Joshua S. Duchan


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Joshua S. Duchan is an ethnomusicologist specializing in American popular music. He has published three books, Powerful Voices: The Musical and Social World of Collegiate A Cappella (2012), Billy Joel: America's Piano Man (2017), and "We Didn't Start the Fire": Billy Joel and Popular Music Studies (2020), as well as 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 ways American collegiate a cappella groups have adapted their musical and social processes to the reality of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on new ethnographic interviews, he illuminates how such groups have embraced forms of asynchronous musicking, especially in the form of the music video, as a substitute for live performance as well as a social motivator. He has shared preliminary results as part of the WSU Humanities Center's Brown Bag Lecture series and will be publishing a chapter on the topic in the forthcoming book, The Oxford Handbook of Community Singing (Oxford University Press).

Dr. Duchan has also conducted extensive research on the music of American singer-songwriter Billy Joel. Most recently, he contributed a chapter on Joel's music and nostalgia to the edited collection, Rock Music Icons: Musical and Cultural Impacts (2022), edited by Robert McParland. His other recent book, "We Didn't Start the Fire": Billy Joel and Popular Music Studies (2020), which he co-edited with Ryan Raul Bañagale (Colorado College) and which features a foreword by Billy Joel himself, offers a collection of essays that examine Joel's music and career from a variety of perspectives.  "This illuminating collection...[makes] a compelling scholarly case for [Joel's] legacy as one of rock's great songwriters and performers," writes Albin Zak (professor at the University at Albany and author of The Poetics of Rock).  For those seeking "better understandings of my songs and their place in American history and culture," Joel writes, "the chapters in this book are a very good place to start."

"We Didn't Start the Fire": Billy Joel and Popular Music Studies received rave reviews. "Though there have been many biographies of Joel, this is a valuable addition to the scholarship. Recommended" (Choice, 6/21). The book was also featured in the "Popular Music Books in Process" series, hosted by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (US Branch), the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and the Pop Conference, a video of which can be found here.

Billy Joel: America's Piano Man, Dr. Duchan's 2017 book about Joel's music, has received similar 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)

In 2016, Dr. Duchan co-chaired, with Dr. Bañagale, "'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me': The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel -- a Public Musicology Conference" 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 the Outstanding Graduate Director Service Award from the WSU Graduate School in 2021 and a Service to Students Award from the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts in 2018. Additionally, he sits on the advisory board of the popular music book series, "For the Record" (Lexington Books). He was also co-chair, with Kimberly Mack (University of Toledo), 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 -- including 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 1350 History of American Popular Music
  • MUH 3320 Music History & Literature II
  • MUH 3330 Music History & Literature III
  • MUH 3380 American Music
  • MUH 4990 BA Project
  • 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 5315 Special Topics in Music History: Music Research
  • MUH 5340 Survey of 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
  • MUH 7380 Studies in American Music

Recent Graduate Student Projects

  • "The House Detroit Built: House Music in Techno City," MA Thesis, Winter 2022.
  • "From De Shank to De Whine: The Musical Reflections of Political and Sexual Ideologies," Research Project, Top Prize Winner at the 2022 WSU Graduate Research Symposium, Winter 2022.
  • "Pauline's Disciples: The Continuing Reverberations of Oliveros's Deep Listening Practice," Research Project, Prize Winner at the 2022 WSU Graduate Research Symposium, Winter 2022.
  • "Sacred and Profane: Jazz and Gospel in the Lives of Detroit Musicians," Graduate Directed Study, Winter 2022.
  • "The Soul Rebels: An Examination of New Orleans Brass Band and Hip-Hop Hybridity," Graduate Directed Study, Fall 2020.
  • "Currents," MM Comp/Theory Project, Winter 2020.
    • WSU Nominee for the 2022 Midwest Association of Graduate Schools ProQuest Distinguished Thesis Award.
  • "An Investigation of Musical Intelligence For a Positive Pedagogical Approach," MA Thesis, Winter 2020.
  • "Establishing a Transnational Jazz Scene in the Windsor-Detroit Borderlands," Graduate Directed Study, Fall 2019.
  • "The Guitar Voice of Randy Rhoads," MA Thesis, Winter 2018.
  • "Learning Through Rock Band in the Elementary General Music Classroom," MM Music Education Thesis, Spring/Summer 2017.
  • "The Power of a Flying Pig: Carl Stalling, Looney Tunes, and America's Need for an Escape," MA Thesis, 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," MA Thesis, Spring/Summer 2015.
  • "The Guitar Stylings of Keith Richards: 1968-1972," MA Thesis, Fall 2014.
  • "Overture to Finale: Verismo in Puccini and Its Evolution in the Twentieth-Century Musical," MA Thesis, Winter 2014.
  • "The Left Temporoparietal Junction," MM Comp/Theory Project, Winter 2013.

Recent BA, Capstone, and Honors Projects

  • "The King of Cool: Sustaining Dean Martin's Career in a Changing Musical and Social Landscape," Fall 2021.
  • "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

  • Outstanding Graduate Director Service Award, Graduate School, Wayne State University, 2021.
  • 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




  • "Collegiate A Cappella in the Age of Coronavirus," in the Oxford Handbook of Community Singing, ed. Esther Morgan-Ellis and Kay Norton (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2022).
  • "Reflections on/of Billy Joel," in Rock Music Icons: Musical and Cultural Impacts, ed. Robert McParland (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2022), 53-66.
  • "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. 8/22/22