Karen Ahlquist

Karen Ahlquist

Associate Professor of Music
Phillips Hall B-137
Phone: 202-994-6270

Areas of Expertise


Karen Ahlquist began her musical career as a conductor. A winner of Juilliard's Frank Damrosch Memorial Award, she conducted university, school, community, and professional ensembles and taught graduate-level conducting. In 1992, her Ph.D. dissertation won the Horace H. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award from the University of Michigan. 

Professor Ahlquist has taught music history, literature, and ethnomusicology at the George Washington University since 1992 and chaired the department from 2006 to 2010. She has given papers internationally on music in nineteenth-century European and American culture.  

Current Research

Her recent research is centered on music and German immigration in the US, the growth of American professional orchestras, and musicians' education.


Bachelor of Arts, Mount Holyoke College, 1970
Master of Music, The Juilliard School, 1974
Master of Arts, University of Connecticut, 1983
Ph.D., The University of Michigan, 1991


Her first book, Democracy at the Opera: Music, Theater, and Culture in New York City, 1815-1860 (1997) was prepared for publication under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was published by the University of Illinois Press. It was named a Choice outstanding academic book for 1998. Her second book, Chorus and Community (1998) is an edited collection of essays of choruses and their music, also published by Illinois. 

Professor Ahlquist was a founding editor of Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, has been a member of the American Musicological Society Council, and has published in the Journal of American History, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and the Journal of Musicological Research, among other publications.