Brent Lee Swanson


(305) 284-6703
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About Me


“I want to inspire students to be good and well-rounded human beings rather than just great musicians – that engaging in sociocultural activities is just as important as practicing your instrument.”


Brent Swanson is lecturer in the Department of Musicology at the Frost School of Music, as well as a student advisor in the school’s Bachelor of Arts in Music program. He holds a B.F.A. and M.M. in musicology from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland.

Mr. Swanson’s research focuses on the musical traditions of Africa, Latin America, the United States, and the Caribbean, as well as the role of peacebuilding in music. Mr. Swanson’s dissertation, "Rwanda’s Voice: An Ethnomusicological Biography of Jean-Paul Samputu," is a multi-sited ethnographic study of Rwandan musical identity through the music of Rwandan singer and songwriter Jean-Paul Samputu. Through biographical research, as well as musical transcription and analysis, Mr. Swanson demonstrates how Samputu’s use of four distinct vocal timbres and his incorporation of various sounds and styles from East and Central Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean have challenged nationalist discourse about Rwandan identity and promoted reconciliation in its post-genocide evolution. His chapter in Music and Peacebuilding: African and Latin Experiences (2020 Lexington Books, Helen Hintjens and Rafiki Ubaldo, eds.) entitled "Hope, Destruction, and Reconciliation: Samputu's Healing Ngoma," traces Samputu's use of various Rwandan and non-Rwandan musical styles to express his experiences of being Rwandan from the 1990s through the 21st Century, and how his use of BaTwa vocal timbres critiques the government's reconciliation movement in the country and diaspora and bring true healing to Rwandan culture. Mr. Swanson has also contributed to Rwanda '94: Beyond Time and Space, Rafiki Ubaldo's online curation of images of the Rwandan Genocide.

Mr. Swanson is also a professional performer and songwriter, who has appeared with a number of distinguished artists, including Bo Diddley, Marco Pereira, Hamilton de Hollanda, and Jean-Paul Samputu. He has also served as a worship leader at various churches for the past sixteen years, and his song “Sing Out My Soul” was featured on the Andy Piercy-produced record Songs From The Mission in 2010.

Mr. Swanson served as President of the non-profit Mizero Children of Rwanda foundation from 2007-2008, where he helped to raise awareness about how traditional music and dance can facilitate peace and reconciliation in Rwanda. The dance troupe toured the U.S. and Canada and was featured at the LEAF festival and at the United Nations.

In 2019, Mr. Swanson was an Engaged Faculty Fellow for the Office of Civic Engagement, through which he created a new CIVIC course called Music and Peacebuilding. In addition to in-class readings and discussions, this course gives students the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations to learn how music plays a role in curbing violence here in South Florida.


Honors & Acknowledgements

Professional Experience

Career Highlights

  • Keynote speaker for a workshop for Rwandans in the East African music industry-sponsored Rwandan Ministry of Sports and Culture.
  • Performed with various recording artists including Bo Diddley, Marco Pereira, Hamilton de Hollanda, Carlos Malta, and Jean-Paul Samputu.
  • Co-wrote “Sing Out My Soul” with UK producer Andy Piercy

Honors, Awards & Competitions

  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Grant,2002.
  • Title VI grant for research in Recife, Brazil, 2005.
  • Who’s Who Among American Teachers


  • “Sing Out My Soul” from Music From the Mission on AM Records

Publications/Papers Presented

  • “Hope, Destruction, and Reconciliation: The Musical Life of Jean-Paul Samputu” published in Arts, Music, and Social Healing: Experiences from the African Great Lakes Region and Beyond, edited by Helen Hintjens and Rafiki Ubaldo, due for publication in 2017.
  • “Am I Still Doing Research?: Negotiating the “Field in East-African Popular Music Scholarship.” Paper presented, Society for Ethnomusicology, 2013.
  • “No Place to Lay Their Heads: The Multifarious Criticisms of CCM.” Paper presented, Society for Ethnomusicology Southeast Caribbean Chapter, 2003.