Cathy Chamblee holds a B.S. in Special Education, magna cum laude, from James Madison University (1982), a B.M. in Music Education, summa cum laude, from the University of Richmond (1993), an M.M. in Conducting from Emory University (1994), and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Pennsylvania (2008), where her dissertation advisor was Edmund J. Kahn Distinguished Professor Emeritus Eugene Narmour. Her research interests center around musical improvisation in diverse traditions as viewed through the lens of cognitive memory theory. She was a 2004 recipient of the University of Pennsylvania Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Other awards include an appointment as an associate at the Conductors Institute of the University of South Carolina (1994), where her instructors included Samuel Adler and Larry Newland. At the University of Richmond, she studied conducting with Richmond Symphony Chorus emeritus conductor and scholar James Erb and was awarded the Roy T. Jesson Prize for Conducting (1993). During her time living in Virginia, she was the conductor and artistic director of the Petersburg Festival Chorus (1995-97).
Along with her colleague, Ken Medema, Cathy is a composer and arranger whose works have been published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company and Pavane Publishing. Their choral works focus on topics of social justice and care of the environment. Recent works include “Prayer for the Unbound Soul,” “Elegy for a Glacier,” “Sacred Earth,” “Toward Justice: A Choral Suite in Three Movements,” and “Teach Us Wisdom.”
Cathy’s teaching experience includes a variety of music theory and music history classes at the University of Richmond, Wesleyan College, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania. She currently serves as the departmental tutor in music theory at Penn, where she also teaches upper-level music theory labs. She enjoys encouraging her students to make meaningful connections to their familiar musical traditions and challenging them to explore unfamiliar ones.