Joshua S. Duchan


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Joshua S. Duchan is an ethnomusicologist specializing in American popular music. He has authored two books, Powerful Voices: The Musical and Social World of Collegiate A Cappella (2012) and Billy Joel: America's Piano Man (2017), and numerous journal articles and book chapters. (See below for a list of publications.) He has also presented his work at meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the International Council for Traditional Music, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the international Art of Record Production conference, and at various conferences on and festivals of a cappella music.

Dr. Duchan's current research examines the music of American singer-songwriter Billy Joel.  His recent book on the subject, Billy Joel: America's Piano Man, has received critical praise:

  • "This book is much more than a biography... The writing style is fluid and the research solid, providing much insight into Joel.  VERDICT: A must-read analysis of the work of one our most popular performers." (Library Journal 6/1/17)
  • "Duchan makes a powerful argument for the complexity in Joel’s work by keeping the spotlight on the music, tracing how 'Joel’s music kept alive an emphasis on well-crafted melody and harmony' rooted in Tin Pan Alley traditions while incorporating rock, jazz, and doo-wop with lyrics that addressed his listeners through contemporary themes... He successfully argues for Joel’s music relevance." (Publisher's Weekly 7/24/17)
  • "Unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library American Music History collections in general, and Billy Joel supplemental studies reading lists in particular." (Midwest Book Review, September 2017)
  • "Duchan has written a passionate study of the Piano Man's music and lyrics, decoding the artist's songwriting process in a smart analysis that investigates cultural context and the language of song. Given its focus on music, Billy Joel: America's Piano Man is a welcomed addition to the books that have come before." (Jeff Schock, director of the Billy Joel Archives)

Dr. Duchan is currently editing, with Ryan Bañagale, a volume of essays on Joel's music, "We Didn't Start the Fire": Billy Joel and Popular Music Studies, which is under contract with Lexington Books. The book is a direct result of Dr. Duchan's and Dr. Bañagale's efforts as organizers of "'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me': The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel -- a Public Musicology Conference," held in October 2016 at Colorado College with support from the American Musicological Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  The symposium, during which Dr. Duchan conducted a live interview with Mr. Joel as the keynote event, was featured in the New York Times.  Additional media appearances include "The Nine" on Detroit's Fox 2 TV station (WGBK), "Ann Delisi's Essential Music" on Detroit's NPR station (WDET), "The Daily" on Talk Radio Europe, and "Dr. Paul's Family Talk" on WNZK Radio Detroit. Dr. Duchan was also invited by the American Musicological Society to give a lecture on his research at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2018.

Presently, Dr. Duchan serves as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Music, for which he received a Service to Students Award from the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts in 2018.  Additionally, he is a member of the Irving Lowens Article Award Committee for the Society for American Music and sits on the advisory board of the popular music book series, "For the Record" (Lexington Books).  He was also co-chair of "'I Got a Lust for Life': The Unique Words and Sounds of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan," a symposium held in January 2018 with events in both Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.

Dr. Duchan received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Before joining the faculty at Wayne State University, he taught at Kalamazoo College and Bowling Green State University. At Wayne State University, Dr. Duchan teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music history, world music, popular music, and ethnomusicology. Outside of teaching, he remains an active participant in the regional and national a cappella scene as an adjudicator, arranger, clinician, and producer -- most recently serving as a judge for the 2018 international high school and college-level finals in New York City.

Click here to schedule an appointment during Dr. Duchan's office hours

Recent Courses Taught

  • MUH 1340 Music Appreciation: World Music
  • MUH 3320 Music History & Literature II
  • MUH 3330 Music History & Literature III
  • MUH 5300 Music Research
  • MUH 5315 Special Topics in Music History: Popular Music Studies
  • MUH 5315 Special Topics in Music History: Problems & Techniques in Ethnomusicology
  • MUH 5340 Music Appreciation: World Music
  • MUH 7315 Special Topics in Music History: Popular Music Studies
  • MUH 7315 Special Topics in Music History: Problems & Techniques in Ethnomusicology
  • MUH 7360 Studies in Twentieth-Century Music

Recent Graduate Student Projects

  • "The Guitar Voice of Randy Rhoads," Winter 2018.
  • "Learning Through Rock Band in the Elementary General Music Classroom," Spring/Summer 2017.
  • "The Power of a Flying Pig: Carl Stalling, Looney Tunes, and America's Need for an Escape," Winter 2017.
    • WSU Nominee for the 2018 Midwest Association of Graduate Schools ProQuest Distinguished Thesis Award.
  • "Transformations of the Cinderella Story in Nineteenth-Century Opera," Spring/Summer 2015.
  • "The Guitar Stylings of Keith Richards: 1968-1972," Fall 2014.
  • "Overture to Finale: Verismo in Puccini and Its Evolution in the Twentieth-Century Musical," Winter 2014.
  • "The Left Temporoparietal Junction," Winter 2013.

Recent BA, Capstone, and Honors Projects

  • "Recording Technology and the Digital Revolution," Winter 2018.
  • "The Funhouse: The Life of the Freezer and the Rise and Fall of Early Hardcore Punk in Detroit" (Department of History), Winter 2018.
  • "Music Therapy: The Profession's Evolution of Healing the World's Hurt," Winter 2018.
  • "Cultural Appropriation: Musical Identity and American Counterculture," Fall 2015.
  • "An Exploration of the Mbira," Winter 2015.
  • "Expanding the Vocal Repertoire: Works for Voice by Women Composers," Fall 2014.
  • "Searching for Identity Through Music: An Introduction to the Music of Coastal Peru," Winter 2014.
  • "The Value of Praise," Fall 2012.


Awards and Honors

  • Service to Students Award, College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts, Wayne State University, 2018.
  • Faculty Creative/Research Grant, College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts, Wayne State University, 2015.
  • Working Groups Grant, Humanities Center, Wayne State University, 2014-2016.
  • Resident Scholar, Humanities Center, Wayne State University, 2013-2014.

Resident Publications




  • "Fieldwork on the American Campus," in Rethinking American Music, ed. Tara Browner and Thomas L. Riis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019), 295-311.
  • “‘Living Here in Allentown’: Depicting the Working Class in the Music of Billy Joel,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter, ed. Justin Williams and Katherine Williams (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 137–43.
  • "History of A Cappella as Popular Music," in A Cappella, ed. Brody McDonald, Deke Sharon, and Ben Spalding (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred, 2015).
  • “‘Hide and Seek’: A Case of Collegiate A Cappella ‘Microcovering,’” in Play It Again: Cover Songs in Popular Music, ed. George Plasketes (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2010), 191–204.


  • Karaoke Idols: Popular Music and the Performance of Identity, by Kevin Brown, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies 4, no. 1 (2019): 116–118.
  • Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond, by M.L. Liebler, Michigan Historical Review 42, no. 1 (2017): 111–112.
  • Forever Doo-Wop, by John Michael Runowicz, American Music 30, no. 4 (2012): 525–527.


rev. 4/25/19