headshot photo of Dr. Jessica Sternfeld

Dr. Jessica Sternfeld

Associate Professor
Director of Student Affairs
College of Performing Arts; Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music
Expertise: Musicology; Musical Theatre; American Popular Music
Office Location: Bertea Hall 213
Phone: (714) 289-3561
Scholarly Works:
Digital Commons
Freshman Foundations Program
Wesleyan University, Bachelor of Arts
Princeton University, Ph.D.

Video Profile


Dr. Jessica Sternfeld joins the faculty of Chapman University after relocating from the east coast, where most recently she served as Assistant Professor of Music (tenure track) and head of the Music History Division in the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Rhode Island College.  Her work with students, whether music majors, grad students, or non-majors, focuses on grounding each musical piece in its context, exploring not only the music but its meaning, audience, and cultural significance.  Some of her courses include musical theater on stage and film; opera; American popular music and song; political and social movements in music; and the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras of Western art music.

Wesleyan University granted Dr. Sternfeld a B.A. with honors in music, with focuses in music history and choral conducting.  She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in musicology from Princeton University in 2002, where her graduate studies included opera and culture, specialized topics in Western art music, and gender studies across disciplines.

Her book, The Megamusical (2006, Indiana University Press), is the first to explore the phenomenon of the blockbuster musicals of the last thirty years.  It discusses both the internal workings and the external cultural features of the "megamusical."  She is currently at work on her next book, which explores the new boom in musical theater across different media, especially television; in other words, her work involves making scholarly work out of High School Musical, Glee, and The Glee Project, among other things.

She also contributed a new chapter to the second edition (2008) of the Cambridge Companion to the Musical, on the subject of musical revivals, films, television productions, and recordings.  With ethnomusicologist Elizabeth Wollman, she co-wrote the chapter "After the 'Golden Age'" for The Oxford Handbook of American Musical Theatre and Film (2011).  She has also authored numerous other chapters and articles (including a piece on Damn Yankees and the culture of the 1950s, and another on the texts and contexts of Rent, as well as twelve new articles for the leading source of American music history, the Grove Dictionary of American Music) and delivered many national conference papers.  She is an active member of the Society for American Music, the American Musicological Society, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and the College Music Society.

Among her previous posts, Dr. Sternfeld taught academic writing in the Princeton University Writing Program, and continues to work with students on writing, no matter the musical topic.  She was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Center for the Arts in Society at Carnegie Mellon University, and has also held teaching posts in the music departments at the University of Pittsburgh, Duke University, and California State University, Long  Beach.  She is a member of the Editorial Board of Studies in Musical Theatre and the American Music Research Center Journal and served as a Guest Editor of a special edition of the journal Studies in Musical Theatre, published in June 2011.  Besides her work in musicology and music history, Dr. Sternfeld is a trained classical and theater singer, and enjoys choral singing and conducting as well as musical theater directing and coaching of composers, lyricists, and performers.

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

“Cameron Mackintosh,” a chapter for the book _The Palgrave Handbook to Musical Theater Producers_, ed. William Everett and Laura MacDonald, Palgrave Press, 2017
“'Pitiful Creature of Darkness’: The Subhuman and the Superhuman in The Phantom of the Opera,” a chapter in the _Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies_, ed. Blake Howe, Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Neil Lerner, and Joseph Straus, Oxford University Press, 2015.
Co-authored with Scott Stone, then Chapman Performing Arts Librarian, "Music Librarian and Faculty Collaboration: How an Historiography Assignment Improved a Music History Class," in _Music Reference Services Quarterly (Vol. 17 no. 1, 2014)
"Everything's Coming Up Kurt: The Broadway Song in Glee," a chapter for _Gestures of Music Theatre: The Performativity of Song and Dance_, edited by Dominic Symonds and Millie Taylor, Oxford University Press, 2013.
“After the ‘Golden Age,’” a chapter about the last forty years of the history of American musical theater, co-authored with ethnomusicologist Elizabeth Wollman, in _The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical_, edited by Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris, and Stacy Wolf (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Twelve articles on a range of musical theater topics (including two lengthy entries, “Megamusical” and “Musical Theater: 1975-2000”) for the second edition and revised digital database of the _Grove Dictionary of American Music_; articles went live throughout 2011-2012
Co-editor with Elizabeth Wollman, Special Issue of the journal _Studies in Musical Theatre_: “‘A Mark, a Yen, a Buck, or a Pound’: Money and the Stage Musical at the Millennium” (issue 5.1, published June 2011). For this leading journal in research of musical theater, my co-editor and I solicited and chose articles, then edited the six substantial contributions that make up this volume; we also co-authored an opening essay.
“‘I’ll Cover You’: An Interdisciplinary Duet on _Rent_ and Collaborative Musical Theatre Historiography,” co-authored with Judith Sebesta (theater), a chapter for _Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions_, edited by Henry Bial and Scott Magelssen (University of Michigan Press, 2010)
2010-2013, Editor, Multimedia Reviews, for the _Journal of the Society for American Music_ (also therefore a member of the JSAM Editorial Board and the Publications Committee)
“_Damn Yankees_ and the 1950s Man: You Gotta Have (Loyalty, an Escape Clause, and) Heart,” solicited and published as part of the proceedings of the conference “Musical Theatre in 1957” in the journal _Studies in Musical Theatre_ (Issue 3.1, August 2009)
“Revisiting Classic Musicals: Recordings, Revivals, Film, and Television,” a new chapter in the second edition of the Cambridge Companion to the Musical, ed. William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird (Cambridge University Press, 2008)