Kristina Nielsen


Assistant Professor of Musicology




Kristina Nielsen received her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017. Her research focuses on how music and dance in Aztec revitalization movements shape community histories and identities. Nielsen’s research is highly interdisciplinary and draws on ethnographic research methods, anthropology and area studies, particularly Indigenous and Latin American studies. Her current project examines Indigenous agency in the Mexican Folkloric Ballet’s staging of the Indigenous past. In addition to her ethnographic research, Nielsen has conducted interdisciplinary archaeomusicological research on Mesoamerican ceramic whistles and ocarinas with Christophe Helmke of the University of Copenhagen. Nielsen received a National Endowment for the Humanities award in 2021 in support of her research, and she has presented her work at conferences including the Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting, the International Council for Traditional Music, the Society for American Music and the Society for American Archaeology. She has published works in Yearbook for Traditional Music, The Cambridge Companion to Rhythm, and Flower World: Music Archaeology of the Americas. She also serves as an editor for the World Music Textbook ( that provides free and accessible music resources to students and the general public. She is currently in the process of writing a book that explores how Aztec dancers in Los Angeles navigate tradition, histories, and identities through music and dance.

Before arriving at SMU, Nielsen taught Latin American, Indigenous, and world music survey courses at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.


Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
M.A., University of California, Los Angeles
B.M., Western Washington University

Recent Work

Selected Publications

“Forging Aztecness: Twentieth-Century Mexican Nationalism in Twenty-First Century Los Angeles.” In Yearbook for Traditional Music, Volume 52 (2020), 127-146.

“Indigenous Rhythm and Dance in North and South America.” In The Cambridge Companion to Rhythm, edited by Russell Hartenberger. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2020), 298-312.

“Music and Identity in Danza Azteca.” The World Music Textbook (2020).

“A Case Study of Maya Avian Ocarinas from Pook’s Hill, Belize.” Co-authored with Christophe Helmke. In Flower World: Music Archaeology of the Americas, Volume 4 (Berlin: Ekho Verlag 2016), 79-98.

“The Role of Interpretation in Determining Continuity in Danza Azteca History.” Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board, May 17, 2014

Course list

Music in World Societies MUHI 1302
The Art of Listening MUHI 1321
Seminar in Music History: Music Fieldwork and Ethnography MUHI 4302
Introduction to Graduate Studies MUHI 6335
Music and Colonialism MUHI 6336
Sounding the Nation: Music, Place, and Identity in Latin American Music MUHI6336
Kristina Nielsen