Ms Laryssa Whittaker

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Personal profile

Laryssa Whittaker was awarded the PhD in ethnomusicology in February 2015. Her PhD was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s doctoral fellowship and Royal Holloway, University of London’s Reid Scholarship. Her doctoral thesis is based on research conducted in South Africa from 2012-2014, and focuses on the contribution of music-centred youth development programmes to the multidimensional wellbeing of participants, analysed through the lenses of socioeconomic inequality and political economy. She conducted her research primarily with Field Band Foundation, a nonprofit organisation providing music education in predominantly historically underprivileged communities across South Africa. 

Laryssa received an MA (Music) in ethnomusicology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in 2010. Her research on the role of music in grassroots HIV/AIDS awareness, education and advocacy programs in South Africa was based on fieldwork conducted in Canada and in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in 2009, and was supported by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the University of Alberta. More on this research, including a short documentary film profiling the music and work of the groups featured in her thesis, is available at her website,


Research interests

Music, health, and wellbeing

Music and political economy

Applied ethnomusicology

Development studies

South African music, society and politics

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