Cedric Preston McCoy’s life is filled with music. The School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior said he loves playing, listening to and studying all forms of music.
McCoy learned the clarinet in middle school, then developed an interest in jazz in high school and transitioned to the trumpet. He also dabbled a bit with the euphonium and percussion. Throughout his years as a musician, he’s played instruments in jazz bands, orchestras, chamber ensembles, operas and musicals.
He completed two years of study at Indiana University South Bend as an education major before transferring to the University of Michigan as a junior to pursue musicology with a focus in ethnomusicology.
Searching for a faculty adviser to introduce him to the world of musicology, McCoy met Tiffany Ng, associate professor of music in SMTD and university carillonist.
McCoy worked with Ng researching the past 100 years of contributions by women to campanology, the study and performance of the carillon. He also learned to play the giant 12-ton bell at the top of Burton Tower as well as the 53-bell Baird Carillon on Central Campus and the 60-bell Lurie Carillon on North Campus.
While McCoy focuses on contemporary popular music, he said learning about all layers of musicology — everything from 17th-century Italian opera to American jazz to 1980s rap and hip hop — is crucial to developing an in-depth perspective.
He said one of the most transformative musicology courses at U-M was a class on ancient Chinese instrumental music.
“That course really taught me how to think about being an ethnomusicologist, specifically … how I engage with different music, traditions, different cultures, different traditions of literature, music, criticism, etc.,” McCoy said.
This past fall, McCoy developed a strong interest in music journalism and music criticism. In November 2022, he started writing for The Michigan Daily. Among his articles were stories about music and disability studies, Black women radicals in music, and Black musicians experiencing microaggressions in classical music.
After graduating this spring, McCoy will attend Yale University to pursue a Ph.D. in music and African American studies.
“I think the thing that I enjoyed the most and what really drew me to this field was the fact that unlike other forms of scholarship, anyone can be a musicologist,” McCoy said.
“You know, it’s not easy to have a conversation with someone in the street about neuroscience, but I can easily stop someone on the sidewalk and ask them what they’re listening to today, and they’ll be able to give me an informed opinion on what they liked about the song.”