamboo flute music of the Alamblak in Papua New Guinea.” International Council for Traditional Music World Conference, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, July 17.

2010. “Reversing music shift: a case study and a lot of questions from Papua New Guinea.” Humanities of the Lesser-known Conference, University of Lund, Sweden, September 10.

2010. “The changing musical soundscape: regarding music choice in new song composition.” Global Consultation on Music and Missions, Singapore, July 5.

2006. “Last speaker ethnography: the Alamblak garamut as an example of Fishman’s Stage Eight.” 51st Annual Conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 18. (honorable mention for the Seeger Student Prize)

2006. “Assessing music shift: toward a conceptual and methodological framework for analysis and action.” Global Consultation on Music and Missions, Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota, July.

2001. “Saintin’ the Trane: John Will-I-Am Coltrane’s journey from jazz legend to religious icon in San Francisco.” 46th Annual Conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Detroit, Michigan, October.



Dallas International University, Dallas, Texas

  • Research Methods for World Arts
  • Directed Practicum in World Arts
  • Song Transcription and Analysis
  • Applied Arts
  • Arts and Trauma Healing
  • Expressive Form Analysis
  • Readings in Research Methods for World Arts
  • Thesis Writing Seminar

Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Music and Arts Analysis Techniques (Fall 2009)

Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

  • Music as a World Phenomenon (Fall 1997 – Spring 2001; 16 semester–long sections taught)
  • Saxophone studio (Fall 1998 – Spring 2001)



Designer and lead teacher for songwriting workshops

2013. Daru, Western Province, Papua New Guinea (1.5-week course, attended by representatives of the following languages: Kiwai, Bine, Gizrra, Arammba, Wipim. Leading to songbook and audio recording (forthcoming). Taught in English.)

2013. Urim language, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (1.5-week course, leading to songbook and audio recording (forthcoming). Taught in Tok Pisin.)

2010. Sos Kundi language, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (Follow-up to 2008 Sos Kundi workshop. Taught in Tok Pisin.)

2010. Gizrra language, Western Province, Papua New Guinea (One-week course, leading to a songbook and audio recording of Gizrra-language songs. Taught in English.

2009. Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (1.5-week course, leading to songbook and audio recording of songs in several languages of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Taught in Tok Pisin and English.)

2008. Tairora language, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea (One-week course, leading to songbook and audio recording of songs in the Tairora language. Taught in Tok Pisin.)

2003. Alamblak language, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (One-week course, leading to songbook and audio recordings; also leading to extended fieldwork for Ph.D. dissertation. Taught in Tok Pisin.)

Other research projects

2011. Ngaing language, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. Garamut (signal drum) cultural heritage documentation project. Documentary audio recording, transcription, and analysis.

2004–2006. Alamblak language, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. Cultural heritage documentation of bamboo flute ensemble and garamut signal drumming language.

2003. Hauna, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. Small-languages storytelling project. Ethnomusicology instructor in a team that also included two linguists and an audio recording technician. Representatives of multiple languages near Hauna attended and worked on storytelling and story-song composition techniques. Taught in Tok Pisin.


  • English (native proficiency)
  • Tok Pisin (full professional fluency)
  • Spanish (intermediate proficiency)
  • German (elementary proficiency)


  • Society for Ethnomusicology (1997–present)
  • International Council for Traditional Music (2008–present)
  • Pacific Arts Association (2010–present)
  • American Scientific Affiliation (2012–present)
  • Society for Christian Scholarship in Music (2013–present)
  • American Copy Editors Society (2016–present)