The Organization of Music Graduate Students (OMGS) was established in the Spring of 2020 to provide a centralized student-led group that functions as an official channel of communication between the graduate student body of the music department of Columbia University and the departmental administration and faculty. The purpose of OMGS is to ensure transparency and effective communication, facilitate suggesting and/or enacting reforms, and encourage interdisciplinarity through social events. In addition to providing a venue for productive collective discussion, OMGS also sponsors student-led working groups to address relevant issues in the department and serves as a means of communication with the SWC-UAW, Columbia’s graduate student union. OMGS officers are elected annually by the graduate student body of the music department. Meetings are held regularly throughout the semester and all currently enrolled graduate students are encouraged to attend and participate.

Bylaws of the Organization of Music Graduate Students
Spring 2020, revised Fall 2022

Article I. Name & Purpose

§1. The Organization of Music Graduate Students (“OMGS”) shall consist of graduate students currently registered in the Department of Music at Columbia University (“the Department”).

§2. OMGS shall increase and formalize channels of communication between graduate students and the 
administration of the Department, create a Departmental channel for graduate students to convey grievances, and encourage interdisciplinarity among areas within the Department.

§3. OMGS shall foster this community-wide dialogue through monthly meetings with the student body during the academic year, at least two meetings with the Director of Graduate Students and Department Chair per semester (not to replace semesterly town halls or individual voicings of concerns), and collaborative public communications as needed.

Article II. Officers & Officer Responsibilities

§1. The OMGS Board shall consist of the following Offices: President, Finance & Administration Officer, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Officer, Sustainability Officer, and Events Officer.

§2. Every Officer shall be required to attend all meetings held by OMGS, either in person or remotely.

§3. The President shall:

  1. Be the point of contact for the student body and between the student body and the Departmental administration
  2. Schedule, agendize, and lead all OMGS meetings
  3. Ensure the transparency and equity of OMGS, and its collaborative and democratic aims
  4. Represent interests and concerns of music graduate students to the Department Chair and Director of Graduate Studies
  5. Compile and communicate grievances and other feedback to the Departmental administration
  6. Liaise with relevant representatives of the UAW Local 2710, the Arts and Sciences Graduate Council (ASGC), and other relevant organizations
  7. Organize task division and work with the board to create and implement the strategic planning of the short-term and long-term goals of OMGS, including the creation of ad-hoc committees

§4. The Finance & Administration Officer shall:

  1. Oversee the budget and expenditures of OMGS
  2. Raise funds from various sources, including the Department, ASGC, Ethnomusicology Center, and other Columbia University units
  3. Take minutes during meetings and maintain Google Drive folder with repository of minutes for past meetings
  4. Run special elections for OMGS as well as other Department elections as necessary
  5. Administer and update the webpage on the Department website

§5. The Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Officer shall:

  1. Conduct initiatives to promote and increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the Department
  2. Organize and host a Departmental town hall focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at least annually
  3. Coordinate with Departmental administration and colloquia organizers to invite and encourage diverse and interdisciplinary speakers
  4. Work in coordination with, and raise funds from, the GSAS Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusion, the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Committee on Equity and Diversity, and other Columbia University bodies

§6. The Sustainability Officer shall:

  1. Develop and update recommendations for a comprehensive sustainability plan for the Department
  2. Join and participate in Columbia’s Sustainable Leaders Network
  3. Liaise with other relevant Columbia University sustainability-focused organizations
  4. Work in coordination with outside organizations fighting climate change, and engage the graduate student body in issues related to climate change

§7. The Events Officer shall:

  1. Organize monthly social events to promote mental health and wellbeing, including but not limited to happy hours, park outings, game nights, meditation sessions, and pet gatherings
  2. Propose other events that strengthen the Departmental community, both between the different areas, as well as between faculty and graduate students
  3. Maintain and update public Google Calendar with Department-related events, including but not limited to student concerts, social events, and academic talks

Article III. Meetings

§1. OMGS shall hold monthly meetings in a hybrid format. The agenda for each meeting shall be set by the Executive Board, and distributed to all OMGS members at least one week in advance of the meeting date.

§2. OMGS meetings shall be conducted in the style of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (12th 

§3. The Finance & Administration Officer shall take minutes during all meetings, including a roll of attendees. Minutes will be circulated to the membership before each meeting. At the beginning of each meeting, any member who attended the previous meeting can suggest corrections. Once the corrections have been entered into the text by the Finance & Administration officer, a member shall make a motion to accept the amended minutes. After the motion has been seconded by another member, all in attendance shall vote on the revised minutes. A simple majority is required to approve the revised minutes.

Article IV. Elections and Voting

§1. OMGS elections shall be held during the first two weeks of every November. Each Officer shall be elected for the following spring, summer, and fall.

§2. All currently registered Department graduate students shall be eligible to vote in all Officer elections. Each graduate student shall cast one vote in each Officer race and voting shall be anonymous.

§3. The responsibility for running the election shall be vested in the Election Administrator, who shall be a current Department graduate student appointed by the Executive Officer.

§4. The election schedule shall be as follows:

  1. In late October, the President shall announce the Election Administrator, who shall not be eligible to run for any Officer positions
  2. On the first Monday of November, the Election Administrator shall announce the election date
  3. The seven days including and immediately following the announcement of the election date shall be a self-nomination period, during which all Department graduate students can send their names to the Election Administrator via email
  4. On the second Monday of November, the nominees shall be announced by the Election Administrator
  5. On the election date, the Election Administrator shall distribute online ballots, which shall begin a one-week voting period
  6. On the day following the end of the voting period, the Election Administrator shall announce the names of the Officers-elect

§5. The nominee in each Officer race with the most votes shall hold the position. In the event of a tie, the voting period may be extended by two days. If this extended voting period results in a continued tie, the winner of the election shall be selected by a public coin flip between the top two candidates by the incumbent Executive Officer, with at least one other incumbent Officer as witness.

§6. Graduate students may not run for multiple Officer positions during a single election.

§7. If an office is uncontested, or if the winner of the election chooses to not assume the Officer position, the President shall appoint a volunteer at any time during the following year.

§8. Officer positions shall be assumed on the first day of classes each spring semester, with winter break serving as a transition period.

Article V. Resignation & Recall

§1. If an OMGS Officer wishes to resign for any reason, they shall inform the other Officers in writing.

§2. An election shall be held to fill the position, no more than one month following the date of resignation. The Finance & Administration Officer shall act as Election Administrator for the replacement election. If the Finance & Administration Officer is the resigner, the Executive Officer shall act as Election Administrator. This election shall follow the procedure outlined in Article III §4, on a timeline determined by the Election Administrator.

§3. If an OMGS Officer does not fulfill their assigned duties or breaks the University’s code of conduct, that Officer may be recalled by OMGS. A petition shall be created by any OMGS member. If that petition is signed by at least 30% of OMGS, a recall referendum shall be held no later than one month following the delivery of the petition to the Executive Officer.

§4. The Finance & Administration Officer shall act as Election Administrator for all recall referenda, unless they are included in the recall. In such an event, the Executive Officer shall act as Election Administrator. If all Officers are included in the recall referendum, an impartial Election Administrator shall be appointed by the Department Chair.

§5. If one or more Officer positions are vacated through a recall referendum, a snap election shall be called to fill the position(s) until the end of the term. The Election Administrator shall be appointed by the Department Chair. This election shall follow the procedure outlined in Article III §4, although nomination and voting periods may be shortened from 7 days to 4 days if pressing issues demand that the Officer positions are filled as quickly as possible.

Article VI. Amendments

§1. Any member of OMGS may propose an amendment to the bylaws. This amendment shall be communicated in writing to the Executive Officer and Finance & Administration Officer.

§2. After the proposed amendment has been received by the Executive Officer and Finance & Administration Officer, the text of the amendment shall be communicated to the membership before the following meeting, and shall become an agenda item for the following two meetings. The proposed amendment will be voted on at the second meeting following its circulation in writing to the 
membership. Those attending the meeting will be eligible to vote. If a 2/3rds majority of those attending the meeting votes in favor of the amendment at both meetings, it shall be added to the bylaws and communicated to the Department Chair by the Finance & Administration Officer.

Per the bylaws of the organization, officers are elected every November for a yearlong term. Graduate students in the department interested in running should consult the bylaws for self-nomination and election procedures.


In June 2020, the graduate students of the music department co-authored an open letter addressed to university and departmental administration to promote department-wide conversations on anti-racism. The letter was coordinated by the Organization of Music Graduate Students (OMGS), authored by graduate students from all areas, and received a high degree of support within the music department’s graduate student body, with signatures from over 70% of enrolled students. This letter resulted in productive conversations with faculty both within and outside of the music department and has contributed to continuing efforts at curricular and other reforms. 

Organization of Music Graduate Students
Department of Music, Columbia University
621 Dodge Hall
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Dear Chair of the Department of Music, Chair of Music Humanities, Area Chairs of Composition, 
Ethnomusicology, Historical Musicology, and Music Theory, and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs of 
the Core Curriculum,

This open letter is a response to the events currently unfolding across our city and beyond. Widespread global demonstrations against systemic racism and violence toward the Black community have recently re-emphasized a need for swift, decisive change in our institutions. In light of these events, we wish to draw special and urgent attention to the University’s relationship with the New York Police Department; we condemn the numerous acts of police brutality witnessed across the city, and urge the Music Department to join ongoing calls to end Columbia University's contracting with the NYPD. This necessary initiative is being led by Black/Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) in our campus community and it is our responsibility to support this work.

As students and instructors who contribute to many aspects of education and scholarship in this department, the Organization of Music Graduate Students is committed to furthering antiracist reforms of policy and pedagogy in Columbia University’s Department of Music. The University’s 
Diversity Mission Statement states that our collective goal is “to prepare our students for citizenship in a pluralistic world and to keep Columbia at the forefront of knowledge.” In order to achieve this goal, we believe diversity must be at the forefront of curriculum design, scholarly conversation, and community building.

To these ends, w e call for a department-wide town hall meeting convened as soon as possible specifically to discuss antiracist actions that we as a department can take. This letter outlines several areas for change that we believe will help bring about necessary and pressing institutional changes in our department. We pledge to do our part in combating the severe injustices that have persisted for centuries through a commitment to sustained critical investigation of the department’s pedagogical practices and their relationship to civil rights issues affecting our students inside and outside the walls of the University.
As part of the antiracist work we aim to accomplish, we acknowledge that we, in our privileged positions of Ivy League graduate students, a majority of whom are white, have not yet been able to identify many of the areas that need antiracist work. We recognize that antiracism is multifaceted, including issues of representation and intersectionality and extending to broader political issues that disproportionately affect BIPOC. It is for this reason that our call is for an open-ended, yet nonetheless urgent, conversation in which we will especially seek to amplify and implement approaches to change led by BIPOC.

The suggestions made below are intended to open a conversation about implementing antiracist, and thus necessarily intersectional, practices in our department. Crucially, they do not require financial commitments, and are geared toward reforming existing activities in service of our stated goals. One component of this effort should be semesterly department-wide meetings in which graduate students, faculty, and other instructors gather in order to share concerns, strategies, and resources regarding these issues. The signatories of this letter make the following suggestions in hopes of feedback, discussion, debate, and collaboration in their application.

Recruitment and hiring practices are instrumental in ensuring antiracist practices going forward. We ask for a stronger commitment to attracting prospective graduate students from diverse backgrounds and whose research interests speak to antiracist and decolonial approaches. In the interest of accountability within our institution and in the larger field of academic music, we ask that research data on the backgrounds of applicants to undergraduate and graduate programs and job positions throughout the Music Department be actively collected and made publicly available online. This data can be used proactively to address disparities in hiring, recruitment, and admissions 
within the department.

As instructors, the graduate students believe that several changes are necessary to incorporate antiracist pedagogy into the undergraduate curriculum. We suggest additional revisions to repertoire, incorporating a concrete percentage of works by BIPOC; focus and scope, including a critical discussion of the pedagogical assumptions of a Eurocentric curriculum; and methodology, with the incorporation of critical race theory and decolonial scholarship into both curriculum design and pedagogical practice.

The stated objective of Masterpieces of Western Music is to “awaken and encourage active, critical, and comparative listening practices.” Departure from a works-based approach that focuses predominantly on the identification of formal properties within a majority-white Euro-American canon will more effectively achieve this aim. We request a revision of the current syllabus to include more works written by BIPOC including scholars, artists, activists, and community leaders from diverse gender identities and sexual orientations to be implemented in Fall 2020, and the participation of graduate students in these revisions. The current syllabus is due for review in the summer of 2021, but we believe that the current political moment requires an acceleration of this timeline. In future semesters these changes could be expanded to include a full-scale reimagining of the current course. This might include organization of course content according to listening practices and themes rather than styles and works, a comparative approach that is global in scope, and a critical discussion of canon formation and its implications. We furthermore envision the Music Humanities staff meetings as opportunities for sharing pedagogical materials encompassing antiracist teaching strategies, which could include more graduate student participation as well as presentations by interested faculty members. We suggest supplementing the trip to the Metropolitan Opera with a trip to a musical performance from BIPOC-owned or -operated venues in Harlem. The Core Office and the Department could develop partnerships with performance organizations in the Harlem community, and instructors could use their discretionary funding (currently $450 per section) on these events.

Although the Graduate Student Teaching Guidelines for Music Theory aim broadly at “analyz[ing] passages from the tonal repertoire,” a lack of oversight means that in practice this tends toward a well-worn subset of Western art music written by white, male, European composers. We therefore request that guidelines be added to achieve a more balanced, diversified, and intersectional 
selection of repertoire, increasing the proportion of works by BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ composers. 
Other institutions, for example, have recently  pledged to revise their curricula to include at least 30% works by creators of color in their core theory classes. Similarly, we request that a broader range of music theories be incorporated into the syllabus, especially theories informed by Black, Indigenous, and non-Western musics; diversifying style (not just composers) will more broadly and thoroughly achieve the course’s aim to “improve students’ perceptive and imaginative abilities in music.” We further ask that the 
curriculum critically engage with the origins and limitations of the theories it studies, looking behind a theory to the people who wrote it, asking what the theory can or cannot do, when it does or does not apply, and how such observations might be used to critique the supremacy of white, Eurocentric modes of listening, analytical practices, and repertoire. To further these goals, we propose a series of workshops, led by faculty and/or graduate students, designed to help instructors and faculty create inclusive lesson plans. When funding is available, these workshops could feature invited academic guest speakers whose work furthers efforts to decolonize music curriculums.

In considering how we engage with scholarship outside our department, we ask for an increased number of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ guest speakers in colloquia and other invited talks throughout the department, and efforts to bring in speakers/composers who engage with underrepresented and marginalized voices and histories in their work. Furthermore, following the lead of the Composition Area, all areas in the department should make efforts to invite ensembles and performers for both in-class and extracurricular performances who are not only racially diverse, but make choices in their programming to highlight the works of underrepresented voices. Finally, the department should strengthen its connections with the local communities in its selection for guest speakers and performers, with projects modelled on For the Daughters of Harlem, and through sustained volunteering and mentorship relationships. As graduate students, we look forward to giving our time and talents to our local community and welcome departmental support in these efforts.

With these suggestions, we hope to sustain an ongoing conversation within our department that 
positively contributes to those going on at the university-wide, local, national,and international level. Thank you for your time in reading this letter. We look forward to continued collaboration in achieving a more just and equitable department.

Respectfully signed,

Audrey Amsellem, OMGS Executive Officer, Ethnomusicology
Lucy Turner, OMGS Finance and Administration Officer, Historical Musicology
Mary Catherine Stoumbos, OMGS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Ethnomusicology
Sean Colonna, OMGS Sustainability Officer, Historical Musicology
Lauren Shepherd, OMGS Events Officer, Music Theory
Katherine Balch, Composition
Maria Fantinato Geo de Siqueira, Ethnomusicology
Ian Sewell, Music Theory
Manuel Garcia-Orozco, Ethnomusicology
Mary Kouyoumdjian, Composition
Makulumy Alexander-Hills, Music Theory
Finola Merivale, Composition
Paola Cossermelli Messina, Ethnomusicology
Gabrielle Ferrari, Historical Musicology
Laina Dawes, Ethnomusicology
Imogen Wilson, Music Theory
Toru Momii, Music Theory
David Farrow, Ethnomusicology
Velia Ivanova, Historical Musicology
Demetrius Shahmehri, Historical Musicology
Julia Hamilton, Historical Musicology
Cheng Wei Lim, Music Theory
Shirley Chikukwa, Ethnomusicology
Camila Agosto, Composition
Tom Wetmore, Ethnomusicology
Nina Fukuoka, Composition
Jane Forner, Historical Musicology
Althea SullyCole, Ethnomusicology
Fjóla Evans, Composition
Mike Ford, Historical Musicology
Jesse Chevan, Ethnomusicology
Bethany Younge, Composition
Russell O’Rourke, Historical Musicology
Grant Woods, Historical Musicology
Elliott Cairns, Historical Musicology
Sonja Wermager, Historical Musicology
Anna-Louise Walton, Composition
Michael Weinstein-Reiman, Music Theory
Kathryn Radishofski, Ethnomusicology
Kyle DeCoste, Ethnomusicology
Callum Blackmore, Historical Musicology
Rogerio Shieh Barbosa, Music Theory
William Dougherty, Composition
Diana Rodriguez, Composition
Samuel Yulsman, Composition
Anthony Fort, Music Theory
Anya Wilkening, Historical Musicology
Justin Gregg, Historical Musicology
Calder Hannan, Music Theory