When she was 5 years old, Nadine Hubbs was in love with music. After months of her pleading and at the request of her school principal, her parents finally signed her up for piano lessons.

“I took the reading and IQ tests at school,” Hubbs said. “And they called my parents in and said, ‘We’re thinking about skipping her ahead a couple of grades, but it won’t work out very well, socially. You should find her some extra stimulus, because she’s probably going to be bored in school.’”

Hubbs has remained infatuated with music ever since.

She picked up several other instruments, including the French horn, which she played at the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Brussels after receiving her bachelor’s degree in music education from Bowling Green State University.

Photo of Nadine Hubbs
Nadine Hubbs, professor of women’s studies and music, is author of the forthcoming book, “Country Mexicans,” which examines Mexican-American engagements with country music. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

After returning to America, she taught elementary school music, completed her master’s degree in music theory in Bowling Green, and received her Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Michigan. She’s a professor of women’s studies in LSA and professor of music in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and played a role in developing the Class and Inequality Studies minor in LSA.

“It’s really important to know that the new minor was an initiative led by undergrad students,” Hubbs said. “It was their idea, they led it and organized all the meetings. The process took them over two years.”

Hubbs’ position as director of the Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative gives her another way to amplify other voices. The program supports projects and research centered on LGBTQ scholarship and dialogue. Currently, it is focused on hosting a series of events about Latinx queer topics, which have garnered recent attention.

“It’s like the year of the Latinx queer,” Hubbs quipped, regarding the increasing interest in Latinx queer studies. “I think that with all the immigration issues that have come up under the Trump administration, a lot of us are thinking we need to have these conversations.”

Hubbs’ forthcoming book, “Country Mexicans,” examines Mexican-American engagements with country music and includes field work with queer vaqueros Spanish for cowboys — and the ways in which the cowboy has become assimilated into American culture.

“When Mexicans and Mexican-American people see the cowboy figure in a country artist, they totally recognize the hat and boots and belt buckle, but they recognize it as Mexican,” Hubbs said. “So it’s not only a question of who originated that, it’s also a question of how much cross-pollination is just a part of United States culture.”

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Hubbs’ published works include “Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music” and “The Queer Composition of America’s Sound,” which discuss the intersections between social marginalization and sound. She writes about the ways in which gay composers and musicians overcame homophobia to radically change the direction of music in America.

“It was a place where if someone could play the hell out of their fiddle, even a working-class queer person, they could make it (in classical music). Because if you can play, then no one can question your identity,” Hubbs said.

From the beginning, music was a fundamental part of Hubbs’ life, and it continues to direct her personal and professional interests.

“I was obsessed with music as a child,” Hubbs said. “I think that many people who go into music fields are pretty much obsessed, and I am one of those people.”

Q&A

What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?

Last spring’s First-Generation Student Graduation, where I was honored to give the keynote. It was thrilling and moving to be part of that event, with hundreds of first-gen grads, friends and family — to feel their relief, happiness and pride and to hear of their challenges and satisfactions in earning a Michigan degree.

What can’t you live without?

Black tea, kombucha, pizza.

Name your favorite spot on campus.

Lane Hall.

What inspires you?

My students’ idealism and hard work and support for one another, and their desire to learn about the forms of oppression they know and face as well as the forms they don’t face, while others do.  

What are you currently reading?

“Pathways of Desire: The Sexual Migration of Mexican Gay Men” by Héctor Carrillo, who will speak on his work Feb. 20 with LGQRI.

Who had the greatest influence on your career path?

My parents. They didn’t have the privilege of going to university and had no preconceptions about my college major or career, only a desire that my sibs and I be happy. I can’t imagine inventing and reinventing myself in so many risky, unfamiliar directions without the influence of their acceptance and open-mindedness.

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